The Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers have been going in starkly different directions early in the season. The Lakers have wasted no time in asserting themselves as one of the best teams in the league. LA is off to a scorching 19-3 start that includes an incredible 10-1 record in road games. The team’s lone road loss of the season actually came in their own building. The Lakers lost on opening night in an “away” game against the Clippers.
The Blazers, meanwhile, have been stuck in the mud early in the year. Portland got off to a sluggish 5-9 start, which was a surprise considering this team was in the Western Conference Finals just last season. The slow beginning pushed the team to make a move, so the Blazers shockingly grabbed veteran Carmelo Anthony off of the scrap heap.
Portland has looked a little better of late, as they enter Friday night’s game against the Lakers as winners of 4 of their last 5 overall. They’re still just 9-13 on the year and outside looking in on the playoff picture, but there is more than enough time left in the season to still make up ground on the teams in front of them.
The Lakers opened as 3.5-point favorites for Friday’s game at MyBookie, and the line has subsequently been pushed to Lakers -4.5. The game also has an over/under of 224.5, which is one of the highest marks on tonight’s 10-game NBA schedule.
2019 ATS Home
2019 ATS Away
2019 O/U Home
2019 O/U Away
Lakers’ Winning Ways
The Lakers just pulled off about as impressive a back-to-back set as you’ll find in this league. Most teams struggle when they have to play at altitude in Denver and Utah, let alone when they’re forced to play those teams on consecutive nights. However, LA showed no signs of fatigue in either game. LeBron James and co. stormed into Colorado and picked up a 105-96 win on Tuesday before blowing the doors off the Jazz in Salt Lake City the next night, 121-96.
The Lakers are playing with a sense of urgency you don’t often see from a veteran team this early in the year. James has something to prove after his first year in Los Angeles ended in disappointment. He currently leads the league in assists per game (10.8) while chipping in better than 25 points a night.
Anthony Davis has also looked like every bit the superstar the Lakers hoped he’d be once they acquired him from New Orleans over the summer. Davis is building a strong case to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award, as he’s leading the league with nearly 3 blocks per game. For good measure, he also leads the Lakers in scoring (26 points per game) and rebounds (9.1).
LA has also gotten contributions from its supporting cast. Dwight Howard has looked rejuvenated in his second stint with the franchise, and he has given the team a major energy boost off the bench. You can say the same for Rajon Rondo, who nearly put up a triple-double in 32 minutes of action against the Jazz. The former All-Star scored 14 points along with 12 assists and 9 rebounds in a turn-back-the-clock kind of showing.
I’m skeptical that the Lakers can continue to play with this kind of manic energy all season long, but so far it’s working like a charm. They’ll face another tough test on Friday in Portland, as Moda Center has been known as one of the more difficult environments for road teams in recent seasons.
Melo is Back
Carmelo Anthony was named as the Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, which is an impressive feat for a guy that hadn’t even played competitive basketball in about a year. The Blazers rewarded Anthony for his efforts by fully guaranteeing his contract for the rest of the season. So, he’s not going anywhere.
The 35-year-old has averaged 16.9 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting about 45 percent from the floor. He has given Portland a viable offensive alternative to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who are a bit redundant together in the backcourt. While Anthony isn’t some star on the defensive end, just being available as a secondary offensive option makes the Blazers a more well-rounded team.
I’m still not sure Anthony’s impact will be enough to push Portland into the playoff mix, though. This team may need another move or two in order to get to where they want to go. While they have won 4 of 5, those 4 wins have come over the Bulls (twice), Thunder and Kings. None of those teams are going to make the playoffs this season. Their lone loss in that span was a 20-point shellacking at the hands of the Clippers.
The Blazers’ production was quite concentrated in their win over Sacramento. In addition to Anthony’s 20 points, Portland also got 33 from McCollum, 24 from Lillard and 22 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists from Hassan Whiteside.
Portland is just 20th in defensive rating this season, allowing 108.4 points per 100 possessions. They’ll be facing the league’s most stingy defense in Friday’s game. The Lakers rank first, allowing just 99.6 points per 100 possessions.
At this point, I don’t see much merit in betting against the Lakers. This team is clearly motivated, and the results have been there. They were actually betting underdogs the other night in Utah, which seemed wrong at the time. They won’t be underdogs tonight in Portland, but I still think the spread is a little too low considering how both teams have fared so far this season.
I’m not at all ready to declare that the Blazers are back considering they’re still looking for a quality win. Beating the Lakers tonight would certainly fit the bill, but I’m not expecting that to happen. LA is flying high right now, and I think the 4.5-point spread is still an advantageous one.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org 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 ...
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