Surging Thunder in La-La Land Against Short-Handed Lakers

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Jason Lake

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 12:53 PM GMT

Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 12:53 PM GMT

The Oklahoma City Thunder appear to have figured things out. They’re a hot NBA pick heading into Wednesday night’s game with the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers.

Lines Yet To Have Been Released

It wasn’t a given that the Oklahoma City Thunder were going to work out their problems. Three weeks ago, we looked at their numbers for #Betting101 and wondered if OKC was going to realize the betting value they generated after getting off after a slow start. And just like that, the Thunder (20-17 SU, 14-23 ATS) turned on the juice, winning eight of their last 11 games at 6-5 ATS.

Next up for the Zombie Sonics: Wednesday’s road game versus the Los Angeles Lakers (11-25 SU, 17-19 ATS), tipping off at 10:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. The Lakers are a bit of a mess right now thanks to some key injuries, and those injuries are keeping Wednesday’s game off the NBA odds board at press time. We hope there’s some clarity and some betting lines by the time you read this. Let’s do what we can do get you prepared in the meantime.

Banana Splits

Something needed to change if the Thunder were going to improve their results, and that something was Carmelo Anthony (minus-3.1 BPM). He’s not the scoring machine he used to be and recognizing that OKC has put Anthony in a third-banana role as a spot-up shooter. It’s still not ideal; Anthony shot 35.3 percent from downtown in December, and 40.7 percent from the floor. On the plus side, he’s taking fewer shots and turning the ball over less often now that it’s not in his hands so much.

Meanwhile, reigning MVP Russell Westbrook (plus-8.6 BPM) has his alpha-dog swagger back. His Offensive Rating improved from 101 in November to 112 last month, in concert with his Usage Rate rising from 34.3 to 37.1 percent. OKC still has a thin bench, but as long as Westbrook is playing like this, and Paul George (plus-2.6 BPM) is making a positive contribution, the Thunder can do some good things on the basketball court.

Lonzo Mourning

The Lakers have shown some promise, too, but they probably won’t get very far Wednesday night if they’re missing three of their key players. Lonzo Ball (plus-0.1 BPM) and Brook Lopez (plus-0.2 BPM) are both listed as questionable after being cleared for practice; Kyle “Don’t Call Me Ben” Kuzma (minus-0.7 BPM) says he’s not sure about Wednesday after aggravating his sore right quad during Monday’s 114-96 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves (–9.5 at home).

Ball appears to be the most important of the three from a betting perspective. The Lakers are 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS since their blue-chipper went on the injured list with a sprained right shoulder. He might not be in full flight if he plays Wednesday, so don’t auto-bet L.A. if Ball suits up, but definitely keep an eye on the shootaround before making your NBA picks. And consider the UNDER if Ball does play – all his value, for now, is on the defensive end (plus-2.2 BPM), and his shooting should be even worse than usual until his shoulder heals fully.

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