The Los Angeles Clippers can beat both the L.A. Lakers and the NBA odds this Friday – now that LeBron James is out of quarantine.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Friday, December 03, 2021 – 10:00 PM EST at STAPLES Center
Now more than ever, you need to wait for the morning shoot-around before you make your NBA picks. As you may recall, I’ve been recommending a “fade/follow” strategy with the Los Angeles Lakers (12-11 SU, 8-15 ATS) in this space, depending on whether LeBron James is playing. The Lakers are just 7-4 SU and 2-9 ATS this year with James in uniform, so the Sacramento Kings looked like a juicy pick this past Tuesday.
Then everything went pear-shaped. James was a late scratch after landing on the COVID-19 list, and the Lakers responded by beating Sacramento 117-92 as 1-point home dogs. That runs their record to 5-7 SU and 6-6 ATS when LeBron sits.
And that’s where our story takes another turn. It looked like James was going to sit again this Friday when the Lakers “host” the Los Angeles Clippers (11-11 SU, 9-13 ATS). The Lakers summarily opened as 3.5-point underdogs on the NBA odds board at PointsBet. That seemed like a bargain price, but again, there’s no point rushing into things.
Save It For Later
Clearly the sportsbooks had no problem posting their NBA lines in the wake of the LeBron news. He was meant to be in quarantine until December 10 – or he could produce two negative PCR tests in a 48-hour span, which might have made him available Friday night depending on the circumstances. Sure enough, that’s what happened, and the Lakers have since moved to +2.5 at SBK. James produced the required tests and was cleared for Friday, although he’s still listed as probable with a nagging abdominal injury, so who knows what will happen.
It’s well worth waiting to find out. James still has plenty of good basketball left in him, but he’s about to turn 37, and he’s simply not the four-time MVP he used to be. The most generous take is that he’s simply saving up his energy for the postseason; otherwise, James is playing his worst basketball since he was a rookie way back in 2003-04, and the betting market doesn’t seem to realize it.
That might be because most of James’ decline has been on the defensive end. He’s still scoring 25.2 points per game, which is in line with previous years, but James is also grabbing fewer defensive rebounds (4.6 per game, down from 7.6 last year), and the Lakers are suffering as a result. They were the best defensive team in the league in 2020-21, allowing just 104.8 points per 100 possessions; this year, they’re all the way down to 14th place at 105.3 points allowed.
In the meantime, the Clippers have fallen on hard times at 2-6 SU and 1-7 ATS in their last eight games. This slump coincides with Nicolas Batum entering health and safety protocols; he was playing very well in place of Kawhi Leonard, and the Clips seem to be lost without his efforts at both ends of the floor. Batum didn’t clear quarantine until Wednesday, and presumably won’t be active Friday, although he can be expected to struggle if they try to bring him back this early. Bet accordingly after seeing what happens at the shoot-around.
NBA Pick: Clippers –1.5 (–110) at BetMGM