Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 7:00 AM
Two games into the Western Finals, it looked like the San Antonio Spurs were going to run away and hide from the Oklahoma City Thunder. They were passing the ball and scoring at will. Nothing OKC tried worked defensively, which meant that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would have to play like gods on offense for the Thunder to advance.
The return of Serge Ibaka for OKC not only made the Thunder more competitive, it now…clearly…has made them the better of the two teams. Their defense now as the length and size to disrupt what the Spurs try to do on offense. And, having an extra weapon has helped free up the offensive floor for Durant and Westbrook.
In Game Four, the Thunder played their second straight great defensive game…and their two young studs lit up the scoreboard! That’s why they led by 27 points in the third quarter before extended garbage time made the final margin more respectable.
When you combine the “full strength” results in this series for OKC, with their regular season 4-0 straight up series sweep…it’s easy to pencil them into the championship round. The problem with that is that the top seeded Spurs still have home court advantage. This is now a best-of-three series. San Antonio will be home favorites in Game Five and Game Seven (if necessary). That’s clear by the current market price for Thursday’s series resumption.
Las Vegas Line: San Antonio by 4, total of 206
The market isn’t ready to concede yet that the Spurs are the better team. Home court is worth about 4 or so in this series. There is some “bounce-back” influence no-doubt. If the two teams played opened a series right now on a neutral floor…we’re probably looking at pick-em or Thunder -1. Thursday’s game in San Antonio represents a good situation for the Spurs…arguably a must-win situation for a talented team.
Best expectations according to our sources are that OKC would be -4 to -4.5 at home in Game Six, depending on any new information learned Thursday. Were the favorites to keep winning (4-0 straight up and ATS in this series), then we’re looking at the Spurs at -4 at least in the finale because home favorites often get big money support in finales.
We haven’t talked much about Over/Under options this postseason. Look at how this series has trended in the final scoreboard numbers: 227-189-203-197. That’s against Over/Unders in the 208-210 range. So, it’s only one Over and three Unders…with the Over coming in a blowout when OKC had no defense. The two games with Ibaka averaged only 200 points. And, championship battles tend to slow down in tempo and scoring the later they get in a series.
Tricky situation for handicappers. If you think San Antonio will make adjustments on offense against an opponent that just might relax a bit after evening the series…then Spurs and Over could be a smart combo. With Ibaka on the floor, Thunder and Under is 4-0 to this point.
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This weekend will feature a mix of basketball previews and marquee baseball previews. Game Six of the Western Finals will be Saturday. Game Seven if necessary will be next Monday.
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