Kevin Durant: A Superstar worth Betting on in the Playoffs

kevin-durant-playoffs-starThe Oklahoma Thunder had a rough ending to last season. Despite earning the Western Conference’s top seed, they were bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the defensive-minded Memphis Grizzlies. Sure, Russell Westbrook was out with an injury, but it still didn’t feel good losing the series 4-1, despite having home court advantage.

Taking all of this into account, the Thunder got some sweet revenge by polishing off the Grizzlies in Game 7 of their first-round series. And who was leading the charge? None other than Kevin Durant.

The team’s superstar showed up when everything was on the line as he scored 33 points and delivered knockout blow after knockout blow in the 120-109 victory. Oh, and might we add that he nailed all five of his three-point attempts.

This was definitely a boost for a guy who’d taken so much criticism earlier in the series. And to be fair, the criticism wasn’t totally unwarranted as Durant was shooting pretty poorly and being face guarded by Tony Allen. Yes, the points were there, but his shot volume was also sky high. After the first six games, he was just 61-of-148 from the field and 12-of-48 from the three-point line (25%). An Oklahoma city newspaper headline was quick to dub him “Mr. Unreliable.”

kevin-durant-playoffs-star-1However, “The Second Coming” rebounded to go 12-for-18 in Game 7, with the aforementioned five three’s. “I got out of my own way,” Durant said. “I was thinking too much. I was worrying about what [the media] was saying. I was worrying about what shots I was going to shoot throughout the game.”

In the end, it wasn’t his shot or showing up Allen that propelled Durant to an exceptional performance in the deciding game. Instead, as Thunder point guard Derek Fisher points out, it was showing up for his teammates. “Kevin wasn’t worried about getting his shot, or his points, he was worried about letting the guys in the locker room down,” Fisher said. “For him, that was the hardest part. He felt like he was letting guys down as the franchise player, as the leader. Every great player goes through it at some point, all of them. There starts to be some doubt. There starts to be criticism all around you. There’s second-guessing. They all do – and Kevin worked his way right out of it.”

As Durant showed during this series, he doesn’t let all of the talk or previous struggles keep him from performing when everything’s on the line. So what if a paper from his own city dubs him Mr. Unreliable or he’s missing countless shots from downtown. That said, anybody who’s betting on Oklahoma City to win, or just engaging in live wagering on Durant’s play, can definitely take comfort in knowing that they’re picking a winner.

kevin-durant-playoffs-star--2As for their next challenge, they take on the emotional Clippers, who topped the Golden State Warriors in a hard-fought series that was marred by owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments. Much like the Thunder, L.A. boasts a very talented team. And this will be a high-scoring affair since Oklahoma averages 106.2 PPG while the Clippers pour in 107.9 PPG. One more similarity between these teams is that they feature some top-flight stars, with the Thunder having the Durant/Westbrook duo and L.A. featuring the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin combo.

The key difference could be defense, which Oklahoma City plays better than L.A. And while both of these squads are exiting emotional series, the weary Clippers battled through adversity created by Sterling and an overly physical series with Golden State. This is a close one to call, but when you also throw home court into the equation, we like the Thunder in seven games.

Clippers look like Strong Contenders Again after Sterling Ban

clippers-favorites-againA few days ago, we discussed how difficult it would be for the Los Angeles Clippers to battle through the dark cloud hanging over their heads after Donald Sterling’s racist remarks. Later that day, they went on to lose Game 4 by a score of 118-97.

Okay, so not exactly the prediction of the year, given that they were playing a tough Golden State team on the road, in addition to the turmoil. But with threats of boycotts and questions of if Doc Rivers would return to the franchise next season, it didn’t look good for L.A.

Luckily, Adam Silver acted swiftly in handing down a lifetime ban to Sterling yesterday afternoon after the disgraced owner admitted that it was his voice on the tape. Additionally, he’ll be fined $2.5 million – the maximum possible by the NBA.

