In case you might not have noticed, being all football all the time since September, but the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers look even better than the team that won the trophy a few short months ago. The Lakers redid elements of their roster and have more offense and shooting depth and similar to the claims of Coke Zero Sugar tasting quite similar to Coke Original, the Purple and Gold are still playing superb defense.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Wells Fargo Center
After sweeping Boston, Philadelphia played like the weather in Detroit this time of year, crummy, splitting a pair with the Pistons and failing to cover the spread in either contest. Whether that was a scheduling sandwich for the 76ers (Detroit between the Celtics and Lakers), we’ll find out tonight. Regardless, any sort of similar effort they put forth in the Motor City will result in a loss for the Sixers in the early matchup on ESPN.
The NBA odds opening line at Bet365 has L.A. favored at -2. With this figure from online sportsbooks, let’s breakdown the matchup.
Lakers Rollin’ on the Road
This is the fourth stop of the Lakers (17-6 SU, 11-11-1 ATS) seven-game sojourn and they are a perfect 10-0 (7-3 ATS) on the road. Los Angeles is the 6th NBA team to start 10-0 away from home and according to ESPN Stats and Info, four of the five either reached the NBA Finals or won the Larry O’Brien trophy.
In basketball circles, there is widespread agreement that this version of coach Frank Vogel’s team is better than last year’s outfit. The energy Montrezl Harrell has brought has lifted all the bench players and he sets a tone when on the floor, scoring almost 14 points a game and snagging seven boards playing about a half a game.
Dennis Schroder has moved in comfortably at the point guard and offers a nice variety of skills from that position. Because LeBron James still sets up so many plays in the half-court offense, Schroder doesn’t have the responsibility of being the main ball-handler for every possession he’s on the floor.
Though LeBron casts a large shadow, Davis knows the ball goes through him in the key moments at the end of games and James is fine with that unless he knows he’s hot and needs the rock. The Lakers are 6th in offensive efficiency and No. 1 in defensive efficiency and they seem none the worse for wear, at least at this point, for such a short offseason.
Philadelphia Still Searching for Greater Cohesiveness
Philadelphia ownership took chances on a couple of retreads for key spots at general manager and head coach. They thought a more professional approach would help their still talented roster and a few pieces would relieve certain pressure, namely for Joel Embiid.
First-year GM Daryl Morey added Seth Curry, Danny Green and Dwight Howard. The first two added scoring depth and long-range shooting that creates more space for Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons to work in the paint area. Howard clogs the lane when Embiid rests and is still a physical presence in the paint.
Rivers added accountability, something that was lacking with each passing season under former coach Brent Brown. Rivers was able to get most players to respond to his different coaching style, but not Simmons. There is no way Simmons should be the fifth-leading scorer on this or any team. In recent contests, the 6-10 Simmons has shown more aggressiveness in wanting to take the ball to the basket and eschewing long-distance attempts, which is not his strength. If Simmons reclaims his stature as the second-best player on Philly, they could truly become the best squad in the Eastern Conference.
The Point Spread Winner
For NBA picks, it is hard to go against the Lakers at this point on the road, yet we have two aspects to consider. Embiid missed Monday’s game against Detroit with a back issue and early today, we still weren’t certain if he was going to play or not.
There are reasons to like Philadelphia if Embiid is close to 100 percent, as they are 20-8 ATS at home and 36-15 ATS against visitors that win 60% or more of their games on the road.
But at this moment we don’t know the answer to the Philly big man. Because of this, we will let oddsmakers settle the NBA lines and expect LeBron, A.D. and the fellas to settle the matter for whoever takes the floor for the 76ers.
NBA Picks: Lakers -2 at Bet365