LOS ANGELES LAKERS (10-11)
at OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (17-4)
Tip-off: Friday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -13, Total: 208
The Thunder go for their fifth straight win when Kobe Bryant and the Lakers pay them a visit on Friday night.
Oklahoma City went into Memphis on Wednesday and blew out the Grizzlies 116-100, giving the team its 12th win in 13 tries (9-4 ATS). But after going on a 6-2 SU run from Nov. 17 to Dec. 6, Los Angeles has lost both games since SG Kobe Bryant has returned to the lineup despite being favored at home in both contests. Friday marks the first meeting between these teams this season, but the Thunder have dominated in the previous two seasons, going 9-3 SU (7-4-1 ATS), including 6-0 SU (4-2 ATS) at home. The last meeting between these teams was on March 5, where the 9.5-point underdog Lakers fell 122-105. Oklahoma City is 18-7 ATS (72%) versus horrible foul drawing teams (21 or less FTA per game) over the past two seasons, but L.A. is 5-1 ATS (83%) after allowing 105+ points in a game this season. The Lakers will be without their top two floor generals indefinitely, as PGs Steve Nash (back) and Steve Blake (elbow) are both out for the next month. C Steven Adams (ankle) is doubtful for the Thunder, while SG Thabo Sefolosha (knee) is considered questionable for Friday.
Can the Thunder cover this monster spread on Friday night? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five experts are at 52.3% ATS (58-53-1) on Best Bets since Nov. 12. During this timeframe, StatFox Zach has a stellar 70% ATS mark (16-7) and StatFox Scott is a strong 57% ATS (12-9-1).
The Lakers now have SG Kobe Bryant back, but he hasn't helped this defense that has allowed 110.0 PPG on 50.3% FG in his two games back. Bryant had an efficient 20 points (6-of-11 FG) in Tuesday's 114-108 loss to the Suns, but it likely will take the rest of the roster a few games to adjust to his presence. The Lakers have been great at moving the ball this season with 23.9 APG (3rd in NBA), but without PGs Steve Nash (back) and Steve Blake (elbow) they are going to struggle in that category on Friday. PF Pau Gasol played well against the Suns with 19 points (6-of-11 FG) and five rebounds, and he must use his height to create problems for an undersized Thunder frontcourt. SF Nick Young, who is averaging 15.0 PPG over the past five contests, must provide a huge scoring punch and a dose of athleticism off the bench in this game. The Thunder can get up and down the court in a hurry, and Young will need to use his speed to stay in front of the Oklahoma City guards. C Jordan Hill is averaging 12.0 PPG and 7.5 RPG over the past two games, and his energy will make him a huge X-factor for Los Angeles in this one.
The Thunder have scored 111.0 PPG on 53% FG during their four-game win streak, and their two superstars, SF Kevin Durant and PG Russell Westbrook, have really played exceptional basketball. In these four games, Durant is averaging 28.3 PPG and 8.5 RPG, while Westbrook has 23.0 PPG, 9.3 APG and 5.8 RPG during the surge. He was absolutely dominant against the Grizzlies on Wednesday with 27 points (7-of-12 FG), nine assists, six rebounds and two steals in just 27 minutes of play. These two are spearheading an Oklahoma City offense that averages 105.1 PPG (4th in NBA). They also rank second in the league in rebounding (46.9 RPG), thanks to PF Serge Ibaka. He is averaging 14.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG and 2.5 BPG this season, with six double-doubles in his past 10 games. Over the past two games, SG Jeremy Lamb has really stepped up his performance with 14.5 PPG (67% FG) in 24.5 MPG. If he can be more consistent off the bench, the Thunder will have outstanding balance in their lineup.