“The hateful opinions voiced by that of the man [on the tape] are those of Donald Sterling,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.” I’m personally distraught the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations.”

In addition to the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine, NBA owners will now vote to decide on whether Sterling should be forced to sell his team. Seeing as how 75% of the owners need to vote Sterling out, it’s almost a given that he’ll have to sell. Silver echoed this sentiment by saying, “I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him.”

It looks like justice will be served following Sterling’s embarrassing comments. And this already bodes well for the Clippers, who are looking like strong contenders for the Western Conference crown. This team played with a lot of emotion last night, en route to a 113-103 victory over the Warriors.

clippers-favorites-again-1With fans waving signs that read “We are One,” L.A. rode this support to the win, powered by DeAndre Jordan’s 25 points and 18 rebounds. Now the Clips are back in control of this series and they just need to win one more game to move on to the conference semifinals.

So with the cancer that is Sterling about to be gone, is L.A. a serious contender for the NBA title? We certainly wouldn’t count them out, especially now that they’re playing for themselves and their faithful fans.

More importantly, they could have home court advantage in the semifinals. Currently, the seventh-seeded Memphis Grizzlies are leading the Oklahoma City Thunder 3-2 in their series. Assuming Memphis can win at home, this would pit the Clippers against a team with less offensive firepower and see four out of a potential seven games played in L.A. So if you’re often interested in betting on the Clips, now could be the perfect time.

Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The key takeaway from all of this is that the NBA did the right thing in getting rid of a vile owner. And it’ll be interesting to see who wins the impending bidding war to buy the franchise, which is expected to sell for over $1 billion.

Will Donald Sterling’s Racist Remarks ruin Clippers’ Playoff Chances?

donald-sterling-racist-commentsIf you are somebody who’s been betting on the Los Angeles Clippers all along in their playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, then you’ve no doubt got to be worried. After all, the Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, has lit the NBA on fire with his racist comments, which were released on tape by TMZ.

Sterling made the comments to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, after she posed for a picture with NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. The Clippers owner was angry that Stiviano, who’s half black herself, would publicly link herself to African-American people through pictures and social media outlets. Here’s a look at some of the choice comments that TMZ posted on their website:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”

“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”

“…Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

There’s already been plenty of outrage over the audio tape as the NBA investigates the matter. Johnson, who was the target of this rant, says that Sterling “shouldn’t own a team anymore.” He adds, “I was really upset. You can’t understand how hurt I was, and I was also hurt for all African-Americans and all minorities.” Keep in mind that this is somebody who claims to have previously been friends with Sterling.

LeBron James tweeted, “There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There’s just no room for him.” Even President Barack Obama chimed in by saying, “What ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk.” Obama added that he hopes the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, “will address this.”

donald-sterling-racist-comments-1Based on the public scrutiny that Sterling’s comments have already been through, it’s little surprise that the Clippers themselves thought of boycotting today’s home playoff game against the Golden State Warriors. Head coach Doc Rivers says that there was actually a 45-minute team meeting held to discuss whether or not L.A. would take the court against Golden State. Some of the players were in favor of the boycott, but Rivers ultimately decided that they should still play Game 4.

“We needed to talk about it because everyone else is,” Rivers said, regarding the meeting. “We needed to talk about it and all things came up. We heard all the stuff and boycotts and all that stuff. All those things are things you can do. We choose to play and we’re going to play tomorrow. A boycott was brought up because I’m sure 20,000 people have suggested it. But honestly, I’m completely against that and they were, too.”

One thing that helped Rivers and the team come to a decision on playing is the fact that they don’t know if the recorded cell phone conversation is 100% real or altered. Sterling has accused his girlfriend of embezzling $1.8 million, and she’s since vowed “to get even.”

Regardless of if the tape is 100% authentic, one has to consider the major implications that this situation will have on the outcome of the Clippers/Warriors playoff series. Certain members of L.A. were adamant about not playing Game 4 and building on their 2-1 series lead. So how are they going to be completely focused on X’s and O’s when there’s a very good chance that their owner is a huge racist.

