Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers -6 (Total: 207)
The Los Angeles Lakers are showing signs of getting things together, winners of two straight and finally getting their high-profile coaching situation settled as Mike D’Antoni joined the team over the weekend and will be on the bench tonight. A big reason for their recent good play has been their offensive explosion. They have averaged 116.5 points in their five games since the firing of Mike Brown and have gone 4-1.
Dwight Howard has been especially impressive, averaging 28.0 points per game over that stretch, after averaging just 15 points a night in his early Lakers tenure. They are still missing Steve Nash due to injury, but don’t seem to be any worse for the wear now that the offensive reigns have been loosened, and as Kobe put it, they “are just playing” again.
The Nets will be a tough test for the Lakers, and will likely be motivated after their offseason flirtation with Dwight and his services. More importantly, they enter with a six game winning streak and have been playing really good basketball.
Here’s the downside if you like the Nets. Their wins are over Sacramento, Cleveland, and Orlando twice. Other than their narrow escape over a Rajon Rondo-less Boston team last week at home would constitute a “good” win on their recent hit list. A road trip to the Staples Center will be a true test, the first true test of this Brooklyn team in a while. I am not sure they are up for stealing the win on the road against a red-hot team playing with a renewed sense of purpose.
Both teams have exactly the same +5.0 points per game differential, but the schedule strength difference, coupled with the fact that Los Angeles will be playing at home is just too much to ignore. The Nets got blasted in their only game against a healthy top tier opponent this season, losing 103-73 at Miami. Meanwhile the Lakers have faced Houston, San Antonio, the Clippers and Dallas.
I like LA to put up plenty of points tonight and for their interior play to fare well against the frontline of New Jersey. Brooke Lopez is solid, but they will miss Gerald Wallace to give them a second athletic big to counter the Gasol/Howard duo. And then of course there is Kobe Bryant. For all the talk of him finally slowing down and beginning to show signs of aging and decline, he is averaging over 26 points a night and shooting nearly 50% from the floor (which would be a career best. Just WAIT until Nash returns to get him cleaner looks…).
Give me the Lakers laying the six. It feels like a little too wide of a line. I’d have set it more at 4.5 or 5, but I do think the Lakers get a double-digit win tonight.
Free Pick: Los Angeles Lakers -6