OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (27-8)
at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (15-20)
Tip-off: Friday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -7, Total: 214
The Lakers are still in search for their first win of 2013 when they host the Thunder on Friday night.
Oklahoma City has won six of its past eight games, but lost its last road game, 101-99, to lowly Washington on Monday night. The Thunder bounced back from that defeat with a 106-84 pounding of Minnesota. Los Angeles is 0-5 (SU and ATS) so far in January, and it will likely be missing three frontcourt players for this game -- C Dwight Howard (shoulder) and C Jordan Hill (hip) are out, and PF Pau Gasol (concussion) is questionable. Without this trio for the past two contests, the Lakers allowed 116.5 PPG on 52.0% FG in a 13-point loss to Houston and a respectable 3-point road loss in San Antonio. The Thunder have won eight of the past 10 meetings SU (6-3-1 ATS) between these clubs, prevailing 114-108 on Dec. 7 in their lone matchup this season.
Can the Lakers finally end their losing skid on Friday night? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts are 9-5 ATS (64%) in the past two days, and are 55% ATS (65-54-1) since Dec. 22. StatFox Brian is 6-3 ATS since Sunday and 19-9 ATS (68%) since Dec. 23, while StatFox Scott is 12-6 ATS (67%) since Dec. 29, giving him a season Best Bets mark of 56% ATS (50-40), with Brian (55.2% ATS) and StatFox Gary (51.2% ATS) also profitable. The four experts are collectively 52% ATS (219-203-11) on Best Bets for the season. For NBA Totals, the experts are a profitable 33-27 (55%) since Dec. 28 with StatFox Brian going 11-7 (61.1%) during this span. Scott continues to have a great year at 52-37 (58%) for his season NBA totals.
Oklahoma City is 21-13-1 ATS (62%) this season, which is the 2nd-best ATS mark in the NBA behind only Memphis (65% ATS). The Thunder's offense is among the best in the league with 105.4 PPG (2nd in NBA), 47.8% FG (3rd in NBA) and a league-high 40.0% on threes. SF Kevin Durant's 28.1 PPG places him third in the league, as he has scored at least 22 points in 11 straight games, averaging 30.3 PPG on 53% FG and 40% threes over this stretch. Durant also destroyed the Lakers during OKC's 5-game series win over them in last year's playoffs, averaging 26.8 PPG (52% FG, 39% threes) and 8.6 RPG. PG Russell Westbrook had a huge series against L.A. (25.6 PPG on 49% FG), and he's posted 21.8 PPG and 8.2 APG in his past six meetings against Steve Nash. When the Thunder held off the Lakers on Dec. 7, Durant had 36 points (10-of-19 FG, 14-of-16 FT) and nine boards, while Westbrook added 33 points (12-of-26 FG, 5-of-8 threes) and eight assists. OKC also has two other double-digit scorers in sharp-shooter SG Kevin Martin (15.3 PPG, 44% threes) and PF Serge Ibaka (15.3 PPG on 57% FG), who dominates down low with 8.4 RPG and an impressive 2.9 BPG (2nd in NBA). PF Nick Collison also played huge against the Lakers despite the presence of Dwight Howard last game, scoring 13 points and seven rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. With Howard in street clothes on Friday, Ibaka and Collison should be able to produce more big numbers in the paint.
The Lakers offense has been very efficient during their losing skid, tallying 104.6 PPG on 45% FG in the five defeats. But the defense continues to get shredded, surrendering 111.0 PPG on 49% shooting during the slide. SG Kobe Bryant (NBA-high 30.1 PPG) is shooting a career-best 47.5% FG this season and is coming off a 27-point game in the loss to the Spurs on Wednesday. Bryant nearly brought his team back from a 19-point deficit in the Dec. 7 trip to Oklahoma City, finishing with 35 points on 11-of-24 FG and 4-of-5 threes. Bryant also averaged 31.2 PPG in the playoff series loss to the Thunder last year, but he shot just 42.6% FG and made only 2-of-18 threes in those five games. Bryant did have plenty of help in Wednesday's loss to the Spurs, as SF Metta World Peace notched 23 points, eight rebounds and a whopping seven steals, while SF Earl Clark shined off the bench with 22 points (9-of-12 FG) and 13 rebounds. PG Steve Nash also kept his team close Wednesday with 14 points and nine assists. Although this will be his first meeting with the Thunder in a Lakers uniform, Nash has 13.6 PPG (54% FG) and 9.7 APG in his past 10 meetings with Oklahoma City. SG Jodie Meeks has enjoyed playing at Staples Center recently, averaging 10.5 PPG in just 21.4 MPG in his past eight home games. He also scored 17 points with a team-best +11 rating in just 20 minutes of action in that Dec. 7 loss to the Thunder.