Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 7 inclusive:
It’s not too often we get to pick over the ruins of a failed Los Angeles Lakers team. The last time they crashed and burned out of the playoffs was 2004-05, when Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal both left town. Before that, it was 1993-94, after the final dismantling of the Showtime Era Lakers. And before that? 1975-76. History suggests the Lakers will do fine.
But they still have to play the last five games of the 2013-14 season. First up: the Houston Rockets, who visit the Stapler Tuesday night (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT) after dropping the cash in four of their last five games. The Rockets are laying 10 points on the NBA odds board with a ridiculous total of 225.5. Interesting. So… is Dwight Howard playing?
Comes out at Night
Some online sportsbooks are more protective than others when it comes to posting those NBA lines. As we go to press, only a small number of outlets have Tuesday’s matchup on the board, which makes perfect sense considering Howard (21.5 PER) is day-to-day with a sore ankle and hasn’t played in any of the last five games. If Howard gets his chance to play the Lakers on Tuesday, he’ll be playing a team that he’s mowed over three times this year, leading the Rockets (51-25 SU, 38-36-2 ATS) to a 2-1 SU and ATS record against his former teammates.
If not? Then Omer Asik (13.1 PER) gets to run amok. He’s got skills, but he’s not nearly the specimen that Howard is. We also don’t know if PG Patrick Beverley (12.3 PER) will be able to play on Tuesday after missing these past five games with a torn meniscus. Jeremy Lin (14.1 PER) is a capable shooter and playmaker, but Beverley’s defense makes him a better fit in the starting lineup, and there’s a drop-off in production from there to third-stringer Isaiah Canaan (10.9 PER). A team’s only as good as its players.
Which is ultimately what destroyed the Lakers (25-52 SU, 38-38-1 ATS) this year. While Houston has overcome personnel issues throughout the season, Los Angeles has suffered more injuries to its best players, and without the depth to continue playing at a competitive level. The list is long and just keeps getting longer; Kent Bazemore (13.5 PER) sprained his right foot in Sunday’s 120-97 loss to the L.A. Clippers (a win for us at –15.5) and might miss the rest of the season.
Nick Young (15.1 PER) also hurt his knee against the Clippers, although he says he’s ready to play on Tuesday. “I’m going to go down with the ship,” Young told Lakers beat writer Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. We’re also expecting Jordan Farmar (15.8 PER) to suit up after 11 games lost to a groin injury. Farmar has played very well for the Lakers this year, perhaps better than any other guard in the lineup, so this is a welcome sight for L.A. supporters. We’re also hearing that Steve Nash (12.0 PER) will give it a go.
Unfortunately, both Pau Gasol (19.4 PER) and Chris Kaman (17.1 PER) have both been ruled out for Tuesday’s matchup. Their presence down low was sorely missed against the Clippers, who won the rebounding battle 52-38, and the Rockets could easily do the same if Howard is involved. Perhaps you’ll know his status by the time you read this; I’m going to assume Howard sits out again, and that the Lakers pull another cover out of their collective hat.
NBA Pick: Take the Lakers +10 (–104) at Marathon