Have we seen the NBA title race cut to just three teams, with the Cleveland Cavaliers only joining Golden State and San Antonio on brand recognition?
The Oklahoma City Thunder are no longer making noise. And in lightning quick time, they’ve slipped from contender to chaos.
It’s six losses in eight games for OKC who are now out to 13.00 for the championship. Having entered All Star break at 40-14, Thursday’s collapse at the Warriors leaves the Thunder at 42-20, still third in the Western Conference but miles off the pace of their rivals.
They’re no longer a team you can count on in the fourth quarter especially. On Wednesday, they were 17 up on the LA Clippers and lost. Ahead of Golden State with 12 minutes left and they tasted defeat.
Ten times this season, Oklahoma City have blown an advantage in the final period. Only the lowly Sixers have proven more brittle. And while their offensive numbers aren’t hugely different, post-All Star their defensive rating has slipped by an astonishing 10.8 as opponents have been able to explode on late runs. Cash out and cash in.
The forthcoming schedule is not kind. Although there’s a prime opportunity to get back on winning ways on Sunday at Milwaukee where the leaky Bucks should offer a safe bet on the Thunder at -9.5, it gets tougher.
A re-match with the Clippers, a trip to the Spurs, then clashes with feisty Boston and Portland, all inside the next two weeks.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are still putting up big numbers and 21.00 and 29.00 respectively for MVP. It’s their colleagues disappearing into the abyss. Unless they become visible, OKC will be on vacation earlier than they’d hoped.
Shorn of the injured Marc Gasol, Memphis is still fighting for position with six wins out of eight and post-All Star, they’re averaging a mammoth 8.5 points more per game.
But their weak schedule disguises the loss of the Spaniard with a clue in their defensive rating soaring to 106.7. Look for their points totals to maintain this increase.
On Friday, they host a Utah Jazz team that has dropped four but is still defending well. On Sunday, Phoenix come calling. Then it becomes harder for the Grizzlies who will really need to claw to survive.
Best bet: Go over 196.5 points in Memphis-Utah at 2.30