- The Philadelphia 76ers host the Oklahoma City Thunder in one of the few good matchups on Monday's NBA slate.
- The Thunder are thriving, despite being a team composed of cast offs and throw ins.
- The Sixers are struggling, but are still incredibly talented and are coming off a four-game losing streak.
PHILADELPHIA - The NBA game slate is full today, but the quality of the teams on it is relatively lacking. There is only one game between teams with winning records, which is why the focus will be on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s visit to Philadelphia to take on the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are a surprising inclusion in the “good teams” bucket, as before the season nobody expected this team of misfits to win many games, let alone be significantly above .500.
Make no mistake, they’re not world-beaters by any means, but they’ve managed to put together a competent and functional basketball team when nobody expected they would. Competence and effort matter a lot in this league.
On the court, the Thunder are led by former Los Angeles Clippers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari. The 21-year-old Gilgeous-Alexander leads the Thunder in both minutes played and field goals attempted. He seems the likeliest candidate to be a part of the franchise’s long term plans. The rest of the team, however, is a collection of misfits and trade assets who have somehow combined to win 57% of their games so far, in a true underdog story fashion.
The Thunder sit at seventh in the NBA’s Western Conference and are well ahead of the group of below .500 teams vying for the eighth seed. They’re in an excellent position to make a playoff run this year, as the bottom appears to have fallen out of the playoff picture in the West, with the San Antonio Spurs currently occupying the eighth seed with an abysmal 14-20 record.
To go along with their 9-1 hot streak in their last 10 games, the Thunder are also surprisingly frisky against the spread in recent days. In their last five outings, they’re 5-0 against the spread, and they’re 4-0 against the spread in their last four games as an underdog. One of the more shocking statistics for the Thunder is their recent record against the spread on one day’s rest – 6-0 in their last six.
The Thunder find themselves as seven-point underdogs against the 76ers on Monday. An enticing line for those betting on the NBA this season.
The Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers, meanwhile, expected to enter this year as a bona fide playoff contender and an elite team with elite talent. On paper, they are something like that, boasting one of the best defenses in the NBA, but they have struggled to close out games on offense, and frankly, have struggled on offense full stop.
The loss of Jimmy Butler to Miami over the summer wasn’t something that was expected to hurt the Sixers as much as it appears to have done. Butler’s absence is most keenly felt in crunch time when he would get the ball to create shots. The gap is significant in terms of Philadelphia’s performance in close games.
Last year, with Butler on the team, Philadelphia had an excellent 62.1% winning percentage in close games. This year, with no Butler, their close game winning percentage has dropped off a cliff to 46.2%. Butler’s new team, Miami, has seen the opposite trend occur – their winning percentage in close games went from 42.3% last year to a league-leading 88.9% this year.
The Sixers remain dominant when playing at home, with a 16-2 home record, although that dominance does not extend to the spread. Against the spread, overall, the Sixers are 15-18, and 9-7 at home. Their recent losing streak holds up against the spread as well, with the Sixers having an 0-3-1 record ATS in their last four.
The Sixers have become something of a story in the NBA, with ink being spilled from all corners as to whether or not they’re underachieving. The talent is certainly there – Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons are varying degrees of good to great. However, the sixers are maddeningly inconsistent.
They’ve followed up a spectacular Christmas day win against the Eastern Conference favorite Milwaukee Bucks with four straight losses, two of them by one point each. USAOnlineSportsbooks.com feels the Sixers need to find themselves on offense and in crunch time, and they need to do it quickly.