Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz
Time: 9 PM EST, Feb. 12, 2013
TV: FS Oklahoma, FxRM (NBA League Pass)
Spread: OKC -5.5
M/L: OKC -230, UTA +190
Betting Odds from Bookmaker
The Oklahoma City Thunder have the second-best winning percentage in the Western Conference (.765) and sit just one game behind the San Antonio Spurs for the number one seed in the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
The Thunder finished with a .712 wining percentage last year, so they are even better, despite losing James Harden in a trade done to avoid diving deeper into the luxury tax. Harden has gone on to blossom in Houston and ranks No. 5 in the NBA in scoring, but the subtraction of the former Thunder sixth man hasn’t impacted the team in a negative way at all due to the strong play of his replacement Kevin Martin. Martin’s production is tantamount to Harden’s during his tenure in OKC: 15.3 points per game on even better three-point shooting (44.3 percent). His spot up shooting helps immensely on a team that draws so many double teams due to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Durant and Westbrook combine to average 50.4 points per game, the highest of any tandem in the NBA. Durant is also averaging a career high 7.5 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per night, as well. His evolution as a player has meant more to the Thunder than the subtraction of Harden.
And Russell Westbrook is far closer to a passing point guard than many pundits claim. Westbrook has averaged 8.2 assists per game this season, though his assist to turnover ratio still isn’t all that good (2.34:1). Westbrook’s athleticism makes him one of the most difficult covers for opposing point guards, who often lack the speed and strength to match-up with him.
The Utah Jazz are a phenomenal basketball—at home. The Jazz are 19-6 at home (and a wicked 9-18 on the road). Utah is a team in transition, though, to be sure: the trade deadline is looming and both starting center Al Jefferson and starting power forward Paul Millsap are on expiring contracts and expected to draw mass interest from teams looking for a big man. San Antonio, in particular, has been linked to Jefferson in recent days and appears to be the front runner for obtaining his services.
The Jazz are hoping to snap a two game losing streak which featured losses against the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings. Oklahoma City really isn’t the kind of team that players hope to play when they’re struggling, though. The two days rest the Jazz took after playing three games in four nights, though, may recharge them.
Even with a rested squad and home court advantage, though, NBA oddsmakers still favor the Thunder by 5.5 points. If Durant and Westbrook are able to exploit Gordon Hayward and Jamaal Tinlsey (likely) though, the Thunder could easily turn this one into a blowout. Tinsley, in particular, has almost no chance of matching Westbrook’s play and that will likely be the difference maker in this game.