With the Major League Baseball playoffs having finally concluded, NBA action takes center stage during the week now at SBR Forum’s best sports books. And there are two match ups this week that stand above the rest as a star player likely will want a form of vengeance in each: Oklahoma City at Golden State on Thursday night and the New York Knicks at Chicago on Friday. The Warriors and Bulls will be favored on NBA betting lines, but they will be facing very motivated stars in the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and Knicks’ Derrick Rose, respectively.
The Thunder of course were up 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals last season to the heavily-favored Warriors, who won an NBA-record 73 regular-season games. It would have been one of the great upsets in league history even as good as Oklahoma City was in 2015-16 with Kevin Durant and Westbrook. While a Warriors home win in Game 5 wasn’t unexpected, the Thunder should have finished off the series in Game 6 back in OKC. But the Warriors’ Klay Thompson made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points as the Warriors rallied from eight points down late in the fourth quarter for a stunning victory. They would then win Game 7 and head to the NBA Finals, where Golden State blew its own 3-1 series lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Had the Thunder beaten the Warriors in Game 6, it’s hard to imagine that Durant would have left Oklahoma City in free agency for Golden State this off season. The Thunder certainly could have beaten the Cavaliers for the franchise’s first title since moving from Seattle. Durant has said the Warriors’ Finals collapse helped influence his free-agency decision.
It was assumed that Durant and Westbrook got along fine, but the way Durant left his former team showed that obviously wasn’t the case. Durant never personally told Westbrook that he was leaving and the two reportedly still haven’t talked. There have been many shots at one another in the media as well. Westbrook turned around and signed an extension to stay with Oklahoma City through at least next season, but he clearly feels betrayed. The triple-double machine is going to be playing with an intensity perhaps unseen in years in the NBA on Thursday to stick it to Durant. Over/under 40 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds for Russ on NBA betting lines?
Meanwhile, Rose was the NBA’s youngest-ever MVP with the Bulls in 2010-11, and the Chicago native became the most popular athlete in the city — maybe its most popular since Michael Jordan. The Bulls were primed to contend for NBA titles for years. But Rose never got back to that level, largely due to injuries. And his act frankly wore thin in Chicago. He had the audacity to talk about next year’s free agency last season and how he was looking forward to it so he could financially take care of his family. Apparently the $100 million-plus contract Rose got from the Bulls wasn’t enough.
Rose was traded for very little in return this off season to the Knicks. The Bulls still haven’t issued anyone Rose’s former No. 1 jersey; he wears No. 25 in New York. Rose said he adopted an alter-ego in Chicago, which is why he went with the No. 1 jersey as opposed to the No. 25 he wore in high school and at Memphis.
Rose may not be welcomed warmly in Chicago for the way things ended and while he says there’s no bad blood between him and the franchise, that’s not true from Chicago’s end. One Knick who will get a good reception is Joakim Noah, another former Bulls fan-favorite who signed with the Knicks this offseason. He didn’t leave on bad terms.
Chicago looks like one of the NBA’s most improved teams early on and is unbeaten on NBA betting lines with the additions of guards Rajon Rondo (taking Rose’s spot) and Dwyane Wade in free agency.
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