The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers are locked into their respective playoff matchups, but Friday's regular-season finale should still be an entertaining prime-time affair.
L.A. has adopted a load management strategy for Kawhi Leonard and other stars throughout the 2019-20 campaign. OKC has done something similar in Orlando, but it'd behoove both these squads to embrace this contest, put their best players forward and get a taste of the competitive postseason atmosphere.
In abe Insights' betting preview, you'll find the best odds available across the major sportsbooks, key stats to weigh before you wager, along with analysis on how bets should trend for this matchup.
Date: Friday, August 14
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Thunder 33%; Clippers 70%
Spread: LAC -6
Moneyline: OKC +205; LAC -238
Most concerning for the underdogs is the fact that Chris Paul is out with a sprained left hand. Hopefully he'll be good to go for a playoff run. Thunder center Steven Adams has played only four of seven bubble games, yet when he's in the lineup, OKC has a 3-1 record against playoff teams, with the only loss coming in overtime to Denver.
As for the Clips, they're dealing with a trio of absences to their rotation for Friday's matchup. Big man Montrezl Harrell remains out, along with starting point guard Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet, per ESPN.
15.3 vs. 11.7: OKC has generally taken care of the ball this season, but since the restart, the Thunder have the sixth-highest turnover percentage (15.3%) among bubble teams. L.A. is turning it over at the third-lowest rate in the same time span.
119.3 vs. 106.2: These are the offensive ratings for the Clips and Thunder respectively over the past seven contests. Big advantage for the favorites here — and the gap will be all the more difficult for OKC to close with Paul out of action.
30.1 vs. 39.0: The Thunder have defended the 3-point line better than anyone in the bubble, as these stats reflect opponents' field goal percentage from beyond the arc. L.A. ranks sixth-worst in Orlando in this particular area.
It would've been really fun to see CP3 take on one of his former teams — well, his most notable one, anyway — and ex-coach Doc Rivers. Alas, an untimely hand injury will rob fans of that bubble finale subplot.
But the really juicy subplot here is Paul George facing the Thunder. He was at the center of a blockbuster trade Oklahoma City pulled off to send George to L.A. this past offseason, as he joined forces with Kawhi to hopefully make the Clippers a championship contender.
The 2019-20 campaign was projected to be a tank season for OKC, resulting in a lottery pick and effectively the end of Paul's career barring a trade demand. Instead, coach Billy Donovan and the Thunder have improbably ascended to the upper echelon of the NBA.
Now, we'll start to get an idea as to whether Oklahoma City is a contender or pretender. With a looming, grueling matchup against the Houston Rockets on tap, facing another elite Western Conference foe like the Clippers is as good a tune-up affair as the Thunder could hope for.
While much of the attention will rightly revolve around the Clippers' Leonard, George, Lou Williams and even all the players they're missing — not to mention CP3's absence — one man to watch Friday is Thunder reserve Darius Bazley, who's had 20-plus points in each of the past three outings.
The Thunder stand less of a chance without Paul, and with Leonard and George suiting up, it'll hardly be a shock to see wagers favor the Clippers' spread. However, the Thunder moneyline offers a generous payout and should therefore be strongly considered as a hedge play.
Both these squads are capable of playing defense at an elite level, even without all their top players in action. Due to their innate ability to guard, look for LA-OKC bets on the points total to trend toward the Under.
Note: Odds current as of 11:20 a.m. ET on Friday, August 14.
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