The Los Angeles Lakers have turned up their tank engines and stopped beating the NBA odds. What shenanigans do they have in store for Friday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers?
Jason’s record as of Apr. 1: 64-63-5 ATS, 7-11 Totals, plus-1.15 units ML
It was fun while it lasted. The Los Angeles Lakers were cashing in quite nicely for us in the post-Kobe Bryant Era, but things haven’t been the same lately, as they lost to the Raptors on Thursday. The Lakers are 2-4 SU and 2-3-1 ATS in their last six games, with their only wins coming in overtime against two of the league’s worst teams, the Minnesota Timberwolves (–1 at home) and the Philadelphia 76ers (–5 at home). Phooey.
Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers have indeed turned things around, going 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS after honking their previous five games. But the Blazers have been a wildly inconsistent basketball pick this year, and on Friday night (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), they’ll be missing yet another player when they visit the Lakers. Our NBA odds at press time have Portland laying nine points.
Trail of Tears
You know the central thesis behind the Trail Blazers (48-26 SU, 37-36-1 ATS) at this point: Wesley Matthews (16.1 PER, plus-3.9 BPM) is out at shooting guard, and Aaron Afflalo (8.9 PER, minus-2.2 BPM) is in. This took a big bite out of Portland’s betting value. But things have improved since the return of Nicolas Batum (13.3 PER, plus-3.1 BPM) and Chris Kaman (17.0 PER, minus-1.7 BPM) from brief injury layoffs.
Now you can add another wounded Blazer to the pile. Dorell Wright (13.4 PER, plus-0.7 BPM) broke his left hand in Wednesday’s 126-122 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers (+3). It’s not official yet as we go to press, but it looks like Wright won’t be back until the second round of the playoffs, if Portland makes it that far.
This will make life a bit tougher for the Trail Blazers, though today's NBA odds are still favoring them by 10.5 points against the Lakers. Wright had been playing quite well after a very slow start; with Matthews out and Afflalo struggling, the Blazers will miss Wright’s perimeter shooting (38.0 percent) and his rebounding from the wing (6.8 boards per 36 minutes). Expect to see more C.J. McCollum (11.4 PER, minus-1.6 BPM), who shoots better from long range at 40.5 percent, but only grabs 2.2 boards per 36 minutes.
It wouldn’t be the Lakers (20-54 SU, 34-35-5 ATS) if they didn’t have some more injuries to report, too. Wayne Ellington (11.7 PER, minus-2.9 BPM) had a “mild” shoulder separation during Wednesday’s 113-92 defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans (–9.5 away). Ellington was due to undergo an MRI on Thursday and is considered questionable at best for Friday’s matchup.
In theory, this is a good thing for Lakers supporters. Less Ellington means more minutes for Jeremy Lin (16.1 PER, minus-0.4 BPM) and Jabari Brown (12.3 PER, minus-2.5 BPM), but it could also mean we get to see Dwight Buycks make his season debut for Los Angeles after signing a 10-day contract on Thursday. You may remember Buycks as a third-string guard for the Toronto Raptors last year (7.2 PER, minus-4.5 BPM). He was in the D-League last month with the Oklahoma City Blue after stops in Europe and China. Buycks can play a little defense, but that’s about it.
With the Lakers trying to hang onto this year’s Top 5-protected first-round pick, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Buycks getting some burn on Friday. Note, too, before placing your NBA pick, that Ed Davis (20.4 PER, plus-3.6 BPM) has been a healthy scratch for the last three games, depriving the Lakers of their best player this season. Carlos Boozer (16.5 PER, minus-3.2 BPM) is back in the lineup, and Boozer was a good soldier against New Orleans, shooting just 2-of-9 for four points in 18 minutes. He knows what the Lakers are trying to accomplish.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Trail Blazers at Pinnacle Sportsbook