Lakers at Jazz NBA Pick for December 4

By in NBA on

Could Wednesday’s game in Salt Lake City be a preview of a potential Western Conference playoff series? The Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz were two of the most active teams in the NBA during a busy offseason, and both made moves that experts believe put them squarely into the championship conversation.

The Jazz acquired star guard Mike Conley and sharpshooting swingman Bojan Bogdanovic over the summer, while the Lakers landed Anthony Davis in arguably the biggest move of all. Utah has been hovering around the top of the conference for the last handful of years, but the team needed a proven ball-handler to take some pressure off of young star Donovan Mitchell.

The Lakers have been in the midst of the franchise’s longest playoff drought since moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. Landing LeBron James in the summer of 2018 was the first step toward respectability, though, and the move for Davis seems to have propelled the team even further. The Lakers’ win over the Nuggets in Denver on Tuesday was arguably their most impressive of the season, and they enter Wednesday’s game in Utah with a league-best record of 18-3.

The Jazz, meanwhile, have been floundering. Utah dropped back-to-back games in brutal fashion in Toronto and Philadelphia earlier this week to cap a 5-game road trip. The Jazz went just 1-4 on the trip, and they now sit just 3 games over .500 on the season. They’ll be happy to return home tonight, though, where the own a strong 8-1 record on the young season.

This game opened as a pick’em at MyBookie, but the Jazz have since moved to 3-point favorites with the Lakers having played last night.

Betting Data Lakers Jazz
2019 Straight-Up 18-3 12-9
2019 Home 9-2 8-1
2019 Away 9-1 3-8
2019 ATS 12-9-0 8-13-0
2019 ATS Home 7-4-0 4-5-0
2019 ATS Away 5-5-0 4-8-0
2019 O/U 8-13-0 8-13-0
2019 O/U Home 4-7-0 4-5-0
2019 O/U Away 4-6-0 4-8-0

LeBron’s “Revenge Season”

LeBron’s first season with the Lakers didn’t go according to plan. James, who had led his teams to 8 consecutive trips to the NBA Finals before landing in Los Angeles, had his lengthy streak of postseason appearances snapped. He was able to play only 55 games, as a groin injury suffered on Christmas Day against the Warriors eventually derailed his team’s season.

It was the first long-term injury James has suffered over the course of his lengthy career, and it spurned talk over the offseason about whether he was still the best player in the game. While that debate rages on, there’s no question that LeBron is still among the best the NBA has to offer. The 34-year-old has called this his “revenge season,” and he’s playing like a man with a point to prove.

Through 21 games, James is averaging 25.6 points, 10.8 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game. He has operated as the team’s de facto point guard for most of the year, which helps explain his gaudy assist totals. This would be a career-high in assists by a huge margin if he’s able to keep it up for the rest of the campaign. James’ previous career-high was 9.1 per game 2 years ago in Cleveland.

Obviously, this team will go as far as James and Davis can carry it. Davis has been no slouch, either, as he leads the Lakers with an average of 26.1 points per game alongside 9.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He’s also blocking 2.7 shots per night, which leads the league. Davis’ offensive contributions are obvious, but his arrival has helped transform the Lakers into one of the NBA’s best defensive outfits early in the season.

Heading into play Wednesday, the Lakers are allowing just 99.9 points per 100 possessions, which is the best mark in the league. They’re the only team holding opponents under 100 points per 100 possessions, and they impressively kept a high-octane Nuggets offense to just 96 points a night ago.. Many have complained that the Lakers’ hot start hasn’t included many wins against quality opponents, but Tuesday’s triumph in the Mile High City has quieted some of those complaints.

Shorthanded Jazz

All 4 of the Jazz’ losses on their aforementioned road trip came against teams that should make the playoffs this season. The Bucks, Pacers, Raptors and 76ers disposed of the Jazz, while Utah’s lone win came against a poor Grizzlies squad. Utah is now just 5-7 on the season against teams with a record of .500 or better, while they’re 7-2 against teams under .500.

Utah will also be without Conley for tonight’s game. Conley left the loss in Philadelphia on Monday night with a hamstring injury, and the team announced on Tuesday that he would be unavailable for the Lakers game. That likely means the Jazz will turn to Emmanuel Mudiay to play heavy minutes against LA, while Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell and Dante Exum will get extra ball-handling work.

Whether the Jazz can crack the Lakers’ stingy defense remains to be seen. Conley hasn’t played all that well this season, but it’s weird to see that the Jazz have moved to 3-point favorites since this game opened as a toss-up. Utah has the rest advantage and home-court advantage, but their ragged recent form combined with the absence of their starting point guard means they’ll certainly be up against it.

The Pick

I’m a little wary of the line movement here. It could signal that someone like Anthony Davis, who was reportedly feeling sick earlier this week, could rest on the second half of the back-to-back for the Lakers. If we wind up hearing that Davis, James or some other key player for the Lakers will it out tonight, you can react accordingly.

As it stands, I really like the value you can get on the Lakers as a plus-money underdog in this one. A back-to-back at altitude in Denver and Salt Lake City is about as difficult as it gets, but the Lakers have been playing with an edge so far this season. I don’t think they’re going to use the schedule as an excuse, so I’d expect them to come out as motivated as always.

You won’t often get a team like the Lakers as an underdog, so it’s an opportunity I’m willing to try to use to my advantage from a betting perspective. Betting the Lakers to cover the 3-point spread at -115 is the safer play, but I’m willing to take the extra risk that comes with taking Los Angeles to win it straight-up on the moneyline.

Bet the Lakers +120 tonight.
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...

View all posts by Taylor Smith
Email the author at: [email protected]