Even without LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers have what it takes to beat the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA odds this Thursday.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Thursday, May 06, 2021 – 10:00 PM EDT at Staples Center
The 2019-20 season saw the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers battle for supremacy atop the NBA odds board – with the Lakers coming out as champions. This year, both L.A. teams have been overtaken by the Brooklyn Nets, who are +240 favorites at the top sportsbooks futures market at press time. But the Lakers (+375) and Clippers (+550) are still on the podium, and there’s a good chance one of them will end up meeting Brooklyn in the NBA Finals.
That’s if they can stay healthy. LeBron James (ankle) is expected to miss Thursday’s Lakers-Clippers matchup on TNT, and it remains to be seen whether Serge Ibaka (back) will be ready in time for this game. That hasn’t stopped the Clippers (44-22 SU, 36-29-1 ATS) from opening as 7.5-point “home” favorites at SBK; at that price, the Lakers (37-28 SU, 29-35-1 ATS) should be the right NBA pick.
One Out Of Two Ain’t Bad
Old-school handicappers used to pay their bills by following teams with injured superstars, counting on the betting public to lose their composure and push the NBA odds too far in the other direction. Betting markets are a bit tighter these days, but the Lakers did go 7-7 SU and 8-6 ATS between February 16 and March 20, when James was in the lineup and Anthony Davis was not.
The sneaker is on the other foot now. Davis returned from his strained left calf on April 22, and is finally starting to look like his old self again; James has played just twice since coming back from his high-ankle sprain, and is likely to miss the next two games as well. He was absent Monday when the Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 93-89 as 4-point home dogs. So was Dennis Schroder (COVID-19 protocols), who’s also expected to miss Thursday’s contest. Given how much better Alex Caruso has performed at point guard compared to Schroder, that’s another positive for Laker bettors.
Adding to the injury woes in L.A., it looks like Talen Horton-Tucker (calf) might have to sit this one out, too – he’s listed as questionable at press time. But again, the Lakers have better options on the wing. Plus, they’ve finally decided to dust off Marc Gasol and put the veteran center back in the lineup; he was instrumental in their win over Denver, leading the team at plus-17 in his 17 minutes off the bench.
Ibaka, meanwhile, is one of the reasons the Clippers look a lot more like a title contender this year than last. But he hasn’t played since mid-March, and it’s starting to show; the Clippers are 2-3 SU and 0-5 ATS in their past five, including a 110-104 loss to those same Nuggets (+5.5 away) last Saturday. It only makes sense to kick them while they’re down. Bet accordingly, and enjoy the game.
NBA Pick: Lakers +7.5 (–102) at SBK