We have just three games populating the NBA schedule for Thursday, but they’re good ones. The Raptors will take on the Bucks in the TNT undercard event, while we get a potential NBA Finals preview in the nightcap. The Brooklyn Nets will continue their Western Conference road swing at Staples Center when they face the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers late Thursday night.
Of course, neither team will be at full strength in this one. The Lakers are playing without Anthony Davis, who will remain sidelined until after the All-Star break with an Achilles injury. LA is hopeful to have Davis back in time for the playoffs, but time will tell. The Nets will still be without Kevin Durant tonight, but Kyrie Irving will return after missing Tuesday’s win over the Suns.
The Lakers are 2.5-point favorites at home in this one in a game with a massive 232.5 over/under.
Nets In Good Form
We haven’t seen the Nets fully healthy all that often this season, but the team does seem to be finding a rhythm. There has been a ton of turnover in Brooklyn with new faces coming in all the time, but James Harden seems to be settling in nicely. The former MVP had his first big moment as a member of the Nets on Tuesday when he led Brooklyn to a dramatic come-from-behind victory in Phoenix.
Harden scored 38 points to go along with 11 assists and seven rebounds in Brooklyn’s 128-124 win over the Suns. The Nets erased a 24-point third-quarter deficit to steal the game in the waning moments, thanks in large part to some late heroics from The Beard. Harden didn’t do it alone, though, as the bench added 40 points, while Joe Harris chimed in with 15 second-half points of his own.
KD and Kyrie watching Harden cook tonight pic.twitter.com/uSNpHot4uO
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 17, 2021
The Nets have now won each of their last four games. In spite of everything the team has had to deal with, Brooklyn is now 18-12 and second behind Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference standings.
Kyrie Irving gets plenty of slack for his off-court comments, but he has been balling this season. The oft-derided All-Star is quietly averaging north of 28 points per game this season while shooting better than 53 percent from the field. Irving has also canned 44.2 percent of his looks from three-point range, which would be a career-best by a wide margin if he’s able to keep it up all season.
Harden and Irving will be tasked with doing most of the heavy-lifting offensively tonight for the Nets. The defense has fared better lately, but Brooklyn remains a work-in-progress on that end of the floor. The Nets are first in the league in offensive rating while ranking 25th in defense. That combination leads to plenty of high-scoring games, so it comes as no surprise that the Nets have been the most prolific “over” bet in the NBA this season. The “over” has hit in 22 of the Nets’ 30 games so far in 2020-21. That’s a rate of over 73 percent.
The Lakers got off to a red-hot start to the season, but they’ve fallen back a bit ever since. Davis has dealt with a rash of injuries, which has left a lot on the plate of LeBron James. Fortunately for Los Angeles, the 36-year-old has been up to the task, and then some.
James Has Taken Over as the Odds-on Favorite to Win MVP This Season
The future Hall-of-Famer has appeared in all 29 of the Lakers’ games so far this season. He ranks fourth in the league in minutes per game (34.7) despite also being the fourth-oldest player in the Association.
That’s an incredible stat in its own right, but his other numbers are as elite as ever. All LeBron is doing is averaging 25.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 7.9 assists for the championship favorites. James is also shooting 37.8 percent from downtown, which is his best showing since 2013-14 in that regard.
Eight years removed from his last MVP, the all-important narrative that surrounds the award most years could be swinging back LeBron James’ way: https://t.co/1HLWunqSCn
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) February 18, 2021
LeBron has obviously been the driving force in the Lakers’ 22-7 start, but he’s not doing it all by himself. Dennis Schroder picked up some of the offensive slack with Davis out against Minnesota the other night. The German point guard contributed 24 points in the Lakers’ 112-104 victory, while Montrezl Harrell added 17 points off the bench.
LA has also gotten solid contributions on both sides of the floor from Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma is only averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game on the year, but he is in the midst of easily his best defensive season to date. Kuzma has gone from being a liability on defense to a source of strength on that end for the Lakers, which is quite the unexpectedly pleasant development.
While the Nets have been an incredibly profitable “over” bet this season, the same can be said for the Lakers and the “under.” LA has gone under in 18 of their 29 games so far this season (62.1 percent). The Knicks are the only team in the league that has been a better “under” bet to this point.
What’s the Best Bet?
Something’s gotta give with regard to the over/under in this one, of course. Either the Lakers will go over for just the 12th time, or the Nets will go under for just the ninth time.
The Nets are just 14-16 against the spread this season, but they have fared pretty well as underdogs. Brooklyn is 6-2 ATS as a ‘dog. The Lakers, meanwhile, are 13-15 against the spread as favorites. Brooklyn still has the offensive advantage in this one without Durant, as the Lakers have quietly struggled on that end. Schroder, Harrell, and Kuzma will have big nights every now and then, but LA is quite reliant on James. The Lakers are just middle of the pack this season in offensive rating (14th).
LA’s defense can keep them in this game, but I’m a fan of the Nets as underdogs here. Brooklyn should come into this game brimming with confidence, and they’ll be looking to make a statement on national TV against the defending champs. The Lakers won’t have an answer for Harden and Irving, so bet the Nets here.
The question is whether you want Brooklyn to cover the spread or win the game outright. 2.5 points is tight enough to where I’d just take the extra profit potential that comes with the Nets’ moneyline. You can get +120 odds on Brooklyn running their winning streak to five tonight.
Nets at Lakers Pick
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