Thunder vs. Lakers prediction: NBA odds, picks, best bets for Western Conference showdown
Just when it looked like the Lakers were starting to turn the corner with a mini winning streak, back-to-back losses against the Suns and Jazz have curtailed any momentum.
At 19-21, the In-Season Tournament winners are currently the 11th-seed in the Western Conference.
Were almost at the halfway point of the season, and if the Lakers are going to make a run it needs to be sooner than later.
Whats puzzling is that, unlike recent years, the Lakers have had their two best players available for much of the campaign, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis playing in at least 90% of the games.
Although both players are once again on the injury report for Mondays matchup with the Thunder, its the status of Oklahoma Citys Shai Gilgeous-Alexander thats drawing some scrutiny from the betting market.
In this preview, well try to make sense of the line movement before highlighting our best bet for this matchup.
I was shocked that the Thunder opened as 4.5-point underdogs despite having a +11 Net Rating edge against the Lakers. The only logical explanation was a possible injury concern or Oklahoma City was opting to rest players for load management.
However, I could only draw one possible conclusion once I saw Gilgeous-Alexander on the injury report. Its likely the guards chances of playing in this game improved as the line is now down to a pickem at one sportsbook.
Nonetheless, the price action for this game remains very peculiar as my model projects Los Angeles as a short home dog in this spot.
Chet Holmgren scores against the Lakers in December. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConOne thing that makes the Thunder so tricky to play against is its pace. According to ShotQuality, Oklahoma City ranks first in transition offense and fourth in finishes at the rim.
The Thunder pose a legitimate threat to a Lakers defense that sits 25th in fastbreak points allowed (15.9 per game).
When Oklahoma City isnt wearing opponents down with its pace, its hurting them on the perimeter. The Thunder rank second in 3-point shooting with 39.2% from beyond the arc.
Whats interesting is Oklahoma City ranks 17th with only 33.4 3-point attempts per game. Thus, theres potentially even more upside to this Thunder offense that seems capable of putting up more points.
The notion that the Lakers are this juggernaut defensive team just doesnt seem realistic anymore. Even though Los Angeles ranks in the top half of defensive efficiency (14th), there are some worrying concerns.
While we already discussed the Lakers defensive struggles in transition, their perimeter defense is even more alarming, given they rank last in opponent 3-pointers allowed (14.2 per game).
Hence, its tough to definitively describe the Lakers’ identity.
One of the more surprising things about the Lakers is they play fast despite their two best players, James and Davis, being the most senior on the team. Los Angeles ranks ninth in pace with 104.5 possessions per game.
Anthony Davis dribbles against the Thunder. APAlthough the Lakers are ranked last at shooting beyond the arc, they do a lot of their damage on the interior, ranking fifth in points in the paint (54.7 per game) and seventh in free throw attempted (24.6 per game). Thus, they get plenty of opportunities to score with the game clock turned off.
The rebounding battle could be particularly telling because Oklahoma City ranks 27th, averaging 48.7 per game. Oklahoma City is also 27th in allowing opponents to average 15.7 second-chance points.
Put it all together, and this is a matchup in which both teams can successfully play to their strengths.
Thunder vs. Lakers pick
It feels like every time we bury the Lakers, they find a way to make us believers again. The line movement for this game is dubious enough to keep me off either side.
However, given how these teams play, its tough to see where the stops will come from.
The question you have to ask yourself is whether the Thunder will play at a slower pace if Gilgeous-Alexander misses the game. Regardless, this is a Thunder unit that plays with full energy as the second youngest team in the league, with an average age of 23.8 years.
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Neither team will object to a fast pace.
According to our Action Labs database, the over is 29-20 in Thunder games, with an opening total thats been bet down after opening between 230 and 240 points.
With that angle in play here, this is one spot where I wouldnt trust the market move.
After shopping around, you can still find multiple books hanging a total of 238 points. Take the over.
Pick: Over 238 points (-105, DraftKings)
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