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Bettor’s NBA West Top 5 Report: Thunder Keep on Keeping On

A week into the return to action in the NBA and the West is still up for grabs among five championship-caliber teams. Our NBA title odds machine is cranking and ready for picks to be made. To help you along in that process, here’s a glance at the situation surrounding the top tier in the West.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

They soared into the break with four straight wins – all on the road – only to fall at home to Milwaukee when action resumed last week. That was a pretty desperate Bucks team that survived at Target Center, so we’ll cut the Timberwolves some slack, especially since they rolled the next night against Brooklyn.

Bettor’s NBA West Top 5 Report: Thunder Keep on Keeping On
Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

The Nets scored just 86 points in that contest, a low for a Minnesota opponent this season. It was a show of strength for a Timberwolves team that has turned up the intensity on that end whenever it needs to step up.

“We needed a win desperately,” said head coach Chris Finch. “Still not playing really sharp basketball, particularly on the offensive end. But defensively, we were really strong.”

Indeed, nobody’s stronger on that side of the court, and it’s why a healthy Minnesota squad just might be the best option in the West as it relates to NBA Finals odds. In fact, nobody’s even close in that department, as the Timberwolves’ scoring defense (106.4 points) is more than four points lower than anyone else in the conference.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

We’ve seen enough. No, we’re not anointing the Thunder the champs, but we’re no longer hesitant to keep them below the veteran-laden clubs in the West. Oklahoma City just isn’t hitting that lull we kept expecting from a young team with a handful of key guys logging very heavy minutes.

A 123-110 win at Houston on Sunday gave the Thunder a five-game winning streak spanning the break. It’s their fourth streak of at least five wins in a row in a season in which they have yet to lose more than two straight.

That’s a model of consistency that teams like the Nuggets and Clippers can’t quite claim. Perhaps that consistent success sways you at the sportsbook when you’re making a long-term bet online. In the short term, they’re a pretty safe option as well, sporting a West-best 36-20-1 mark against the spread.

That number has been amplified during the win streak, which has seen them post these margins of victory (in order): 14 points … 14 points … 22 points … 41 points … 13 points.

Sheer dominance for Shai and the gang.

3. Denver Nuggets

They’ve won three in a row out of the break, all coming in a busy four-day span with two of the games on the road. The opponents weren’t elite-level, but anytime you can survive a challenging schedule like that it bodes well.

The Nuggets have another run of three games in four nights starting Wednesday against Sacramento. Miami visits the following night and then there’s a Saturday trip to LA to face the Lakers, after which the schedule begins to normalize.

If Denver gets through this next trio of games with a couple more wins in its pocket, at least, we’ll know the champs are feeling pretty good about the stretch run. Nikola Jokic is honing in on a third MVP and the team is pretty healthy around him.

Take stock of what happens when the Nuggets host the Kings on Wednesday. Sacramento has won the first three matchups between the teams and there’s a legit chance these could be first-round combatants in the playoffs.

4. Los Angeles Clippers

In our last edition of this Top 5, we wondered if we were seeing some cracks in the Clippers’ foundation. Those fissures have only increased in size and intensity as the oldest team in the league muddles through a 3-4 stretch.

It’s not time to sound any alarms or anything, but there is at least some cause for concern. Paul George began to slump before the break as some physical issues popped up, and the All-Star was inactive for Sunday’s 123-107 home loss to the Kings.

There’s more pedigree here than anywhere else with four Hall of Famers all in a good spot. They just have to get through this murky period and should be okay for the spring, but if anything lingers (with George or others), the age/durability issue will come to the forefront.

5. Phoenix Suns

They returned to action with a tough back-to-back in Texas that resulted in two losses, but rebounded at home to knock off the Lakers in a Sunday matinee. It was a somewhat notable win in that the Suns displayed plenty of balance, an issue at times on this top-heavy team.

Royce O’Neale stepped into the starting lineup to score 20 points, joining Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Grayson Allen at that plateau. Jusuf Nurkic was the lone starter not to hit 20, but he had 18 points and 22 rebounds.

NBA betting fans should love the O’Neale addition and what it can do to expand the options from time to time, especially on days like Sunday when Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon were sidelined. Getting everyone on the court and spreading the wealth will make this a much more dangerous unit.



Questions Of The Day

Which NBA game stands out on Tuesday’s schedule?

The Mavericks, who are lurking outside our top five and recently won seven straight, continue a road trip at Cleveland. Check the basketball odds on that one and see what our NBA picks experts recommend.

Which of these top five NBA teams is on the shakiest ground?

It would have to be the Clippers, simply because of the age factor.

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