Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns
Time: 10:30 PM ET
Spread: OKC -5.5
Betting odds c/o Bovada
Last year’s MVP Kevin Durant and the Thunder just can’t seem to catch a break. Durant is out indefinitely with a foot injury that required surgery, and Russell Westbrook is left to hold the ship down again. Russ has played MVP caliber basketball, but the Thunder have been hit with injuries to its two star players all season. Tonight, traveling to Phoenix, NBA live odds show the Thunder as 5.5 point favorites in the game. The total is set at 217, and for an explanation of how to bet that see our NBA odds explained.
For the Thunder, holding onto a playoff berth may be difficult, and the Thunder will want to move up into the 6th or 7th seed so as to avoid a first round matchup with either Golden State or Memphis, both of which have been playing phenomenal basketball (especially defensively for the Grizzlies) all season.
OKC made a big move at the trade deadline, swinging Reggie Jackson to the Utah Jazz in exchange for big man Enes Kanter. Kanter made Kendrick Perkins more than expendable, as Kanter has a good back to the basket game and could be just what the Thunder need to put itself over the proverbial hump in the West.
Kanter had a monster game Sunday night in the Thunder’s 119-94 win over the Denver Nuggets after joining the fold. The Turk put up 20 points and 12 boards while hitting 8 of 12 from the field. Westbrook also was highly efficient, shooting the same 66 percent from the floor for 21 points, 17 (!) assists and eight boards. That kind of well-rounded effort is what Westbrook is capable of when he keeps his head up and looks for his teammates.
Also, expect Serge Ibaka to continue to play a bigger role in the offense. The highly touted defensive standout shot 18 field goals in the win and put up 20 points, eight boards, and astoundingly—eight blocks. The OKC defense is enough to stifle the Pacers, and being without last year’s MVP in Durant does not hurt as much as it seems it might. The Thunder are a very good, very deep team that has the potential to upset any team in the West once the postseason begins.
Rookie big man Mitch McGary and Cleveland Cavs discard Dion Waiters both have performed well and combined to put up 27 points off the bench, part of the Thunders 49 points off its bench in the win. To have a second unit capable of that type of production means the Thunder are not heavily reliant on jumping out to huge leads early, and in the event that it does, the reserves can maintain the lead left for them by the starters. Expect this game to be closer than the seven-point spread, though Indiana will have a tough time since the Pacers are just 11-19 on the road this season.
The Phoenix Suns are 30-28 and sit 2.5 games behind OKC for that last playoff spot. Few expect Phoenix to contend for it. The Suns lost both Isaiah Thomas to Boston and Goran Dragic to Miami at the trade deadline, and finding stability has been tough.
The Suns have won just two of its past eight games, and with just 24 games remaining on the schedule it is going to be tough for the Suns to reel off a substantial streak and surpass both New Orleans (who is without three starters) and OKC. Phoenix is also not especially dominant at home, where it has gone just 16-12 this season. Phoenix has typically had no trouble scoring the ball, ranking 3rd in the Association in points per game, but equivocally, its defense ranks the 3rd-worst.
The Suns are banking heavily on Brandon Knight, despite a short resume that only includes strong play for a poor Milwaukee Bucks team. Through three games, he has scored 17.3 points and dished five assists per game for the Suns, but his efficiency hasn’t been high.
Eric Bledsoe is performing about as well as could have been expected, but he’s going to have to take on an even larger role with Dragic removed from the picture. Dealing Dragic was a near must with him wanting out, but letting go of the dynamic water bug Thomas made less sense. Tyler Ennis is gone, too, and the Suns lack playmakers behind Knight. Gerald Green is still mostly an offensive player, and the Suns don’t really have frontcourt threats to balance what was at one point a loaded backcourt.
There is this: The Suns picked up three first round picks with all the out-going talent. But picks are mystery boxes, why not keep some of the commodities that could be built around? While Thomas may have been the last pick in the draft, he has played his way into a well-carved niche as an NBA player. Even having a lottery pick doesn’t guarantee that level of player, and banking on draft success is never the prospect a fan base pays to see. The Suns brass certainly has a plan that revolves around Bledsoe and Len, but just having three future firsts doesn’t really mean that Phoenix will be near contention in the next couple seasons; if the team doesn’t linger in mediocrity for a period of time far past that, of course
It’s tough to see where the Suns are going, and the playoffs are not a likely destination. Alex Len has looked very promising, but the Suns don’t really have a franchise talent, notwithstanding that Bledsoe still has a higher ceiling to reach. Markieff Morris is a good stretch-4, but he’s a role player, and this Suns team needs a couple more legitimate two-way players in both the frontcourt and backcourt.
The Thunder should be able to take advantage of the disarray in Phoenix in wake of losing two very good guards, one of whom (Dragic) is due to receive a max-contract this summer. It might not be the equivalent of losing a major household name type of superstar, but the loss of Dragic, after already having Nash fly into the sunset, leaves Suns fans somewhat befuddled as to how this team is going to develop in the near future.