Trail Blazers vs Thunder: Flat Spot for OKC?

Andrew O'Connor-Watts breaks down his expert NBA betting prediction and pick for Trail Blazers vs. Thunder on Thursday, January 11.

Trail Blazers vs. Thunder Odds

Trail Blazers Odds +13
Thunder Odds -13
Moneyline +640 / -950
Over/Under 234.5
Time Thursday, 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Portland Trail Blazers head to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Thursday in a matchup of two Western Conference teams in two very different stratospheres.

The Blazers just lost an absolute drubbing to the Knicks on Tuesday in a game they failed to score 85 points. Deandre Ayton—who has missed the last eight games with a knee injury—is likely to miss his ninth straight game, but regardless of his status, the Blazers will have their work cut out for them in Oklahoma City where they’ll play their sixth straight road game.

Meanwhile, the Thunder come home after a four-game stint away from home, with some disappointing losses along the way to the Hawks and Nets. Now they’ll face Portland after taking care of Miami last night 128-120.

Let’s get to our Trail Blazers vs. Thunder pick and prediction.

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Trail Blazers Rookies Showing Promise

The Blazers are just 3-7 straight up and against the spread in their last 10 games and are sure to be sellers at the trade deadline next month. Their massive loss to the Knicks was a low point, and with such a rough road schedule, it’s tough to see things improving for them, although there have been few bright spots for their young players.

Ayton’s absence has meant more playing time for 27-year-old rookie Duop Reath, who has contributed positive minutes with the opportunity. He’s a physical 6-foot-11 center who has surprising shooting touch despite his size and position. In 401 minutes, Reath has a +14.4 Offensive Rating swing, according to Basketball Reference. We might see him have a positive impact against Chet Holmgren, especially on the boards.

No. 4 overall pick Scoot Henderson has also shown flashes with an increased starting role. In his past seven starts, Henderson is averaging 15.1 points, 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds.

While things haven’t been very promising outside of youth development, Portland’s defense has shown signs of life throughout the season. Even in the past five games they rank 22nd in Defensive Rating despite the Nets scoring 127 in overtime and the Mavericks scoring 126 and 139 respectively in back-to-back games.

Thunder May Slow the Tempo

Oklahoma City has continued its upward trajectory from years past by improving on both sides of the ball. The Thunder were already the 12th-best defense last season, according to Dunks and Threes, but with the addition of Holmgren, they’ve cracked the top 10 and sit at ninth overall, which is unusual for such a young team.

Their offensive ascension has been even more impressive as they have skyrocketed from 19th to fourth in Offensive Rating, only behind historic offenses like the Celtics, Pacers and Nuggets. In the past 10 games, they’ve leap-frogged everyone offensively with a 125 Offensive Rating, but they also have just a 117.8 Defensive Rating (19th) over that span as eight of their last 10 games have gone over the total.

While the defense has dropped off, I think there’s reason to believe the pace will slow down against the Blazers.

I don’t see the Thunder wanting to overexert in this game as they’ll look to slow down the pace and force the Blazers to beat them in the halfcourt. OKC takes on Orlando on Saturday before heading to L.A. for back-to-back contests against the Lakers and Clippers. Consequently, the Thunder will take any rest that they can find.

Trail Blazers vs. Thunder Prediction

I can only look to the Blazers here after an epic loss to the Knicks with such a large spread of 13 points. This is generally an exhale spot for teams in the Thunder’s situation as they are coming home after a long road trip. I don’t trust them to lay 13 and cover, but I don’t trust the Blazers offense either.

As a result. this is a classic spot for an under despite the Thunder’s recent tendency toward overs. Both teams have played faster than they have all season over the past five games, and I think we’re seeing an inflated total as a result. This is a classic spot for both teams to want to slow things down.

I don’t love counting on either defense right now, so I’ll keep this play small, but the line is too high at 234.5 for this Blazers offense, and with a slower game, there won’t be as many opportunities for points.

I see value on the under down to 231.5.

Pick: Under 234.5 (Play to 231.5)