Yesterday’s Results: 0-3
All Time Results: 63-61, +3.4 Units
Oklahoma City Thunder +105 @ Portland Trail Blazers – 1 Unit
Series Price: Oklahoma City Thunder +105 vs. Portland Trail Blazers – 1 Unit*
Soreness vs. rhythm: The Great Paul George debate. After the Thunder’s loss on Sunday, Paul George attributed his poor shooting to a lack of rhythm, saying he had not shot a ball in several days. Many read his comments to mean that he’s hurt and that he’s not getting better. I’m fading that notion. I think Paul George is improving health-wise and rhythm-wise, and one bad shooting day doesn’t necessarily tell us anything. George had 8-24 days in October, November – in every month. It’s just one game.
Lending credence to George’s argument – he hit huge, contested three in the final 3 minutes of the game to cut the lead to one. He was getting his rhythm back – despite how he poorly he started.
Last year, Paul George – with no injury to speak of – shot 13/20 in game 1 against the Jazz and 2/16 in game 6. These things happen.
Yes, Paul George shot great before the all star break and his shoulder injury. Shot better than he ever had by a wide margin. And yes, he has shot poorly overall since then. But I don’t think, he’s damaged goods. He’s hit 4 or more threes in 4 of his last 6 games. Like Embiid against the Nets, I like George to improve throughout this series. On balance, I expect George to play similar to his overall season statistics – which isn’t as good as MVP candidate – but is better than any wing the Blazers have had since Clyde Drexler.
If George is right – or 80% – I don’t see how the Blazers continue to match the Thunder bucket for bucket. After shooting 43% as a team from deep – without George – in their final regular season game, the Thunder shot an astonishing 5/33 Sunday against the Blazers. And it was a still close game despite. Lillard still needed not one but two 30+ foot bombs to salt the game away. Westbrook was criticized for allowing them, but I don’t see many people guarded as far away from the bucket as Dame was. Sometimes you get beat – doesn’t mean you’re worse. If Lillard misses one of those shots, the Blazers could easily have wasted a perfect 6-6 start from deep in the first quarter.
OKC has superior star power and superior horses in support. Enes Kanter was playable in their last game – I don’t think he was great, nor do I think he will be as good the further this series ratchets up the intensity.
Orlando Magic +10.5 @ Toronto Raptors – .25 Units
It’s always surprising to see a big underdog not only cover easily but beat a big favorite on the road, only for their odds to worsen for the next game. But it makes sense too. The “zig-zag” theory – bet against the team that just won ATS – has been in strong affect, as the 76ers and the Clippers both clapped back in their second game already. While I still like the Raptors to win the series – I think that the motivation they have to redeem themselves will not necessarily translate into such a big margin.
The Magic are on a 12-3 tear ATS and I like them to keep it going, against a Raptors squad that has yet to define its pecking order down the stretch. Kyle Lowry cannot be as bad as he was in game 1 – (Or as bad as he has been in games 1’s throughout his career) – but he might be inefficient yet again. Right now if I’m Nick Nurse, I have a short leash on Lowry and would not balk at replacing him in key moments for Fred Vanvleet. If that does happen, the vibe in Air-Canada will definitely be unsettled and I’ll be glad I’m on the dog.
*The Win-Loss classification for this pick will be added to the ledger the day after the series concludes.