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Thunder still down under a lot of other NBA teams in Power Ratings

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Paul George and the Thunder had a rare ATS win.
© USA Today Sports Images

Alert! Because the pending bowl barrage is loaded, VSiN City will expand to seven days a week through the college football postseason. Today, Wednesday night Thunder and Thursday NFL in the sports betting headlines. 

Before we get to those, a quick reminder that our first ever VSiN BOWL GUIDE can be purchased for just $19.99. If you’re already a paid subscriber to Point Spread Weekly, this digital feature is included in your package. You’ve probably already taken a sneak at the biggest game previews. If you’re not a week-to-week bettor, but would like some help specifically with the coming bowl matchups, then that payment for $19.99 will get you 102 pages of stats, trends, handicapping articles, and selections from VSiN’s experts. VSiN City supplied an exclusive article comparing each bowl offense’s “run percentage” with the rush defense ranking of its opponent…a fundamental starting point for nuts and bolts handicapping. You’ll also read about how to handicap motivation. And, the voice of big-time college football for so many years, Brent Musburger, will let you know who he likes in each and every game.

Click here to make your purchase. The games start Saturday! We’ll run stat summaries of that quintet for you in our Sunday bonus report. 

Wednesday NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder crackles in Indiana for Paul George’s homecoming…in spite of “the big three!”
A lot of media attention was planned in advance for Wednesday night’s Oklahoma City/Indiana showdown. ESPN nabbed it for a national telecast before the season started. Everyone knew this would be Paul George’s first game in Indiana since leaving the Pacers.

What everyone didn’t know was that the stunningly bad play of the Thunder would become the dominant theme of the prelude! And, it would have been the dominant theme of post-game coverage if OKC role players hadn’t bailed out “the big three.”

Russell Westbrook: 3 of 17 shooting
Paul George: 3 of 14 shooting
Carmelo Antony: 4 of 14 shooting

Big Three: 10 of 45 shooting (22%)
All Others: 26 of 43 shooting (60%)

Alex Abrines was 4 of 6 on three-pointers. Steven Adams was 11 of 15 on two-pointers. Oklahoma City stopped a 9-game non-cover streak against the point spread with a 5-point win as a cheap favorite. 

Oklahoma City (-1.5) 100, Indiana 95
Two-Point Pct: Oklahoma City 39%, Indiana 50%
Three Pointers: Oklahoma City 13/29, Indiana 11/31
Free Throws: Oklahoma City 15/24, Indiana 4/6
Rebounds: Oklahoma City 52, Indiana 42
Turnovers: Oklahoma City 14, Indiana 14

Indiana fans weren’t very happy about that free throw differential. Odd to see a home team at -11 in makes and -18 in attempts from the charity stripe. Indiana did shoot well inside the arc, but was outrebounded handily. Victor Olapido, who’s filled George’s spot in the Pacer ecosystem this season, was just 9 of 26 from the floor, 1 of 9 on treys. 

Oklahoma City moves to 13-14 straight up on the season, 9-18 against the betting market. Note that OKC has been favored in 26 of its 27 games, yet is still below the .500 mark. Indiana drops to 16-12, but still an impressive 17-11 ATS even with Wednesday’s failure. 

Wanted to mention that The Ringer had a very interesting article on the impact Russell Westbrook had on player development for the Thunder. Worth your time whether you’re pro-Westbrook or anti-Westbrook. The lesson appears to be that young teammates have little chance to develop their skill sets because Westbrook monopolizes the ball so much. The obvious corollary is that teams with great cultures who share the ball and give minutes to their bench are much more likely to develop players who can contribute. 

NBA: Updated estimate of “market” Power Ratings
Time for this week’s NBA update of our estimated “market” Power Ratings. We always need to put in a disclaimer that NBA estimates are softer than in the NFL…and that daily lines can be out of whack with these if there are injuries to starters or unique circumstances with back-to-backs or other schedule dynamics.  

88: Golden State (Curry out)
87: Houston
84: Cleveland, Toronto, San Antonio
83: Boston 
82: Minnesota, Oklahoma City 
81: Milwaukee, Portland
80: Philadelphia, Washington, Miami, New Orleans, Denver, Utah
79: Detroit 
78: Charlotte, Indiana, LA Clippers
77: Memphis, Dallas  
76: New York, Orlando  
75: LA Lakers 
74: Brooklyn, Sacramento
73: Atlanta
71: Chicago, Phoenix 

We’ll ride these more aggressively through the week once football is off the schedule. 

