Oklahoma City Thunder
(27-13, 22-18 ATS)
Los Angeles Lakers
(30-11, 18-22-1 ATS)
Last year in the playoffs, the Oklahoma City Thunder made their mark on the NBA betting season by pushing the Los Angeles Lakers, the eventual NBA Finals champs, to six games in the first round. Now, the two teams are on a much more even ground, and they are going to be duking it out on Monday night in the last NBA betting affair of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Thunder have the best 1-2 punch in the NBA in terms of scoring this year with Russell Westbrook and the great Kevin Durant. Durant made a name for himself last year by winning the league’s scoring title, and he very well could end up doing it again in 2010-11. The former Texas Longhorn is scoring 28.5 points per game this year, and he is doing so in spite of the fact that he is only hitting 34.1 percent of his three point shots. Even more amazingly, Westbrook is only shooting 43.2 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from long range, yet he is putting up 22.2 points per game. This isn’t just a two man show, though. Jeff Green is getting his numbers at 15.4 points per game, while James Harden seems to be the forgotten man at 10.7 points per game. There isn’t a heck of a lot of depth behind these men, but we know that there is plenty of talent in the starting five that will make up for all of those issues on a regular basis.
The Lakers were probably just one or two more losses away from pushing the panic button, but against a significantly easier portion of the schedule, they were able to get back into the saddle with seven straight wins. However, a very unexpected 99-92 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers once again set the men in purple and gold back a notch. Kobe Bryant scored 29 in defeat, raising his scoring average to 25.3 points per game this season. He is getting some great help from Pau Gasol as well, as the Spaniard is putting up 18.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. The rest of the supporting cast is very much so frustrating the Black Samba though, as there isn’t another player on the squad that is really carrying his weight. Andrew Bynum does have some great games, just as he did against the Clip Joint with 18 points and 13 boards, but he has plenty of games like the one he had against the New Jersey Nets as well when he scored just two points and had five rebounds.
This is a chance for the Thunder to shine on a national spotlight, and you can tell that the oddsmakers know it as well. There’s a reason that the Lakers are only being asked to lay five points. Oklahoma City very well could be the superior team, and it really might show it on Monday night.
NBA Free Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder +5