The L.A. Lakers have been an easy fade for your NBA picks, but is Friday’s game with the Portland Trail Blazers the right place for it?
Portland Trail Blazers vs. L.A. Lakers
Friday, December 31, 2021 – 10:30 PM EST at Crypto.com Arena
It’s fitting that the last NBA game of 2021 gives us our last opportunity to kick the Los Angeles Lakers while they’re down.
As long as LeBron James is wearing the Purple and Gold, fading the Lakers (17-19 SU, 14-22 ATS) is a strong contender for Angle of the Year; they’re 12-12 SU and 8-16 ATS thus far when James is in the lineup. But do they have what it takes to cough up the cash to the Portland Trail Blazers (13-21 SU, 12-21-1 ATS)?
The Blazers have been the league’s least profitable NBA pick, a complete mess since the controversial hiring of head coach Chauncey Billups. Portland did beat L.A. 105-90 back on November 6 as 6-point home faves, but James didn’t dress for the Lakers – and the Blazers will have a completely different look when they take the floor this Friday as 5.5-point road dogs on the NBA odds board at BetMGM.
Life was difficult enough for Portland with the loss of both C.J. McCollum (ribs) and Cody Zeller (knee) earlier this month. Now they have eight additional players in quarantine, although Robert Covington, Ben McLemore and Keljin Blevins are scheduled to leave protocol on Friday.
Also in quarantine: Billups himself. Assistant coach Scott Brooks has been in charge since Billups went into protocol, but that doesn’t seem to have helped team morale much, judging by their back-to-back losses SU and ATS to the Dallas Mavericks (+3 away) and Utah Jazz (–8 away).
Even the promise of getting away from Moda Center doesn’t seem to help; the Blazers are 2-12 SU and 3-11 ATS on the road this year.
Given how troubling things are in Portland, it’s tempting to forget the spread and take a flier on the total, which Bet365 has pegged at 231 points as we go to press.
With more and more players leaving protocol after the first week of the omicron wave, the Over has really kicked into gear against a set of depressing totals, going 28-19 over the past seven days. Those totals are starting to rise again.
This will be the biggest over/under the Lakers (Over 18-17-1) have seen all year, and the third-highest for the Trail Blazers (Under 18-15-1). But it might be worth a shot anyway. The Lakers have the Over at 4-2 in their past six games, all since Anthony Davis was put out of commission with a sprained MCL.
The Blazers aren’t the ideal dance partner for this pick, either – and getting Covington back in uniform will only improve their defense. But given the circumstances in this matchup, a small bet on the Over seems reasonable enough.
Let’s see if King James puts an exclamation point on 2021 with another one of those monster performances he’s been delivering lately.
NBA Pick: Over 230.5 (–110) at BetMGM