The Los Angeles Lakers did us a solid on Wednesday and failed to beat the NBA odds. They could do it again Friday night when the Lakers visit the San Antonio Spurs, but Kobe Bryant won’t be there to help.
Jason’s record as of Jan. 21: 25-24-2 ATS, 2-4 Totals
Some basketball picks are easier than others. We happily faded the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday when they visited the New Orleans Pelicans, and were even more happy to see Kobe Bryant suit up for the Lakers. Bryant shot 1-of-5 from downtown in a 96-80 loss, allowing the Pelicans to grab the cash as 7-point home favorites. Piece of cake.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Bryant injured his shoulder in that game, and his MRI revealed a torn rotator cuff. By the time you read this, we should know whether or not Bryant will have season-ending surgery. But it appears he’ll at least miss Friday’s matchup (8:30 p.m. ET) with the San Antonio Spurs. The NBA odds aren’t waiting to find out; Los Angeles opened as a 13.5-point road dog before moving as high as +14.5 at press time.
Tanking in L.A.
Now we have to consider the possibility that the Lakers (12-31 SU, 18-22-3 ATS) might be a worthy selection for our NBA picks in this situation. As bad as they’ve played this year, they’re 8-6 ATS as double-digit dogs. That reduces nicely to 4-2 ATS in games where Bryant didn’t suit up – although he was in action on Dec. 12 when the Lakers (+12.5) pulled off a 112-110 overtime victory in San Antonio.
Bryant isn’t the only Laker expected to miss Friday’s contest. Tarik Black (19.8 PER) remains doubtful with a sprained right ankle; however, it looks like Ronnie Price (10.1 PER) will be able to play after making his return against New Orleans. Nick Young (15.7 PER) and Carlos Boozer (16.5 PER) are also probable to face the Spurs. Let the tanking commence.
JaMychal Row Your Boat Ashore
The San Antonio Spurs (27-17 SU, 21-22-1 ATS) aren’t hurting for depth, either, although they’ll be playing on zero days of rest after getting pasted 104-81 by the Chicago Bulls (+5.5 at home) on Thursday. However, it was enough of a blowout that San Antonio sent out its reserves early in the fourth quarter. Nobody ended up playing more than 27 minutes for the Spurs.
Not that they’re going to feel good about getting stomped by Chicago. The Spurs were 6-1 SU and 5-1-1 ATS in their previous seven games going into the Windy City, though, so Thursday’s result should be easy enough to shake off. And we even got to see PF JaMychal Green get his first meaningful minutes in the NBA. The former Alabama Mr. Basketball scored eight points with three boards and two blocks in 15 minutes.
Friends of P
If anything, San Antonio is probably still sore about that loss to the Lakers in December. Kawhi Leonard (19.7 PER) didn’t play in that game; Kyle Anderson (8.4 PER) filled in, and while he was a plus-5, Anderson wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. He’s in the D-League now. Also missing for the Spurs: PG Patty Mills (14.6 PER), who made his season debut two weeks later.
Of course, the Lakers won’t have the same lineup, either. But Bryant will be the only absentee, and as we’ve seen, Los Angeles is in better shape to beat the basketball odds when Kobe isn’t around. He was 7-of-22 shooting in that win over the Spurs, including 1-of-4 from long range, finishing the day at minus-1.
The real star of that game: Swaggy P himself. Young dropped 29 points on San Antonio, hitting six of his nine trey attempts along the way – including the game-winner – and posting a plus-5. He’ll probably come off the bench again with Jeremy Lin (14.4 PER) moving into the starting backcourt alongside Price, but that’s fine, too. It’s all about balance, efficiency, and taking advantage of the NBA odds moving too far in response to Bryant’s presumed absence.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Lakers