NBA Odds and Predictions: Thursday, March 5 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
by Alan Matthews - 3/4/2015
It's the second week in a row where we are given only the two TNT games on the NBA schedule for Thursday, but again they are good matchups with all playoff teams. We had another coaching firing Tuesday in Denver's Brian Shaw. That should be it for the firings this season, but what's interesting in Thursday's Thunder-Bulls matchup is that I could easily see both OKC's Scott Brooks and Chicago's Tom Thibodeau elsewhere next season. Brooks might get the blame if the Thunder don't have a good playoff run, while Thibs just doesn't get along with the Chicago front office.
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Thunder at Bulls (+4, 199.5)
I had circled this game back when the schedule was released as a potential NBA Finals preview. I thought the Bulls would win the East and had the Thunder as my second choice behind the Clippers in the West. I suppose both Oklahoma City and Chicago could still make it. That exact Finals matchup is priced at +5000 on Sportsbook.ag.
Oklahoma City hosted Philadelphia on Wednesday night. There wouldn't be a line on this game if oddsmakers weren't confident that Thunder star Russell Westbrook wasn't going to return to game action from having his check dented last Friday and undergoing surgery for a fracture on Saturday. But Westbrook was going to play vs. the 76ers. I really hope he gets a triple-double vs. Philly because he entered that game with three straight triple-doubles. In 12 February games, Westbrook averaged a stupid 31.2 points, 11.5 assists and 9.7 rebounds, numbers that have only been matched in a calendar month by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson. Kevin Durant will not play this game or this week but said there's "no doubt" he will return before the end of the regular season following his second foot procedure.
Chicago just can't catch a break in terms of health as Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler each are out at least three more weeks and Taj Gibson probably two with a sprained ankle. The short-handed Bulls very much surprised me Monday with a 97-92 home win over Washington, which usually gives Chicago fits. Rookie Nikola Mirotic is really going to get plenty of shots with Rose and Butler out, and Mirotic was great against the Wizards with 23 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes. Pau Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and he's also going to have to carry the load for the next few weeks.
This is the first meeting of the season between the Bulls and Thunder. OKC won both last year by double digits, with Durant averaging 33.5 points. The Thunder have won five straight in the series overall.
Key trends: The Thunder are 6-1 against the spread in their past seven playing in the second of a back-to-back. Chicago is 8-3 ATS in its past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone over in the Thunder's past six on the road. The under is 6-1 in Chicago's past seven vs. the West.
Early lean: I lean OKC because I'm assuming a blowout of Philly and that the key guys will get some rest in the fourth quarter. However, if the Sixers somehow push the Thunder to the end then I'd take the points. Go over regardless.
Mavericks at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Portland visited the L.A. Clippers on Wednesday looking for a fourth straight win. The Trail Blazers had dropped eight of 10 on the road after a 12-5 start away from home. Dallas had lost back-to-back games by double digits before winning 102-93 at home against New Orleans on Monday. Richard Jefferson, who continues to start for the injured Chandler Parsons, had a season-high 16 points. Jefferson has been solid in starting five straight games, averaging 10.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. Dallas outscored New Orleans 25-13 in the third period, limiting the Pelicans to 26.3 percent shooting in the frame. Dallas also played its third consecutive game without center Tyson Chandler due to a bruised left hip. Thus, you can see why the TBA here. Both Parsons and Chandler traveled with the team.
The Blazers and Mavericks have split two meetings. On Nov. 6 in Portland, the Blazers rolled 108-87 by outscoring the Mavs 35-18 in the third. LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and Damian Lillard 18. Chandler and Parsons played in that game, but Dallas didn't have Rajon Rondo or Amare Stoudemire yet. On Feb. 7 in Big D, the Mavs won 111-101 in OT. Dallas trailed by 16 points in the fourth and by 11 with two minutes left, Dirk Nowitzki forced OT with a late 3-pointer and Parsons scored 10 of his 20 points in the OT. The Blazers were outscored 22-2 in a stretch that included the fourth quarter and overtime. Dallas has won 24 of the past 30 in this series at home.
Key trends: Dallas is 0-5 ATS in its past five road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The under is 6-1 in Dallas' past seven on the road. The under is 5-0 in Portland's past five on Thursday. The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.
Early lean: I like Portland even after a tough game in L.A. if Chandler and Parsons are out again -- and I think they will be.
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