It's no guarantee but it looks like the LA Lakers, after some serious struggles, are on their way toward the playoffs. They've still got some ground to make up, but at this point we'd be takers on their chances of making it. A win over the Raptors would only help their cause.
NBA odds makers have the Lakers favored by a touchdown. Can they not only win this game straight-up, but muster a cover? Or can Toronto pull an upset, or at least keep this one close?
Raptors-Lakers Betting Lines
Most online sportsbooks we sampled Friday morning opened this game at LA -7.5, with the total at 206.5, and both those numbers had held steady in the early betting.
Six weeks ago the Lakers were eight games under .500; since then they're 14-6, which puts them at 31-31 overall. Friday night they'll try to creep over the .500 mark for the first time since they were 6-5 back in November.
Last time out Wednesday night LA fell down to New Orleans by 25 points, then later finished the game with a 20-0 run to steal a 108-102 victory. Bettors who backed the Lakers as two-point favorites must have felt awfully fucking lucky cashing in on that game.
So LA sits in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game and a half behind Utah in the battle for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
On the other side of this inter-conference match-up Toronto just broke a five-game losing streak with a 98-71 win in Phoenix Wednesday. The Raptors shot 48 percent from the floor, made 11 of 24 shots from beyond the arc and held the Suns to 38 percent shooting in winning and covering as one-point favorites.
So the Raptors are, like the Lakers, in ninth place in their conference, but they've got a lot more ground to make up, sitting 7.5 games behind eighth-place Milwaukee.
Toronto ranks 18th in the league in FG shooting at 44 percent, 21st in 3-point shooting at 35 percent but sixth in FT shooting at 78 percent. But the Raptors also rank 20th in FG defense, allowing opponents to shoot 46 percent, and sixth from the bottom in rebounding at -2.6 per game.
LA ranks eighth in shooting at 46 percent, 13th in 3-point shooting at 36 percent but second-worst in FT shooting at 69 percent, thanks in large part to Dwight Howard, who while shooting a team-high nine free throws per game is hitting just 48 percent of them.
At the other end of the court LA ranks 17th in FG defense at just under 46 percent, but seventh in rebounding at +2 per game.
The Lakers are still playing without C Pau Gasol, who went down and out with a tweaked foot about a month ago. Since then LA is 8-5 SU but only 5-8 ATS, winning three games outright in which it couldn't cover the spread.
Raptors-Lakers Recent History
LA had beaten Toronto four times in a row, but in the first meeting this season between these teams back in January the Raptors upset the Lakers 108-103 as four-point home dogs. Howard got ejected from that game late in the second quarter.
Raptors-Lakers Betting Trends
Before placing your sports picks, here are a few trends that bettors should be aware of. Toronto is 30-32 on the totals this season, as Raptors games have averaged 196 points.
LA is 32-29 on the totals, as Lakers games have averaged 204 points.
Free NBA Pick
The Lakers are very likely to win this game; it's just a matter of by how much. To that point, it's our guess that Toronto won't shoot like it did the other night in Phoenix. We're just thankful the spread isn't any larger than it is. And we'll really like our chances if Howard is on the bench when the Lakers are shooting free throws at the end of the game.
Free NBA Picks: Take LA at the -7.5 points offered at Pinnacle.