College Basketball: #1 Villanova looks great at city-rival Temple 
There have been a lot of prominent college basketball upsets in recent days. Fans of this sport were watching Villanova/Temple closely as a possible addition. City rivalry. A talented dog that would love to knock off the #1 team in the country. If previous #1 Duke could lose at Boston College laying 14 or 15 points, surely Villanova could have trouble in a “Big 5” matchup in The City of Brotherly Love. 

Nope…Villanova was awesome. Focus on shooting as you scan the boxscore… 

#1 Villanova (-9) 87, Temple 67
Two-Point Pct: Villanova 74% Temple 53%
Three Pointers: Villanova 13/28, Temple 7/19
Free Throws: Villanova 8/12, Temple 8/15
Rebounds: Villanova 29, Temple 27
Turnovers: Villanova 11, Temple 11
Kenpom/Sagarin/BPI Rankings: Villanova 1-1-1, Temple 45-52-38

That’s right, 74% on two-point baskets! Villanova was 20 of 27 inside the arc, which should be impossible at this level. It’s not like the refs were calling fouls on Temple in a way that made the defense back off. Villanova is just THAT good at creating open looks for its shooters all over the floor. Villanova’s 13 of 28 mark on treys registers at 46%, which is the same as 70% on deuces (with rounding). Against a team that was consensus top 45 in the three computer measures of Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, and ESPN’s BPI (which also average out to #45), Villanova shot 74% on two’s, and the equivalent of 70% on three’s. 

The Wildcats play at a slow pace. Both teams took just 55 shots in this one. Too bad Villanova’s pace has a way of hiding its offensive efficiency from many in the mainstream media. 

Upsets eventually nail everyone. Villanova will fall at some point. What’s exciting right now is that we have a few teams across the nation that are clearly championship caliber, and several others capable of knocking on the door if they improve thorough the season. 

NFL: The Denver Broncos visit the Indianapolis Colts in Thursday night action
A meaningless game in the big picture. But, it can be instructive to study the stats of bad teams so you can anticipate when things might get better down the road. Let’s see how the Broncos and Colts have performed in our key indicator stats. 

Denver (4-9) at Indianapolis (3-10)
Las Vegas Line: Denver by 2.5, total of 40.5
Estimated Market Power Ratings: Denver 75, Indianapolis 70

We mentioned the other day that this was a big jump for Denver from recent expectations. They were a one-point underdog at home to the NY Jets. Now, they’re making at run at -3 on the road against the Colts. 

Yards-per-Play
Denver: 4.7 on offense, 4.7 on defense (vs. #13 schedule)
Indianapolis: 4.6 on offense, 5.9 on defense (vs. #27 schedule)

Those numbers by themselves are suggesting that Denver is MUCH better than Indy. The lead is only one game in the standings…but the Broncos appear to be a .500 caliber team with a dead-even differential in YPP against a league average schedule. Indianapolis is AWFUL, with that dreadful differential against what’s turned out to be a very weak schedule. Frankly, that’s expansion caliber. Indianapolis is 3-10 because they won a couple of home squeakers over other expansion-level teams (Cleveland and San Francisco), and then caught Houston in shock a few days after Deshaun Watson was lost for the season.

So, maybe we can stop right there. Denver is going to clobber Indy, right? Not that easy. Denver is a legitimate 4-9 because they’re -14 in turnover differential this season. They continue to stubbornly force action downfield with interception-prone passers who are barely backup quality. Indianapolis is plus 3 in turnover differential because they play it very safe while trying to steal wins with inferior depth. 

Key Passing Stats 
Denver: 6.3 yards-per-pass attempt, 15 TD’s, 18 interceptions thrown
Indianapolis: 6.9 yards-per-pass attempt, 11 TD’s, 9 interceptions thrown

There you go. Twice as many interceptions for the Broncos. Jacoby Brissett of Indianpolis has been receiving some “respect by default” in recent days because he hasn’t been a turnover-prone disaster like a few other quarterbacks. Plus, he’s on the list “former New England backups who are now starters elsewhere.” Jimmy Garappolo has a few good games for San Francisco, and suddenly pundits are linking Garappolo and Brissett in a way that really isn’t accurate. Garappolo appears to be a true impact player. Brissett has poor stats against a weak schedule. 

Pass Defense 
Denver: 6.8 yppa allowed; 26 TD’s allowed, 8 interceptions
Indianapolis: 8.2 yppa allowed; 19 TD’s allowed, 11 interceptions

This is amazing. Denver has some truly fantastic defensive stats this season. Yet, they’re making opposing quarterbacks looks like superstars. A league average schedule has thrown 26 TD passes with only 8 interceptions vs. the Broncos. To give you some comparisons…Philip Rivers has a 23/8 ratio…Tom Brady is at 27/6. Denver’s making opposing quarterbacks look like a blending of Rivers and Brady. Indianapolis is much worse in yards-per-pass-allowed. But, somehow, the Colts are better in TD/INT ratio allowed. 