Rivers hit upon this by saying, “In a weird way I think Golden State is having a ball right now because we’re not talking about them. The fact that I spent 45 minutes in a meeting instead of watching film did not make me happy, if you know me at all. It is real life. You have to deal with it.”

Another point worth mentioning in all of this is if the Clippers even care about winning this series. Provided it’s truly his voice on the tape, Sterling clearly doesn’t see African-Americans as equals. So do his players want to win, advance to the conference semifinals, and make more money for a guy who merely considers the black players on his team to be employees?

Whether or not Sterling’s racist remarks do indeed have a negative impact on the Clippers’ playing ability, it’s certainly not reflected at many land-based and online sportsbooks. In fact, our line at GTBets.eu still favors the Clippers at -2, while many Vegas sportsbooks are giving L.A. between a -2 and -2.5 line.

NBA Power Rankings for Jan. 10th, 2013

In our last power rankings, we discussed how the Los Angeles Clippers have been on a pretty torrid pace. They won 17 straight games at one point and have ascended to the league’s top record. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs aren’t far behind the Clippers since they’ve both been playing some pretty good ball too. But have any of these teams passed the Heat for our number one ranking? Here’s a look at the answer…

1. L.A. Clippers (28-7) – At the beginning of the season, most people thought the other Los Angeles team might be in this spot. However, the Clippers are not only the best team in L.A., but they’re playing better than anybody in the NBA right now. Chris Paul has upped his assists over the past month and is averaging 9.5 APG on the season (second best in the NBA).

2. Miami Heat (23-10) – The Heat drop a spot in our rankings after losing three out of their past seven games. This certainly doesn’t bode well for the team either because they’re now departing for a five-game, West Coast road trip. While Miami is still our favorite to win the title in June, other players besides LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (scoring 60% of team’s points) are going to have to step up.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (27-8) – The next couple of weeks will be extremely challenging for the Thunder since they go on the road for 9 out of their next 10 games. But at the moment, they’re only a half game behind the Clippers’ league-best record. Serge Ibaka (2.86 BPG), Kevin Durant (1.31 BPG) and Kendrick Perkins (1.03 BPG) are definitely making it difficult for opponents to shoot over this team.

4. San Antonio Spurs (28-10) – San Antonio continues to play really well after winning 9 out of their last 11 games. The Spurs are currently scoring the third most points in the league with 104.95 PPG. That said, it’s no wonder why seven Spurs are averaging at least 9.0 PPG or better. Tony Parker (19.2 PPG) and Tim Duncan (17.4 PPG) lead this charge.

5. New York Knicks (23-11) – The Knicks opened the year hot and quickly grabbed the NBA’s top record. However, it’s been rough sailing for New York lately after dropping 6 out of the past 11 contests. They’ll be without superstar Carmelo Anthony for tonight’s road game against the Pacers. He’s been suspended for waiting outside the Celtics’ locker room for Kevin Garnett following heated in-game exchanges between the two.

6. Indiana Pacers (21-14) – Just a few weeks ago, Indiana was struggling and looking nothing like the team that went 42-24 last season. However, things have changed in a hurry and the Pacers are coming off a win against the Heat. What’s interesting is that Indiana is second-to-last in team scoring with 91.23 PPG; however, they’re also holding opponents to just 89.46 PPG, which easily counteracts the lack of scoring.

7. Memphis Grizzlies (23-10) – Memphis climbs one spot from last week after winning their past three games – all of which were on the road. Backup PF Marreese Speights (10.8 PPG in January) has been a nice spark off the bench this month for the Grizzlies, which have previously lacked much bench production.

8. Golden State Warriors (22-12) – Having dropped their past two games, the Warriors fall one spot in our rankings. However, it should be
mentioned that one of these losses was on the road to the Clippers, which they’d previously beaten the game before at home. Golden State definitely has a nice bench led by PG Jarrett Jack (11.9 PPG, 5.0 APG) and PF Carl Landry (12.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG).

