One problem with this lockout-condensed 66-game NBA schedule is the amount of back-to-back games that teams are playing. It’s great if you are a fan but a bit of a pain as a gaming writer because I aim to provide you these types of preview stories well in advance.
However, when it comes to the Thursday NBA on TNT weekly preview, one or both teams in each of the two games often will have played on Wednesday. Thus, this story will be written before the teams take the court on Wednesday, meaning an injury could change everything. Plus, sometimes NBA odds might not be posted until Thursday morning (if that’s the case I will just project it).
I mention this because I probably would have previewed the 8 p.m. EST game Thursday between Miami and Atlanta in the wake of the Hawks handing the Heat their first loss of the season on Monday night in south Florida. But the Heat play Wednesday night at home against Indiana before hopping on a plane for Thursday’s game.
The TNT nightcap features the Lakers at the Trail Blazers and neither team plays on Wednesday, so I have to lean toward previewing that one. Anytime a TNT matchup features two clubs that didn’t play the night before, I almost always will choose that one because there is less uncertainty even if it’s not quite as good of a matchup. The Lakers were good to us last Thursday in easily covering at home against the Knicks.
Lakers at Blazers How the Teams Enter
Since that panic-stricken 0-2 start, the Lakers have won four of five. L.A. was last on the court at home on Tuesday night, a 108-99 win over Houston. Kobe Bryant had 37 points and surging center Andrew Bynum had the first 20-20 game of his career with 21 points and 22 rebounds. He barely missed his career-high of 23 rebounds in his second career 20-rebound game, playing a team-high 38 minutes.
Bynum is averaging 22.7 points (on 62.2 percent shooting) and 17 rebounds in his first three games after missing the first four due to suspension.
Don’t look now, but the Greg Oden and Brandon Roy-less Trail Blazers have the best record in the Western Conference (4-1) after an impressive 103-93 win in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. LaMarcus Aldridge dominated with a season-high 30 points and eight rebounds vs. the Thunder.
Portland had a 46-40 edge on the boards and has outrebounded all five of its opponents this season. The Blazers had only nine turnovers after committing 46 in their previous two games.
Lakers at Blazers Betting Story Lines
With Lamar Odom in Dallas now, new Lakers coach Mike Brown has shifted Metta World Peace to anchor the second unit. Brown likes him with the second unit because he can find his own shot there, no longer competing with Kobe, Pau Gasol and Bynum for touches. And that unit tends to go now as World Peace goes. He had only four points Tuesday against the Rockets but moved the ball well with five assists.
And one thing to look for on the Lakers is how much Kobe is shooting and how Brown seems afraid to ask his star to share the ball more. Bryant has attempted a whopping 75 shots in the past three games. And with Bynum playing like an all-star right now, he deserves more shots, which should mean less for Kobe. But Bryant has vowed to keep shooting – he had 29 against the Rockets but is shooting only 41.7 percent from the field this season.
L.A. could be down one of its rotation guys for this one. Forward Josh McRoberts, averaging 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game on the season, sat out the Houston game with a toe injury and is day-to-day. Troy Murphy took his spot and is a downgrade.
Aldridge figures to be a handful for Gasol and/or McRoberts/Murphy. Tuesday was Aldridge's 13th game with 30-or-more points in the 86 games he has appeared in since the start of the 2010-11 season. That is nearly double the total number of 30-point games Aldridge produced (seven) in the 298 games he played in his first four seasons in the league.
This will be the 200th meeting between Portland and L.A. The Lakers took three of four meetings last year with Portland, winning their first season series over the Trail Blazers since 2004-05.
Lakers at Blazers Betting Odds and Key Trends
The Blazers opened as 3.5-point favorites with the total at 192 on NBA odds. The Lakers are 4-3 ATS overall and 0-2 ATS on road. The Blazers are 3-1-1 ATS and 2-0-1 at home. ‘Over/under’ records: LAL 1-6, POR 2-3.
The Lakers are 4-1 ATS in past five Thursday games. They are 1-6 ATS in past seven vs. Northwest Division. The Blazers are 7-2-1 ATS in past 10 on Thursday. They have covered just three of past 11 vs. Western Conference. The ‘under’ is 6-0 in Portland’s last six vs. Pacific Division. The ‘over’ is 6-2 in past eight meetings in Portland.
NBA Picks: Lakers at Blazers Betting Predictions
The Blazers have had one of the least-grueling schedules in the league, having played only five games and one back-to-back, with both games in Portland. And Portland is 3-0 at home, while the Lakers have dropped both of their road games.
The Blazers have won 10 of their past 12 and 16 of past 20 at home vs. L.A., including the final regular-season matchup last year, 93-86, on April 8 (Lakers did win at Rose Garden earlier in the season in OT).
But I love the way Bynum is playing and both of L.A.’s first two road losses were on the second of back-to-backs. This isn’t. Take the Lakers and the 3.5 and go with the ‘over’.
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