Last Updated: 2019-04-14
One of the best series in the opening round of the NBA playoffs could very well be the No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder and the No. 3 Portland Trailblazers, where Oklahoma City is -155 and the Blazers are +135 at 5Dimes.
It may seem a bit unusual to see the Thunder favored against a higher-seeded team who finished the season four games in front of Oklahoma City, but the Thunder did win all four matchups between the two teams this season, which happened to come a year after Portland won all four games a year ago.
The other reason the Thunder are favored is that the Blazers were a great team against Eastern Conference foes this year, going 24-6 straight-up and 19-9-2 against the number, while going 29-23 against the West and 24-26-2 against the spread. But the Thunder weren‘t any better against the West, going 28-24 straight-up and 21-9 against the East, so both teams feasted on the East, where the majority of the really poor teams in the league are.
The Thunder did turn it on a bit down the stretch, winning their last five games in a row after hitting a pretty bad slump prior to that, where they lost seven of nine games and didn’t really play that well in the second half of the season, but sports bettors have a tendency to have short memories and are under the assumption of OKC just cruising through the regular season and turning it on just in time for the playoffs.
The Thunder have plenty of talent in Russell Westbrook and Paul George, who both averaged more than 22 points per game, but then do have a bit of a drop-off when you get to the next-highest scorers in Dennis Schroder, Steven Adams and Jerami Grant. Adams averaged 4.9 offensive rebounds per game and the Thunder were No. 1 in that category, allowing them plenty of second chances, which paid off as the Thunder are pretty much an average shooting team.
On defense, Oklahoma City is pretty much middle of the road, but were able to keep opponents in check on the strength of turnovers, where the Thunder forced 16.7 per game, which is tops in the league.
The Trailblazers re a bit like the Thunder in the fact that they’re also primarily carried by their ‘Big 2’ of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and then you get to a drop-off before the next tier of players. The Blazers are deeper as a team, although that may not help a whole lot, with days off in between the games.
Portland is better at some aspects than Oklahoma City, such as shooting and do hold teams to a lower field goal percentage, while also doing some of the same things pretty well, such as offensive rebounding, where the Blazers were No. 3 in the league.
As even as these teams appear to be on paper, it’s a bit surprising the last two years have seen 4-0 series sweeps. None of the games were decided by more than nine points, although the Thunder won by nine points twice, by eight points once and the first game was decided by a basket.
But Portland was the better team the last four weeks of the season and the Thunder did catch them in good situations several times, such as on the second game of a back-to-back in Oklahoma City twice and returning home after a seven-game road trip, so Portland can be excused for a few of the loses.
Going to take Portland +135 here, as I think the Blazers can hold their own when the scheduling factors are all even. The Blazers don’t get much respect and aren’t getting enough here, as this one should be closer to even.
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