The Thunder opened as a 10.5-point favorite on NBA odds as they face the sad-sack Lakers in the type of game that OKC simply can't afford to lose as they battle for the final playoff spot in the West.
Lakers Win by Losing
Los Angeles (18-50) obviously has nothing to play for the rest of the way other than getting as many ping-pong balls as possible in May's draft lottery. Right now if the lottery played out in chalk fashion (which it rarely does), the Lakers would have the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 Draft. They are just two games "behind" Philadelphia for the third-worst record in the NBA and two games "ahead" of Orlando for the fifth worst. It's been mentioned before and will be again: the Lakers have to give their first-round pick to Philadelphia (via Phoenix from the Steve Nash trade a couple of years ago) if it's outside the top five. If the Lakers stay with the league's fourth-worst record they will have an 82.8 percent chance of retaining their top-five pick. But the NBA odds in keeping that pick jump to 96 percent with the league’s third-worst record.
So really Sunday's 101-87 Lakers home win over the 76ers to end a four-game losing streak was a bad thing. There was a Jeremy Lin sighting in that one as he had a season-high 29 points. Lin shot a terrific 10-for-16 from the field and had five assists and five rebounds while turning it over only twice in 29 minutes. Coach Byron Scott was impressed enough with the performance that Lin will move back into the starting lineup on Tuesday alongside Jordan Clarkson. That means Wayne Ellington (10 points, just one assist vs. Philly) will head to the bench. The team might also put Ryan Kelly into the starting five, according to local media, in place of Jordan Hill. That would be odd because Hill is the team's best player right now with Kobe Bryant and Nick Young out for the season.
Scott, incidentally, will not be with the Lakers for the next two games. HIs mother Dorothy passed away at age 72 last Sunday and Scott is staying back in L.A. to attend her funeral services. Assistant Paul Pressey will serve as acting head coach in Scott's absence.
The Lakers are 32-32-4 against the NBA betting spread this season and 30-36-2 'over/under.'
It's Russell Westbrook's World Right Now
Oklahoma City (40-30) continues to hang on to the No. 8 playoff spot in the West, leading No. 9 Phoenix by 2.5 games and No. 10 New Orleans by three. Russell Westbrook is going to have to continue to play out of his mind for the Thunder to get it because big man Serge Ibaka is likely out the rest of the regular season and superstar Kevin Durant had a setback late last week and now it's looking like he won't be back this season at all.
The Thunder have pulled away from the Suns (Phoenix hosts OKC on Sunday) and Pelicans a bit thanks to a three-game winning streak. Westbrook had his second consecutive triple-double on Sunday in a 93-75 rout of visiting Miami with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 17 assists. It was Westbrook's 10th triple-double of the season. He's the first player into double digits in that category since current Bucks coach Jason Kidd in 2007-08. Westbrook is averaging 32.4 points, 10.4 assists and 9.3 rebounds in 21 games dating to Feb. 1.
It's a shame that Oklahoma City likely won't be healthy for the playoffs because the Thunder really would have been a major threat to win the West, even as a No. 8 seed. That's because Enes Kanter has been so good since his trade from Utah at the deadline. The Turkish big man was expected to miss a second straight game Sunday with an ankle injury but played and had 27 points and 12 rebounds. He's averaging 17.8 points and 11.1 rebounds this month.
The Thunder are 35-33-2 against the spread this season and 33-36-1 'over/under' on NBA odds.
Before placing your NBA picks, keep in mind that the Lakers have lost three straight overall against the Thunder and five in a row in Oklahoma City. Both early-season meetings were competitive. On Dec. 19 in L.A., the Lakers lost 104-103 as 5.5-point underdogs on NBA odds. Westbrook had 31 points and 10 assists, while Durant didn't play. Kobe missed a 17-foot shot at the buzzer. On March 1, also in L.A., the Thunder were 4-point favorites at sportsbooks and won 108-101. Neither Durant nor Westbrook played in that one. Ibaka had 18 points and 14 rebounds and Kanter 16 points and 15 boards. Lin had 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds for the Lakers, one of eight L.A. players with at least eight points.
NBA Betting Verdict:
I think OKC somewhat overlooks the Lakers and more toward Wednesday's game at San Antonio. The Lakers have covered four straight against teams with a winning record. The 'over' is 7-1 in OKC's past eight after a win. The 'over' is 6-1 in the past seven meetings.
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