Impact Defense 
Denver: 30% third down pct-allowed, 13 takeaways, 30 sacks
Indianapolis: 45% third down pct-allowed, 18 takeaways, 20 sacks

A mix of great and lousy for Denver. You can tell they really emphasize keeping the ball in front of them while trying to get stops. No dumb gambles on this side of the ball! That’s only 13 takeaways in 13 games…one per game. They’re out there to force you to punt. If you can move the chains, you’ll get to the end zone often enough to win. Indianapolis is pretty bad across the board. Expansion caliber defense on third downs and in the area of getting sacks. 

Who’s going to cover? Probably comes down to how often (if at all) Denver quarterbacks throw the ball to the wrong team. Indy isn’t likely to suffer a turnover implosion because it plays so safe on offense…and is facing an opponent that doesn’t force mistakes. Denver can win and cover if it plays clean. Denver will have to sweat the ending if they don’t. 

Denver’s “league average” schedule has mostly been loaded with “average” teams. It’ not like they’ve split between super-powers and cupcakes. Generally speaking, if somebody’s in a Wildcard race with a record around .500, Denver’s played them. The closest match to Indy would be that home game vs. the NY Giants that Denver lost as big favorites. That was a 23-10 debacle where it lost turnovers 3-0. The only other opponent at 5-8 or worse right now is Cincinnati. That was a 20-17 home loss where the Broncos lost turnovers 2-0. 

Denver has control of its destiny if Trevor Siemian doesn’t toss it to a Colts' linebacker or a cornerback. 

NFL: Packers settle in at plus 3 at Carolina with Aaron Rodgers cleared
As expected, the Green Bay Packers have settled in as a short underdog at Carolina this Sunday upon the news that star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was cleared to play. The current line of Packers plus 3 would suggest neutral field quality between them and Panthers since home field advantage is generally three points (or fractionally less) in the NFL. All agree that Green Bay is a “playoff caliber” team when Rodgers is healthy.

Can the Packers make the playoffs siting at 7-6? Can they reach the Super Bowl?

Neither is looking very good. Green Bay has to win out for 10-6, and 10-6 may not be good enough anyway for one of the two spots with Carolina at 9-4, Atlanta at 8-5 (who owns a tie-break over GB), and the NFC runner-up possibly sitting at 9-5 if Seattle wins as a 2-point favorite over the LA Rams Sunday. 

Plus, Green Bay is a dog to finish 10-6.

Plus 3 this week at Carolina
Near pick-em at home vs. Minnesota next week
Near pick-em on the road at Detroit in the season finale

That’s not a coin flip to win out…that’s roughly a coin flip at each of three stages needed to win out. If they were exact coin flips, the percentage would only be 12.5% for the flips to come up “Packers” three straight times. Winning the Super Bowl would involve four additional coin flips (realistically, longer shots than coin flips barring upsets in the brackets).

Not worth worrying about unless Green Bay beats Carolina to move to 8-6, which would also create a tie-breaker edge over the then 9-5 Panthers. 

Hockey Notes: Red meat for handicappers and a Grand Salami
Hockey handicapper Andy MacNeil has appeared with Gill Alexander on “A Numbers Game” a couple of times already. We wanted to let you know that Andy just had an in-depth article on statistical analysis in the NHL published by Pinnacle. Click here to read it. Even if you don’t handicap the NHL, but do use stats in other sports, the fundamentals discussed will be worth your time. You can follow Andy on twitter @pucktails.

Also, we wanted to let you know that Brent Musburger recently talked the South Point into making “The Grand Salami” available for betting every night. For the unaware, that’s an Over/Under for the total number of goals scored across the league on a given slate. You can bet Over or Under for the full league. VSiN has created a page where you can follow day-to-day results. Click here to check out the page. And save that link because it’s the easiest way to find the page on our jam-packed website! 

Back with you Friday to set up a very busy sports weekend. 

If you haven’t had a chance to sign up for the FREE weekday subscription to VSiN City, please click here to do so. You also get links to handy sports betting sheets from the South Point that are crucial for college basketball. 

Click here to subscribe to our popular Point Spread Weekly magazine. This lengthy football betting resource costs just $49.99 for the rest of the season. That prices takes you the Super Bowl, and includes our bowl preview. 

Click here to follow us on twitter for programming snippets and news bulletins. Click here to download our new app. If you have any comments or questions about anything in the VSiN universe, drop us a note or leave us a comment on the Facebook widget below. 

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