Two teams that couldn’t have been further apart a year ago will face off in Oklahoma City tomorrow when the Bobcats face the defending Western Conference champion Thunder. Nowadays things are a bit closer between the two squads.
The Bobcats have surprised everybody by starting out 7-5, matching their entire win total from last year. They’ve won at home (5-3) and they’ve won on the road (2-2), they’ve won with offense (97.2 PPG) and they’ve with defense (99.6 PPG). New coach Mike Dunlap, formerly an assistant coach at St. Johns, has done a remarkable job molding both the young talent acquired through the draft and some of the veterans who have been around for a while.
A perfect example of this is in Charlotte’s lead guards, Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker. One is a seasoned veteran, the other is in only his second season, yet they are combining for over 35 PPG despite playing the same position. They’ve also been helped by the spectacular all-around play of rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whose defense and winning attitude has had a noticeable effect on the team.
Oklahoma City is coming off of a quick two-game road trip in which they lost a tough one in Boston before taking a game in Philadelphia against the 76ers. The Thunder are still near the top of the Western Conference at 10-4, but have been visibly effected by the loss of James Harden, currently a Houston Rocket.
The player hurt most by Harden’s absence has to be Russell Westbrook. While Westbrook is still putting up almost 22 points per game, but he’s doing it on less than 42% shooting. Without Harden to serve as a security blanket, Westbrook hasn’t looked the same running OKC’s offense. He is turning the ball over more and taking even riskier shots than usual. The Thunder need him to start playing more cautious basketball to compete with the elite teams in the west.
Betting Preview: Thunder (-12.5) vs. Bobcats
In games like this I tend to avoid looking at the spread. Reasonably NBA spreads never go beyond 14 or 15 points.
But that doesn’t mean the differences between teams are that small. As well as the Bobcats have started, these are two teams in completely different stratospheres. Why should I expect the Bobcats to come into a hostile arena in Oklahoma City and compete in a pressure-filled environment against one of the best teams in the league? This feels like a blowout to me. A big blowout.
The Pick: Thunder (-12.5) (5dimes.eu)