I can hardly believe it, but the NBA is finally back. The longest season in NBA history is set to get back underway after a hiatus of nearly five full months, which is somewhat incredible. We haven’t seen the NBA since March 11, yet we have two games on Thursday night to get us started.
The Jazz will face the Pelicans in the opener, but the better game comes later when the LA Clippers “visit” the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers and Clippers have played three times already this season, with the Clips holding a 2-1 series lead. Of course, the teams also haven’t seen each other since March 8, so those matchups feel like ancient history at this point.
Neither team will be at full strength for Thursday’s opener. The Clippers will be without bench stalwarts Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, who are still in quarantine after having to leave the NBA campus for personal reasons. Patrick Beverley, the team’s starting point guard, is listed as questionable. Beverley’s self-isolation period is scheduled to end Thursday afternoon, but the team hasn’t announced yet whether he will suit up.
As for the Lakers, they’ll be without starting guard Avery Bradley for the duration of the season after he opted out earlier this summer, while Rajon Rondo broke his hand in practice earlier this month. The Lakers have also listed Anthony Davis as questionable with an eye injury, but the superstar said on Wednesday that he plans to play.
The Lakers open as 5-point favorites over their intra-city rivals in a game with an over/under of 219.5 points.
While the Clips will be without a couple of key players on Thursday, this team is one of the few in the league capable of winning games without its full roster. The most important thing for the Clippers is the health of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who are both reportedly fully ready to go for the restart. George, for example, said he used the four months off to get completely healthy, and that this is the best he has felt in well over a year.
LAC has the second-best record in the West, which is impressive when you remember they have dealt with injuries all year. George missed the first 11 games of the year, while Leonard hasn’t played both halves of a back-to-back. Williams, Beverley, Landry Shamet, and Harrell have all missed a few games, as well.
Without Harrell tonight, one would imagine Doc Rivers will lean more heavily on George and Marcus Morris to play at power forward. At the same time, the Ivica Zubac/Joakim Noah center rotation will get extra work. Patrick Patterson and JaMychal Green are also capable of filling Harrell’s void at the four spot. Morris has struggled since joining the Clippers, but he should get ample opportunity to prove his worth down the stretch.
If Beverley is out, Reggie Jackson will likely be thrown into the starting lineup, while Shamet and Rodney McGruder will get extra burn off the bench. LA doesn’t have as many capable bodies in the backcourt as they do upfront, but that’s not a huge deal with George and Leonard carrying most of the offensive load, anyway.
The King’s Quest
LeBron James is as motivated as anybody to win a title this season. James has spent the entire season on his own personal redemption tour after going down midway through last season with a groin injury. James has played as the Lakers’ de facto starting point guard all year, and he’s put himself squarely in the MVP conversation once again.
LeBron is averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game. Oh, and he’ll turn 36 in December.
If Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t raging his way through the league, James would be your betting favorite to win Most Valuable Player. Regardless, I’m sure he’ll settle for a title if he’s able to lead the Lakers to the promised land.
The Lakers have surged to the top of the West thanks in large part to the acquisition of Anthony Davis. For his part, AD has averaged 26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and better than two blocks per game in over 34 minutes per contest. Assuming his eye feels fine, Davis may feast on a Clippers frontline that is lacking in the size department.
With no home-court advantage on the line with every team playing at a neutral site, the Lakers may use the eight-game seeding schedule to try and get some new players into the mix. Without Bradley and Rondo, we figure to see extra minutes for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in a starting role, while newcomers like JR Smith and Dion Waiters will get acclimated to their new surroundings. Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook are also options to play added minutes in a reserve role.
Clippers vs Lakers Pick
These have been evenly-matched teams all year long, and all three matchups thus far have been relatively close. The Lakers won by nine points back in March, but the two Clipper wins have come by a combined 15 points.
It’s not often that we’ve seen the Clippers as plus-money underdogs. While they’re understaffed, I’d still be surprised if this wasn’t a closely-contested game down the stretch. The lack of a home crowd could mean we see some closer games than usual, anyway. I like the value you can get betting the Clippers to cover the five-point spread at -105. If you’re feeling frisky, the +190 odds on LAC to win the game outright are pretty appealing, as well.
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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