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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Sometimes the loss of a player barely hurts a team at all. Sometimes, everything falls apart because that one player was the key to a very important part of the game. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, it looks like Serge Ibaka was the linchpin player on their defensive end. Their fortress in front of the rip collapsed when a calf injury pulled him out of the lineup.



*Let San Antonio shoot 59% in two-point shots

*Let San Antonio shoot 53% on three-point shots (!)

*Only forced 9 turnovers in a fast-paced game

Defense isn’t even the right word for what the Thunder were doing Monday Night. Chasing maybe. Some watching. Raising their arms as somebody shot over them. There were definite stretches of effort here and there. But, the talent just wasn’t there to go 48 minutes hard on defense. In fact, the team wore themselves out so much trying to push tempo that it just made their defense worse. They allowed 33 points in the fourth quarter…as the Spurs ran away and hid to take Game One.

Playing small ball now seems VERY unlikely to work unless it rope-a-dopes the Spurs into exhaustion later in the series. The problems with that are:

*San Antonio plays great offense at a fast pace

*San Antonio has quality depth

*If Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook ware down, OKC can’t score!

Rope-a-dope can’t work if you’re swept 4-0 before the series favorite gets tired. This isn’t a best-of-13 marathon.

There is some good news for Oklahoma City. They’re still on serve. Losing Game One on the road as the series underdog isn’t a strike against you. The Thunder were supposed to lose that game anyway. They will have a chance to steal Game Two and break serve. Also, they now know a strategy that DOESN’T work, which will force them to try other things that might. The loss of Ibaka was a big blow. They weren’t likely to solve the riddle of how to deal with it on their first guess. They’d better solve it by Game Three when they head home! There’s no sense of urgency just yet.

Don’t forget that Oklahoma City lost Game One to the LA Clippers at HOME before winning four of the next five. They also lost Game Two to Memphis at HOME (and Game FIVE at home!) before advancing. Slow starts are nothing new to the Thunder. And, there’s always a chance San Antonio will get complacent because Game One seemed so easy.

Let’s see if the market is reacting in either direction from “there’s no hope” for OKC to “bounce back bonanza” against a complacent favorite.


Las Vegas Line: San Antonio by 6, total of 209

The series opener closed at San Antonio -6. So, there’s been no adjustment. If you think SA is a lock with the current personnel matchups, then that line is a steal. If you think Durant and Westbrook are way too talented to get blown out twice in a row, then you could see that as a steal in the other direction.

JIM HURLEY has made it his business for more than 25 years to figure out which way the winners are blowing. You can purchase the final word for Wednesday right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure you check on BIG PLAYS in baseball as well. If you have any questions, call us Wednesday during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Try to take care of business EARLY because there are a few day games in the bases (including Yankees/Cubs at Wrigley Field!).

Back with you Thursday for a quick two-day trip to the diamonds. The NBA Playoffs go dark until Saturday as all four teams travel to new sites. We’ll devote Thursday to the series finale in Milwaukee/Atlanta (a potential playoff preview believe it or not!). Friday we’ll pick out the most important or high profile series to preview given the structure of the pennant races. Basketball resumes over the weekend.

Will you hear the THUNDER Wednesday Night? Are the SPURS on their way to a series sweep? THE MAN WITH THE ANSWERS to handicapping questions has always been JIM HURLEY! Be sure you GET THE MONEY on another WINNING WEDNESDAY!

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