Portland Trailblazers (13-3 SU, 11-5 ATS)
If you've been blindly backing the Trailblazers then you're a happy camper. Portland was in the midst of an 11-game winning streak, covering in NBA odds in all but three of those contests, until they met their doom in the desert. The Suns put a halt to all the jubilation by handing Portland a 120-106 defeat on Wednesday night and only their third setback of the season. Not bad for a team that was 33-69 last season and didn't get a sniff of the playoffs.
If it were not for the stellar performance of LaMarcus Aldridge this season the Blazers would not be vying for the top spot in the Western Conference. He leads his team in points scored, averaging 22.1 per game, as well as rebounds (9.6 per game). Even in defeat Aldridge was the top scorer on Wednesday night in Phoenix when he poured in 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting.
The Blazers are averaging 104 PPG (ranked 7th), 44.4 rebounds per game (ranked 9th), 22.8 assists per game (ranked 11th) and are surrendering 99 PPG (ranked 13th). But what makes this team dangerous is the pair of sharpshooters from beyond the arc in Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. Both are in the top five in the NBA in making the treys with Matthews hitting at a 50.5% clip and Lillard shooting 39.6 in three-point land.
LA Lakers (9-8 SU, 11-5 ATS)
When talking about teams that live and die by the three-point shot then you're speaking the Lakers language. LA has made a league high 181 three-point shots and that has helped them erase large deficits like the one they experienced Friday night in Detroit. They rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to turn a disappointing road loss into a 106-102 win and cover as 5 ½ point underdogs in NBA odds.
The Lakers are distributing the ball effectively as evidenced by their 24 assists per game but making defensive stops has not been the hallmark to their success. They are allowing 102.3 points per game which ranks them at the lower rung of NBA teams and in 25th place. Offensively, this team has done a decent job without the legendary Kobe Bryant. Bryant has been rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn Achilles since April but could resume playing in the near future. But as for this game the Lakers will rely on Pau Gasol and his 14.8 points per game. Steve Blake leads the team in assists, averaging 7.6 helpers per game and Wesley Johnson leads the team in blocks and steals.
The Blazers have lost six straight road games to the Lakers and have dropped their last 10 at the Staples Center when factoring in their losses to the Clippers who share the facility with the Lakers. While it's true those losses were to Lakers teams that had Kobe Bryant in uniform it is hard to ignore their stretch of futility at the Staples Center.
LA is coming off a mini road trip where they went 2-1 straight up and 3-0 in NBA odds. Prior to that they reeled off three consecutive victories with wins and covers against Detroit, Golden State and Sacramento. While I realize Portland has been laying waste to opponents all season, I am backing the Lakers with my NBA picks here, as they have dominated the Blazers in recent memory and should negate any rebounding advantage Portland enjoys against most teams.NBA Picks: Play the LA Lakers +3 at Bet365.com.