Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers -1 (Total: 200)
The Thunder are still battling neck and neck with the Spurs for the top seed in the West, while the Lakers are still in a dogfight with the Clippers for the Pacific Division title and the #3 seed that accompanies it. While both these teams are safely in the playoffs and will have home court advantage in the opening round, who they will be playing still remains wide open with only five days remaining in the regular season.
This begs the big question, which team, if either, will put their full and best team on the floor to earn the better seed and which team(s) is content to rest their stars (like the Miami Heat last night, ergo a home loss to the hapless Washington Wizards) to get ready for the “real” season.
Both teams are expected to play their best players tonight; Durant, Westbrook and Harden are all slated to go, as are Gasol, Bynum and Kobe (in his second game since returning from his seven-game injury absence). The Thunder are perfect so far this season against the Lakers and will be looking to complete their first season sweep since the team was called the “Sonics” and Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp were running the court. So it’s been a little while.
The Lakers have been excellent at home this season, posting a 25-7 record. Meanwhile, the Thunder boast the best road record in the NBA at 21-11. Don’t expect the young Thunder to be even slightly fazed or intimidated going into the Staples Center; in fact, I’d more expect them to be inspired by it. Earlier this season in their lone trip to LA they won handily 102-93. They had a similar positive result late last season in their 120-106. The point isn’t that the Lakers can’t win at home, but the point has been well established by now; the home court far from guarantees victory in this matchup.
The Lakers have been playing good basketball in terms of wins and losses, but they haven’t been lighting it up as far as Vegas is concerned. They are just a paltry 2-9 ATS on their home floor. They have delivered some impressive results, especially with Kobe on the shelf, beating Denver, Dallas, the Clippers and the Spurs. Granted, the Spurs rested their entire team!! But hey, a win is a win right?
The point is, don’t let some recent box scores through you off, the Thunder are the better team in this matchup and I don’t think the home court will be enough to stem the tide. I like the Thunder, the one team that actually seems to CARE about playoff positioning, to bring their best effort and keep the pressure on the Spurs for the top spot out West.
Free Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder +1