Oklahoma City has the league’s second-best record heading into the second weekend of January, as it has captured three of its last four games, including a 106-84 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as 12.5-point home favorites Wednesday night. The Thunder are 21-13-1 against the spread (ATS) through 35 games, while there’s been no clear edge in betting the total in their games (17-17 Over/Under).
Happy New Year (or not)
Los Angeles has lost all five of its games in the new calendar year, which has led directly to a money-burning 1-4 ATS mark in that span. The Lakers have allowed 100 or more points in all five of their games in 2013, with the OVER going 3-1-1 in those contests. Sports bettors shouldn’t expect a turnaround when making their NBA picks in this affair, considering the franchise is 14-23 ATS in January over the last two-plus seasons.
The Thunder have won 16 of 20 games this season when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each score 20-plus points, while the dynamic duo lead the NBA in averaging a combined 49.9 points per game. Durant should be properly motivated in this affair due to matching up with Kobe Bryant, who leads the NBA in scoring, while Westbrook has won his last six meetings when facing future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash.
Playing for pride
The Lakers will be playing their third game without the services of center Dwight Howard (shoulder), while forward Pau Gasol (concussion) is also likely to sit out due to failing to get clearance to play from team doctors. Los Angeles has posted losing streaks of six or more games just 19 times in franchise history, with the last occurrence coming during the 2006-07 campaign.
Key betting trend
The Thunder are second in the NBA in averaging 105.4 points per game, which causes a lot of problems for Friday night’s host, especially since the Lakers are 37-52 ATS when facing teams that score 99 or more since 2010. Oklahoma City is 7-1 ATS when hitting or going over the century mark as a road favorite this year.
I’m going to recommend that readers back the Thunder as one of their sports picks against the spread, as the road team is 3-1-1 ATS in the last five meetings. The Lakers really need to use this game to prepare for the middle portion of their four-game homestand against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks—before ending things versus the Miami Heat.NBA Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder -7