While the Lakers look awful, they have been a reasonable 21-25-4 against the spread. When they face the Cavaliers tonight, odds makers are favoring Cleveland by 14 points or more.
The Los Angeles Lakers Can Win Because…
Their ability to play good teams close is something which continues to exist. The Lakers beat the Chicago Bulls a week ago. Earlier this week, they went to Milwaukee and very nearly beat the Bucks. They led late in regulation before losing that lead and then falling in overtime. Yet, the Lakers continue to win a lot of respect around the league for pushing winning teams to the brink, even without Kobe Bryant in the lineup.
One thing that has to be recognized about the Lakers is that while their defensive stats officially indicate that they give up an average of 106 points per game, that statistic is based on full game averages. The Lakers have gone to overtime a lot over the past week and a half. They took the Bulls to overtime and won. They took Milwaukee to overtime and lost. They then lost in overtime to Orlando on Friday night. The Lakers, in each of those three games, allowed under 100 points in regulation time. They wound up allowing 118 points to Chicago, 113 to Milwaukee, and 103 to Orlando. If you account for regulation-time points-per-game-allowed averages alone, the Lakers’ defensive numbers would be a lot better. Coach Byron Scott is getting the most out of this team at the defensive end of the court. The Lakers should have every reason and incentive to tank, but they’re actually playing just as hard as they were earlier in the season, if not harder. That’s important to note in a game when a lot of casual fans think the Lakers won’t try very hard.
What should also be mentioned for those interested in placing NBA picks is that on Friday against Indiana, Cleveland superstar LeBron James aggravated the wrist injury he suffered in late January. LeBron should play, but he might be ineffective, and if that’s the case, the NBA odds for the Lakers would go up.
The Cleveland Cavaliers Can Win Because…
They're very unlikely to lose two games in a row. Cleveland lost to Indiana on Friday, snapping the team’s 12-game winning streak. Yet, the Cavs are very much back on track, so the idea that this team would tumble in consecutive games, losing to Indiana and then the Lakers as well, is hard to take seriously. The Lakers remain a team that has won just one of its last 10 games. The Lakers have lost three in a row. Cleveland is 9-1 in its last 10. The Cavaliers are 19-9 at home while the Lakers are 6-20 on the road. The Cavaliers average 101.7 points per game, 2.4 points more than what the Lakers average at 99.3 per game. There is no need to overthink this issue, especially with Cleveland playing at home and being in a good frame of mind.
The Cavaliers might coast in the first two and a half quarters, but there’s little question that at home against an inferior opponent, they should be able to turn on the jets in the final one and a half quarters and get the job done.
Had the Cavs winning streak still been going, maybe they fall asleep in this one. However, after a loss, look for them to be focused as they smoke the Lakers.
NBA Pick: Cleveland -14.5 at BetOnline