The Los Angeles Lakers (40-24, 25-7 home) will try to avoid a 3-game season series sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder (46-17, 21-11 away) today, as one of the NBA’s top teams at home battles one of the league’s top road squads in a showdown at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Tip-off is at 3:30 PM ET, and with playoff implications abound for both teams, the betting lines at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here will be popping all afternoon.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, locked in a battle with the San Antonio Spurs for first place in the Western Conference, tonight’s game would not only hand them a confidence-inspiring sweep of the Lakers, but it will also serve to at least keep them within a half-game of first place San Antonio, as the Spurs will likely prevail today on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant will be back in action for today’s game, and should play better after his second game back following a 7 game absence with a shin injury, his presence in recent games with the Thunder have had little to no effect on the Thunder game plan, as OKC has been able to frustrate the league’s top scorer by holding him to under 30 percent shooting from the floor, and roughly 4 points under his season scoring average (23.5 to 27.9). In those two games played this season, the Thunder have won by 15 and 9 points respectively, shooting above 46 percent from the floor while holding Los Angeles to under 42 percent. For OKC tonight, continuing to stifle Kobe Bryant will be job number one on defense, as will be the task of contain the Lakers top-two rebounding forces in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, both of whom are averaging north of 10 rebounds per game (of note, the Lakers are 2nd in the league at 46 rebounds/game). As long as Oklahoma City can play well on defense today, and keeps their ball movement active around top scorers Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the Thunder can overcome on the road by virtue of the fast-paced, quick shooting offense they love to run with.
The Los Angeles Lakers are in a race of their own in the Pacific division, leading the Los Angeles Clippers by just a half game as the Clips hold a game in-hand on the Lakers with both teams playing tonight. Therefore, a win on home court is critical for the purple and gold, especially with the Clippers drawing a favorable match-up tonight against New Orleans, for the second NBA game played at the Staples Center today. Getting Kobe Bryant back into rhythm with the LA offense will be a key factor, as his return against San Antonio on Friday saw the Lakers fall 121-97 for the most lopsided loss for them on the season. As the offensive balance developed between Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Ramon Sessions and Matt Barnes during Kobe’s absence took a negative hit on Friday (no players scored more than 20 points, no players with more than 8 rebounds), a quick change to get more players involved in the scoring tonight has to be facilitated by head coach Mike Brown, who needs to hedge the Lakers’ game plan around getting the ball to the hoop and avoiding Kobe’s off-balance shots around the perimeter. With the Thunder having the Lakers’ number this year, and coming into tonight’s match-up winning six of their last 8 games, LA’s game plan has to be different than the Kobe-led form they’ve pursued in the past, which has not worked against the Thunder this year. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol both need to be targeted in the paint against Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, who are slightly smaller if quicker than LA’s big men. Winning the battle down low will help to push OKC’s focus to the paint, thus allowing for Kobe to run a better offense around the perimeter, and open up lanes to drive down for easy baskets.
Betting Lines for the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder at Betonline Sportsbook
Despite Oklahoma City owning the Lakers this season, the betting lines are tight for this final match-up between the two Western Conference powers, as Los Angeles comes in as a slight underdog at home with +100 odds at Betonline.com, while Oklahoma City gets the favorite at -120 odds. OKC is 21-11 straight up on the road this year, second best in the league, and has won 3 of their last 4 on the road and 4 of 5 overall. The Lakers meanwhile have lost 2 of their last 3 games, but are 5-1 straight up in their last 6 contests on home court.
Against the spread, the Lakers get just +1 points to play with at -110 odds, while OKC has to cover just -1 points at the same odds. ATS, the Thunder at 18-14 this season on the road, and at home the Lakers are 15-17. LA is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games, Oklahoma City is 3-3 in their last 6 against the spread.
For wagers on total points today, the over/under for the game stands at 199 points, which hasn’t yet been hit in the two games thus far in this series. Los Angeles does play much better defense at home, despite allowing Oklahoma City to score 102 points at Staples in their last visit, but in the final meeting where both teams desperately need a win, expect the defensive contributions from both sides to be improved enough to give under pickers a good wager to chase here tonight. The Lakers have gone over 17 of 32 games at home this year, and the Thunder have gone over just 13 times in 32 games on the road.
Expect a quality showdown between two of the Western Conference’s top teams, and for the stars of both squads to shine brightly on the national stage this afternoon. In a great game that could be a precursor to a possible playoff match-up to come, make sure to research your wagers, spot the most favorable betting lines at one of the top online sportsbooks like Betonline.com, and hopefully come out a winner today!