With the series tied at two games apiece, the Oklahoma City Thunder face their toughest test of the postseason as they head back to San Antonio to take on the Spurs on their home court for game five of the Western Conference semifinal (8pm ET, Tuesday). Here is our preview of that crucial game five contest, concluding with betting picks’ predictions.
Entering this series, one many considered could be the most exciting and most entertaining of the playoffs, the Spurs had looked about as good as a team could. They were coming off a completely dominating first round sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging over 20 points in the margin of victory. The Spurs had once again looked to be turning back the clock as in addition to the contributions from their 20-somethings of LaMarcus Aldridge (pictured) and Kawhi Leonard, the veteran Big Three all played well.
However, it was not as if the Thunder had played poorly. While they did not win their first round meeting with the Dallas Mavericks in a sweep, it took just five games for Oklahoma City to emerge the better team. It was the dangerous duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, both of whom were averaging 26 points per game in that first series, that put them in a strong position.
After game one of the semifinals though, it seemed that everything the Thunder had done went out the window and that it paled in comparison to the ability of the Spurs. It was game one that saw San Antonio put in perhaps the most dominating team performance in the entire postseason. The team never trailed, had more assists (39) than the Thunder had field goals (35), scored at least 30 points in each of the first three quarters, and finished with a 32 point victory that many would have never expected. Their final score of 124 fell just eight points shy of a Spurs’ franchise record for most points scored in a single postseason game.
It was Aldridge’s best game of the season as he scored 38 points, shooting 18-of-23 from the field. Leonard added 25 points in just 22 minutes of playing time and with a lead that had ballooned to 43 at one point, all of the starters were rested in the final quarter.
That game could have marked the end of the series right there. It could have demoralized the Thunder and given the Spurs a walkover. However, credit to Billy Donovan’s squad because it didn’t. In a hard fought game two, the Thunder never quit and even though a controversial ending told the story, Oklahoma City still walked away with the win in a contest that saw Durant and Westbrook combine for 57 points in the 98-97 victory.
Taking one at home and evening the series after how it began was huge for the Thunder and their confidence. In game three, the first in OKC, the pendulum swung back to the Spurs however as the team defeated the Thunder in yet another close game, 100-96. Game four saw the momentum swing yet again in favor of the home team. It was the Thunder’s best victory against the Spurs all season as they went on a series of runs and ended up winning by 14 points.
So, what does this all mean going back to San Antonio? Which team has the momentum edge?
Given the story of the series so far it would follow the pattern that the Spurs would take game five, the Thunder game six and then the Spurs to win it in seven. The series has gone back and forth so consistently it wouldn’t be surprising if that were the outcome. However, it should also be considered that the Thunder may have finally found their footing and after blowing another lead in game three, managed to shore up the fourth quarter in game four. It was everything the Thunder needed, that and 41 dropped by Durant.
The talent level in this series has been at its utmost best as all of the top stars have shone. Durant and Westbrook are the best twosome in the NBA and they have found a way to get both of them the ball and get both of them huge numbers throughout this series. If the Thunder hope to win it all, this is the most critical element of their game. It is the thing that the Spurs have tried and succeeded to varying degrees, to stop.
For the Spurs, a big part of this winning formula is their defense, something that has really been tested against the Thunder. Again, it’s been to a varying degree of success that the Spurs have managed to put in these big games. When they have, holding Durant and Westbrook to modest 20-point games or fewer, the Spurs have come out on top.
But those being the obvious keys, one of the other important elements of their series has been getting out to a strong start. In each of the four games so far, the team with the first quarter lead has been the one to come out on top. This isn’t particularly surprising but it is definitely something worth following in advance of Tuesday’s contest.
Our Preview’s Final Prediction: Thunder vs Spurs Game 5 Betting Picks
If the Spurs come out on top in game five, there is a very good chance they win the series and that would set up the expected meeting with the Golden State Warriors. San Antonio will have regained home court and, given the team lost just a handful of games there during both the regular and postseason, that prospect wouldn’t be good for the Thunder.
Everything could however come down to which team has the hot streak. As I mentioned earlier in the preview, the Thunder really seemed to have a lightbulb moment late in game four as they managed to hold their lead and even grow it in the fourth and final quarter. It was something they hadn’t done all series long. If this wasn’t a fluke and was actually more of a fixed problem, this could create some trouble for the Spurs.
However, let’s not discount Aldridge and what he has meant to this series, especially the numbers he has put up in the team’s wins.
- The Spurs are favored by 6.5 points and given their home field advantage, I think that’s a safe margin to bet on. So the betting pick is to bet on the Spurs -6.5pts on the spread @ best odds of -110 with either Bovada Sportsbook or BetOnline.
- As for the total points in the game of 199, two of the four games have hit that with the others coming close. I’d take the over on that as well. Wager over 199 @ -110, again with either Betonline or Bovada as these two USA sportsbooks are both currently in unison with their odds for this game 5 clash.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.