When the Oklahoma City Thunder face the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night, it’s more than the start of an NBA play-off series. It’s a renewal of hostilities.
The Western Conference semi-final opener is the first meeting between these teams since Metta World Peace defied his own name to elbow Thunder forward James Harden in the head, leaving him with concussion. Having served his suspension, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest returned for Game 7 of the first round as the Lakers dumped Denver out with a 96-87 win.
The Thunder have had plenty of time to rest and recover after sweeping out defending champions Dallas. OKC won the regular season series 2-1, with their only loss coming amid the outbreak of Peace last month. They’ll have taken a lot of confidence from the way the Nuggets posed problems for the Lakers with their speed in transition.
Kendrick Perkins is a doubt due to injury, but all indications suggest he’ll be good to go. Expect the Thunder to come out with all guns blazing, so go over the total points line of 191.0 at 1.91. They’re priced at 1.91 to win on a handicap of -7.5.
After losing Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semi-final, the Philadelphia 76ers have no option but to banish the pain of the one that got away. Boston rallied in the fourth quarter to snatch a 92-91 win, with Kevin Garnett again soaking up the elixir of youth to grab 29 points and 11 rebounds.
You wonder, though, whether the Celtics have taken the Sixers’ best shot and still stood tall. They’re 1.91 to win with a -4.5 handicap, but I’d suggest going over the total points line of 173.5.
With 16 now reduced to 8, the Miami Heat are still 2.10 favourites for the NBA title with the 76ers outsiders at 85.0. But either San Antonio (4.00) and Oklahoma City (4.80) are worth a look.
Bet of the Day: Double up on wins for the Thunder and Boston.