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.

Chandler Parsons hits 10 3’s in One Half, but Rockets still lose

chandler-parsons-houstonShooting at a 40.8% clip from the three-point line this season, Chandler Parsons is obviously outstanding from behind the arc. But what he did against the Memphis Grizzlies was just ridiculous.

Parsons hit 10 three-pointers in the second half of last night’s game. This easily breaks the previous record of 8 3’s in a half, which was held by five different players. His 10 3’s also breaks Houston’s franchise record for the most in a single game.

It’s a shame that Parsons didn’t get going before the second half. After all, he was just two off the single-game record of 12 three-pointers in a game, which is held by Kobe Bryant (2003) and Donyell Marshall (2005). Following his shooting outburst Parsons said, “I was pretty much unconscious. My body went numb. I’ve never felt that feeling on a basketball court before.”

chandler-parsons-houston-1Unfortunately, the Florida alum couldn’t fully celebrate his outstanding game. The Rockets lost to the Grizzlies by a score of 88-87. With less than three minutes left, Memphis went on a 6-1 run to take a 88-84 lead. Parsons made his 10th and final three after this, but missed another shot following his last made-shot.

The Grizzlies didn’t have anybody nailing a crazy amount of 3-pointers, but they did turn in a well-rounded team effort. Courtney Lee led the charge with 19 points, and he seems to be doing quite well with his new team. In 30 games with Boston, he averaged 7.4 PPG in 16 minutes per game. But with Memphis, he’s playing 30 MPG and averaging 15.4 PPG in eight contests so far.

Going back to Parsons, he’s having a career-year with the Rockets. He’s scoring 17.6 PPG and grabbing 5.7 RPG through 40 games. It’s doubtful that he’s done enough to be selected as an All-Star in the loaded Western Conference. But he’s been a huge part of a team that lays claim to a 29-16 record, which is good for the West’s fifth seed so far.

Lakers Betting Odds to take Hit with Bryant out for 6 Weeks

kobe-bryantDon’t count on the Los Angeles Lakers being favored in too many betting lines for the next several weeks. After all, their star shooting guard, Kobe Bryant, is going to miss significant time once again with a major injury.

As many will recall, Bryant suffered an Achilles tear at the end of last year, which required 7 and a half months of rehabilitation. Earlier today, he learned that he’ll miss the next six weeks with a fractured left knee. The injury first surfaced in the Lakers’ Tuesday night win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Bryant complained about stiffness in his left knee following an awkward move. We now know that this is more than just some stiffness, as the knee injury will force him out until early February.

Bryant has only been back in the Lakers blue and gold for six games this year. During his short stint back from last season’s injury, he hasn’t exactly been the same old Kobe. His stats thus far are 13.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 4.3 RPG, 42.5% shooting, and a very ugly 5.67 TPG. Most people expected Number 24 to continue rounding into form as he got more games under his belt. But now he’ll have to start the process all over again, as he should miss around 20 more games or so.

kobe-bryantSo what are the Lakers’ postseason chances looking like with Bryant now set to miss a significant chunk of time? Well they were already looking shaky in the stacked Western Conference, where the current eighth seed, Denver, boasts a 14-10 record. Los Angeles is currently just 12-13, which is 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. A healthy and in-shape Bryant could’ve helped close this gap, but now it’s up to the supporting cast.

Unfortunately, this cast hasn’t offered up much support, with Steve Nash having sat all but 6 games and Pau Gasol ailing right now. The top scorer on the team has been Nick Young, who’s averaging 14.9 PPG on 43.5% shooting. Gasol is not far behind him with 14.7 PPG, but the big man is shooting a similar 43.9% from the field. The team is missing much-needed production from Steve Blake (9.8PPG, 7.7APG) and Jordan Farmar (9.2PPG, 4.4APG), both of whom are out with injuries.

So this leaves the team without any guards who can really distribute the ball. In turn, this has created a situation where big men Gasol and Chris Kaman (8.3PPG, 5.1RPG) are becoming frustrated with their lack of good low-post looks.

Jodie Meeks (12.4PPG, 0.9APG) and Xavier Henry (9.6PPG, 1.0APG) are likely to see significant time at the point position. Of course, this isn’t exactly a good thing because both players have less than a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. All in all, it looks like the Lakers’ injury issues could kill their playoff chances before the season even reaches the All-Star break.

NBA Power Rankings for Dec. 6th, 2012

With grueling road trips and tough injuries, the top NBA teams are constantly flip-flopping in the standings. Lately, the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks have taken control of their conferences after a good run. But that could all change next week due to the fickle nature of the NBA. This being said, our following power rankings take talent and potential into play just as much as the actual team records.

1. New York Knicks (14-4) – After dropping three out of four games towards the end of November, the Knicks are back on top following five straight wins. The latest victory was a 20-point blowout of the Heat in Miami. And remember that all of this is still happening without Amare Stoudemire.

2. Miami Heat (12-5) – As we just mentioned, Miami lost by 20 points to the Knicks. Plus they lost to league bottom-feeders Washington just a couple of nights earlier. Still, the Heat are the defending champions and we don’t see many scenarios where this could change by the end of the year.

3. San Antonio Spurs (15-4) – With a recent win over the Western Conference-leading Grizzlies, we like the Spurs a lot right now. Tim Duncan continues to pace San Antonio with his usual 18.8 PPG and 10.1 RPG.

4. Memphis Grizzlies (13-3) – It really looks like the Grizzlies are evolving into a title contender this year. Mike Conley Jr. continues to raise his game throughout the year since he’s now averaging 15.0 PPG and dishing out 6.3 APG. Zach Randolph is also playing excellent so far with 17.7 PPG and 13.3 RPG.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder (15-4) – One could argue that the Thunder should be higher; however, almost 20 games into the season, we have yet to see Oklahoma City beat a top-tier team. We’ll wait until future big-time matchups to see where the Thunder stand without James Harden.

6. L.A. Clippers (12-6) – Offseason additions like Lamar Odom and Grant Hill haven’t really panned out. However, every starter is averaging double digits and Chris Paul is doing an excellent job of distributing the ball (9.5 APG).

7. Brooklyn Nets (11-6) – The Nets had a five-game win streak snapped by the Heat and Thunder. And while we don’t think Brooklyn is quite ready to contend with these league superpowers, they are looking like a strong playoff team. Brook Lopez (18.5 PPG) is having another strong offensive campaign thanks to the passing contributions of Deron Williams (8.8 APG).

8. Atlanta Hawks (10-5) – Atlanta has replaced Joe Johnson’s scoring with a balanced effort that includes more contributions from Louis Williams (14.1 PPG), Jeff Teague (13.3 PPG) and Kyle Korver (10.8 PPG).

9. L.A. Lakers (9-10) – Based on talent alone, we’re still keeping the Lakers in our top 10. However, it may not be long before they drop out if this keeps up! Both Kobe Bryant (28.0 PPG) and Dwight Howard (18.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.84 BPG) have played as advertised. However, Pau Gasol (12.6 PPG) continues to struggle to find a place in this offense and has been involved in trade rumors.

10. Golden State Warriors (11-7) – For the first time this year, Golden State cracks our top 10 after getting off to a hot start. SG Klay Thompson (16.0 PPG) is looking much better in his second season while both Stephen Curry (19.1 PPG, 6.6 APG) and David Lee (17.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG) lead this team.