9. Houston Rockets (21-15) – Houston continues to climb the standings on the strength of James Harden’s scoring (26.5 PPG). He’s not the only one tallying points either because this team leads the NBA with 106.0 PPG, and eight players are averaging 8.9 PPG or better. If they can keep this up, Houston will definitely be in the postseason come May.

10.  Denver Nuggets (21-16) – Denver marks the seventh Western Conference team to appear in our top 10 this week. They’ve gotten here by winning 6 out of the past 8 contests – including one game against the Clippers. This has truly been a team effort since six Nuggets are averaging double figures in scoring. Danilo Gallinari leads the team with 16.2 PPG while Ty Lawson is chipping in 14.1 PPG.

NBA Power Rankings for January 2nd, 2013

We’ve moved past the quarter point of the 2012-2013 NBA season, and the Western Conference is really looking good at this point. In fact, the NBA’s best three records belong to the West as three teams out there are really streaking. But does this mean that we think a West club is a shoe-in to win the championship? Keep reading to see what we think about the number one team and the rest of the top 10.

1. Miami Heat (21-8) – Miami may only have the league’s fifth best record at this point, but they’re still favored by many to repeat as NBA champions. Furthermore, the Heat defeated the league’s current number one club – Oklahoma City – just a few days ago. LeBron James (26.3 PPG), Dwayne Wade (20.4 PPG) and Chris Bosh (18.0 PPG) are scoring over 60% of the team’s points right now.

2. L.A. Clippers (25-7) – After winning 17 straight games, the Clippers finally dropped a contest on the road to Denver. Based on this red-hot streak, we like the Clippers better than anybody in the crowded West. Five Los Angeles players are averaging double digits with Blake Griffin leading the way at 17.8 PPG.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-6) – Following back-to-back road losses against Minnesota and Miami, the Thunder have rebounded by winning three straight games. With the West so muddled, Oklahoma City is really going to need their mediocre bench to step up more.

4. San Antonio (25-8) – The Spurs have kept pace with the NBA’s best clubs after winning their last six contests – most of which were blowouts. San Antonio’s balance is definitely impressive since seven players are averaging at least 9.5 PPG; Tony Parker leads them all with 19.3 PPG.

5. New York Knicks (21-10) – The last eight games have been rough on the Knicks since they’ve lost five of these contests. What’s particularly bad about this is that only three of the games have been on the road – and none were against truly elite teams. Things don’t get any easier since the Knicks will face San Antonio on Thursday.

6. Atlanta Hawks (20-10) – Atlanta has been seesawing in December, but lately, they’re doing pretty well. The Hawks are winners of four out of their past five games. This team doesn’t score a lot of points – Josh Smith paces the scoring with 16.6 PPG – but they do play some pretty good defense. A healthy Horford has been difficult for opponents to deal with this year (15.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG).

7. Golden State Warriors (21-10) – Thus far, Golden State has been the surprise of the year. Few people picked the Warriors to make the playoffs, but they’re currently fifth in the West right now. Both Stephen Curry (20.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 1.5 SPG) and David Lee (20.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG) are propelling this team to success.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (19-9) – Memphis drops a couple spots from our last power rankings after losing three of their last four contests. Memphis is really going to need some increased scoring production since they’re averaging just 94.7 PPG. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies don’t have much bench production since Quincy Pondexter leads non-starters with 6.7 PPG.

9. Indiana Pacers (18-13) – One of the NBA’s hottest teams right now is Indiana. They’ve won eight of the last 10 games and are starting to resemble last year’s team which went 42-24. The Pacers have especially victimized below .500 teams since they’re 15-2 against these clubs.

10. Houston Rockets (17-14) – The Rockets stay in our power rankings for the second week in a row – despite losing two out of the last three games. However, it is worth noting that both losses came against San Antonio and Oklahoma City. James Harden is having a career year with his new team as he’s scoring 26.1 PPG.