NBA Picks: Spurs at Thunder Game 4 Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 6/1/2012
You know how in college basketball that no coach wants his team to go into the NCAA Tournament unbeaten? The old adage is that coaches want their teams, whether unbeaten or on a long winning streak, to get a loss out of the way so the pressure of staying unbeaten or setting a record is gone when things really start to matter.
Well, I’m not saying that San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is glad his team got beat, 102-82, in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday night in Oklahoma City, but I’ll bet he’s not all that upset that San Antonio’s incredible 20-game winning streak is finished. And if the Spurs were going to lose, I do think Pop is glad they got blown out. Now he will have their full attention and tell them they aren’t as good as they thought they were. Hello, motivation for Game 4 on Saturday night! Plus, no there’s no more talk about setting any records or becoming the first team to go unbeaten in a postseason.
I did expect and call a Thunder win but expected a close game. Thursday’s loss was only the fourth ATS defeat for the Spurs in their past 21 games. But it was also their third in the past four.
Spurs at Thunder Betting Story Lines
In Game 2, the Spurs scored 120 points (they had 92 through three quarters), their most in a playoff game since 2006. Meanwhile, the Spurs managed only 82 on Wednesday, not only easily their lowest total of the playoffs but lowest since a Jan. 27 loss at Minnesota. So what happened?
The simplest solution was that the Thunder decided to put 6-foot-7 defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha on Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who was coming off a 34-point, 16-for-21 shooting night in Game 2. Sefolosha hounded the 6-foot-2 Parker all night and finished with six steals, the most for the Thunder franchise since Gary Payton had six for Seattle against Utah on May 3, 2000. It was the most steals by any player in a postseason game against San Antonio since 2001.
Parker finished a quiet 6-for-12 for 16 points and five turnovers. Sefolosha, meanwhile, had a career-playoff high 19 points (he averaged 4.8 points per game during season) and six rebounds in 37 minutes. For some reason, Thunder Coach Scott Brooks didn’t play Sefolosha but 15 minutes in Game 2 when the Spurs couldn’t miss a shot, and he hadn’t yet guarded Parker in this series.
The Spurs ended up committing a postseason-worst 21 turnovers (their most in a playoff game in five years) compared to OKC’s eight. The Thunder took advantage of all those turnovers by outscoring the Spurs 23-9 in transition, converting 10 of their 14 field goal attempts. San Antonio managed only two baskets in transition. San Antonio, which shot 39.5 percent from the field, had been averaging 109.4 points per game during its winning streak. OKC finished with 14 steals overall and also had nine blocks.
Offensively, the Thunder finally got to the basket and some baskets down low, outscoring the Spurs 44-24 in the paint. Overall, 42 of OKC's 88 shot attempts came in the paint. The Spurs shot 12-for-25 in the paint in Game 3 compared to a combined 43-of-68 (63.2 percent) in the first two games while averaging 46 points there. Even offensively limited Serge Ibaka had 14 points for the Thunder, outscoring Tim Duncan by three. Kevin Durant led the way with 22, while Russell Westbrook had just 10. Still, Oklahoma City outscored the Spurs by 29 points when Westbrook was on the court. Westbrook averaged 22.0 points in losses in Games 1 and 2.
Spurs at Thunder Betting Odds and Key Trends
OKC opened as a 3.5-point favorite with the total at 202.5 on NBA odds; it closed at Thunder -4 and 206 in Game 3. The Spurs are 2-3 ATS on the road in these playoffs and 1-4 on the ‘over/under’. The Thunder are 3-3 ATS at home and 4-2 O/U.
San Antonio is 4-0 ATS in its past four Saturday games and 8-1 ATS in its past nine after a loss. The Spurs are 1-4 ATS in their past five as a dog of 4.5 points or less. The Thunder are 5-1 ATS in their past six as a favorite and 5-1-1 ATS in their past seven after a win. The over is 8-2 in OKC’s past 10 as a favorite and the over is 5-1-1 ATS in the past seven meetings in Oklahoma City. The Spurs are 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings at OKC, but 1-2 this season.
NBA Picks: Spurs at Thunder Betting Predictions
The last time the Spurs lost back-to-back games, they followed with that 20-game run. But they have looked very vulnerable in this series as they really should have lost Game 1 as well.
The good news is that Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili all got plenty of rest in Game 3 as they combined for 65 minutes with the game never much in doubt. Plus, perhaps no coach makes adjustments better than Popovich. The Thunder switched more often on high pick-and-rolls in Game 3 because they weren’t afraid of seeing guys like Daniel Green, Boris Diaw, Gary Neal or Tiago Splitter score; combined they had 12 points on 4-for-16 shooting. The pick-and-roll aggressiveness caught San Antonio off guard, but Popovich obviously will come up with a scheme to make the Thunder pay – more backdoor cuts perhaps.
But in reality all Game 3 was about was the Thunder feeding off the home crowd and simply having much more energy than the Spurs. Needless to say, I don’t think Sefolosha and Ibaka combine for 33 points again, but the Thunder’s Big 3 also were relatively quiet on Wednesday. I think the energy continues: OKC covers in Game 4 and take the over.
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