Thunder vs. Suns: Back OKC to Keep Thriving as an Underdog

Action Network contributor Tyler Schmidt previews Friday night's NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns, including a betting pick.

Thunder vs. Suns Odds

Thunder Odds +7.5
Suns Odds -7.5
Over/Under 230.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Friday features a Western Conference clash between the new favorites to make the NBA Finals and a rising young team trying to make the playoffs.

The Phoenix Suns are eight-point favorites at home, where they are 20-10 this season. Eight points feels high when considering that Kevin Durant is still out and Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson are now with the Nets.

Despite being just outside the play-in tournament, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been fantastic at covering spreads and competing as underdogs. Expect them to keep this game close, especially after a one-point overtime loss last night.

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Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have found comfort as underdogs this season and are 20-22 as underdogs. Most importantly, they covered the spread 70% of the time when catching points. The Thunder lead the league with a 37-21 record against the spread and have the second-highest Net Rating (+7.1) since January 1st. They are certainly not tanking this year.

The Thunder are playing on a back-to-back after losing by one point in overtime to the Jazz. First-time All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 points, while Josh Giddey and Luguentz Dort recorded double-doubles.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been the story for the Thunder all season as he is averaging a career-high 30.8 points per game and shooting 50.8% from the field. The Thunder lead the league in Offensive Rating (120.6) since January 1st and Gilgeous-Alexander is the main reason why. He has been unstoppable.

Giddey leads the team in rebounds and assists this season, while also averaging a career-high 16.3 points per game. He had a relatively slow start, but has shot 50% or better in 14 of his past 17 games. This backcourt is going to be a nightmare for opposing teams for so many years.

Jalen Williams and Jaylin Williams have provided an energy and spark for the Thunder as they continue to play winning basketball. Jalen has scoring upside, while Jaylin has rebounding promise. They will both be needed in this matchup.

The Suns rank eighth in Defensive Rating this season, but losing Bridges and Johnson is massive, especially defensively. With an aging Chris Paul as their best defender, Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey will feast tonight.

Phoenix Suns

Durant has yet to take the floor for the Suns and is planning to make his debut on March 1st. Staying healthy has been the Suns biggest issue all season long.

Devin Booker returned to action just before the All-Star break and competed in four games, with the Suns winning three of those four. As a team, the Suns have won 11 of their past 15 games and moved into fifth place in the Western Conference with just over 20 games remaining. Booker is averaging over 25 points per game for the fifth-straight year and leads the team with a 31.8% usage rate.

Paul is starting to show his age and is averaging a career-low 13.7 points per game and shooting 42.6% from the field. He continues to rack up assists, but he may have difficulty keeping up with the young and explosive Thunder guards.

Suns center Deandre Ayton has the biggest mismatch against this very weak Thunder frontcourt. The Thunder have allowed 51.6 points per game in the paint this season and rank 26th in Rebounding Percentage (48.7%). Even with this mismatch, Ayton has seen his usage rate drop 4.1% as he’s only attempting 12.6 field goal attempts per game playing with Booker.

Overall, the Thunder are surprisingly a strong defensive team. Even with their lack of interior size, they are tied for 10th in the league for highest Defensive Rating. As favorites, the Suns cover the spread 55.6% of the time, but not having Bridges and Johnson is a huge loss defensively when Gilgeous-Alexander is on the other side. This spread is too large.

Thunder-Suns Pick

With the addition of Durant, the Suns have quickly become the favorite to win the Western Conference. Unfortunately, Durant isn’t able to play tonight, which gives the Thunder a great chance to compete as underdogs in this spot.

The Thunder are the pick tonight as they lead the league against the spread, covering 70% of the time as underdogs and have an average margin of defeat of just 8.1 points per game.

They may be playing on a back-to-back, but the Thunder are 3-4 on the second legs of back-to-backs this season. The Thunder are also an impressive 20-22 as underdogs, so don’t be afraid to sprinkle the moneyline.

Take the Thunder at +8. I would feel comfortable taking them down to +5.