NBA Picks: Take Talented Thunder -16 to Roll Against Lakers

Jason Lake

Saturday, December 19, 2015 2:06 PM UTC

Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 2:06 PM UTC

Yes, Kobe Bryant has been playing better as of late. Does that make his Los Angeles Lakers a viable NBA pick this Saturday when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder?

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NBA Pick: Thunder -16
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Dec. 18: 10-10 ATS, 3-1 Total


We're not actively rooting against Kobe Bryant here at the home office. Sometimes we get a little snide about Bryant and his retirement tour, or at least I do, and I'm terribly sorry. It's just because I love good basketball so much. Bryant has not been playing good basketball this year.

But wait – what about this recent “hot streak” that Bryant's been on? Over the past 10 days, his shooting has improved, his rebounding numbers are up, and his Los Angeles Lakers (4-22 SU, 9-17 ATS) have split the cash at 1-5 SU and 3-3 ATS. Baby steps. Next on the docket: Saturday's matchup (5:00 p.m. ET) with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are on something of a hot streak themselves at 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in their last six games. The Thunder are 15.5-point home faves on the NBA odds with a total of 210.5.


He Got Game
So yes, Bryant has definitely found something of a groove lately. We were wondering if his decision to retire at the end of the year would help Bryant improve his game; since then, the former league MVP has had some good nights and some very bad nights, but he's also played his best basketball of the season. Here are the Game Scores (as per Basketball-Reference) from Bryant's last three games:

Dec. 12 (at Houston): 27.5
Dec. 15 (vs. Milwuakee): 16.6
Dec. 17 (vs. Houston): 15.2

Those are three of Kobe's Top 4 Game Scores on the season. That road game against the Rockets was almost vintage Bryant: 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals. To put things into context, when Bryant was at his peak 10 years ago, a Game Score of 27.5 would have been a pretty good night. Even the 2005-06 Lakers (Smush Parker, Chris Mihm, Brian Cook, Kwame Brown) normally would have won with an effort like that – this year's model got hammered 126-97 as an 11.5-point puppy.


Total Basketball
The last time we dealt with the Thunder (17-9 SU, 11-15 ATS), they were playing the Memphis Grizzlies, and we put the UNDER in our NBA picks. The UNDER was 6-0 in Oklahoma City's previous six games. This time, the Thunder destroyed Memphis 125-88 (OVER 201.5). Then the UNDER went on another four-game winning streak. Gadzooks.

With Bryant “going off” the way he has, we're less inclined to roll with the UNDER in this matchup; the OVER is 4-1 in his last five games. So we're going to stick with the point spread, and with the Lakers going 1-6 ATS this year when getting at least 11 points, we're not scurred about eating some chalk. Just make it a very small bet, given the gigantic spread and Bryant's plausible revival, and may the sphere be with you.

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