Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 7:00 PM
The big news heading into Game Three of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA Playoffs involves the potential return of Oklahoma City Thunder defensive star Serge Ibaka. He missed the first two games of the series with a calf injury (both blowout losses). He was expected to miss the whole series initially…but has reportedly responded well to rest and might now return.
Can the Thunder come back against the San Antonio Spurs and make this a series? They have two home games where they will likely be small favorites. Win those…and it’s 2-2 and still on serve.
The loss of Ibaka was HUGE in this particular matchup because he’s their best defender and best rebounder. You can’t beat San Antonio without defense and rebounding!
*San Antonio is currently shooting 57% inside the arc through two games. No way that would be the case if Ibaka were healthy.
*San Antonio is currently shooting 45% on three-pointers because the Thunder are so poor at chasing everyone down. Ibaka’s length and athleticism helps discourage three-pointers when he’s on the floor…and helps his teammates guard the arc better when he has inside responsibilities.
*San Antonio is +18 in rebounding differential thus far. Oklahoma City has had to resort to small ball, which often limits them to long rebounds only because they’re outsized in the paint.
Given the current series score is 234-182 (+52 points for the Spurs in just two games!), there’s NO WAY the Thunder can win this series without Ibaka. They might not even be able to win a game. With him at full strength, there’s a chance. And, THAT’S the key issue now.
*If Ibaka is only at 50% capabilities, that’s not going to make up for much. It’s his athleticism and movement that makes him such a force. 50% of that might as well be 0% because Ibaka standing still doesn’t do much to slow down San Antonio’s passing game. He’s not a defensive or rebounding force at half speed.
*If Ibaka is up to 90% of capabilities, that’s clearly enough to end the blowouts…but probably not enough to come back and win the series. It was going to be tight if both teams were at full health. Take 10% away from OKC and they’re not advancing. Now that they’re in a 2-0 hole, no way they win four games in five with Ibaka at only 90%.
If OKC is going to win and cover Sunday Night at home…and rally back to make this a series that goes deep, they need Ibaka all the way back. The dynamics of this series make that very clear.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his on-site sources to get the proper read on Ibaka’s true capabilities. If you know that, you know EVERYTHING you need to about the right way to play. The market price is very vulnerable to information at the current numbers…
Las Vegas Line: Oklahoma City by 2, total of 208.5
Pencil in 100% for Ibaka, and that number’s too low. The Thunder would normally be about -4 or -4.5 in this situation at full strength (possibly higher in a must-win spot like this when down 2-0). OKC -2 is a steal with 100% of Ibaka.
Pencil in 90% or less (or 0% if he’s ultimately unable to take the floor), then the Spurs should be the clear favorites. They just won by 17 and 35 points against a team with no workable options.
Bottom line…don’t make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!
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Back with you Monday for Game Four of the Indiana/Miami series. Big game previews in the baskets will take us through the week until both conference finals are complete.
There’s mystery about Ibaka Sunday…but you always get 100% from all the elements of the exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach here at JIM HURLEY’s NETWORK! When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!