Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder -8.5 (Total: 191.5)
This series has actually been a lot more competitive than the 3-1 margin and the Game One blowout would indicate. The Lakers, were it not for two late fourth quarter slumps could easily be up 3-1, on the verge of eliminating the “young” Thunder, and the sportstalk nation would instead be dwelling on “why Durant and Westbrook can’t co-exist.”
Instead, it’s 3-1 Thunder, Andrew Bynum is a bum, Gasol is once again ‘too soft’ and Kobe Bryant is too old to get it done in the fourth quarter. The truth is, the reality lies somewhere between those two extremes, and it makes for a well-played and very competitive series. Can the Thunder close it out tonight at home? It becomes even more important as the Spurs are at home resting their legs after a second straight series sweep; this time over the poor Clippers who looked helpless against the precision of the Spurs offense. Or can the Lakers steal back a game on the road and bring the series back to Los Angeles?
The Lakers have been good in the first 44 minutes of Games Two through Four; however the Black Mamba hasn’t been able to close the deal for them. His fourth quarter shooting percentage has been abysmal, and it has allowed the Thunder to steal two ball games the Lakers should have won. I foresee a little more of the same tonight, but I’d be surprised if Kobe and the Lakers get blown out in a closeout game. They seem to get the ball inside and pound the paint early in big games, and I think Kobe recognizes tonight’s game is about as dire as it gets.
I also expect Gasol to have a big game. Such is the pattern with Pao; terrible game, ripped by the media, coaches and teammates, then rebound for a huge effort. For a textbook example of this pattern in living action, just see Games Two and Three of this series. If Pao can put together a similar effort tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers somehow extend this series. That would leave them as the favorite at home in Game Six, and then who knows what could happen in a Game Seven…
That’s getting a little ahead of ourselves, but the point is, don’t bury the Lakers quite yet. There is still some life left in this team that really should be no worse than even (and probably WINNING) this series. Give me the Lakers with the huge point spread.
Free Pick: Los Angeles Lakers +7.5