Two of the best teams in the Western Conference and the entire NBA square off for a second time this season as the marquee matchup on Christmas day. The Los Angeles Lakers opened the season with a loss to their Staples Center co-tenants Los Angeles Clippers then proceeded to win 24 of their next 26 outings before a snafu. Suffering through their first losing streak of any kind, the West leaders will attempt to end a three-game losing streak. We’re hoping to see two superstars back in action after a few days of rest. LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard both missed Sunday’s loss for their respective teams and are listed as questionable.
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Playing without Leonard and Patrick Beverley, the Clippers lost to Oklahoma City on Sunday for their third defeat in five games. Overall they are 22-10 on the year and 18-14 against the spread. While this is technically a road game for the Clips, they are playing in their venue and using their locker room. They should treat this as a home contest since they are 14-2 SU and 11-5 in home games.
The Lakers got off to such a blistering start that they couldn’t keep it up. And they haven’t. Getting stomped by the Nuggets on Sunday for their third straight loss dropped the Lakers to 24-6 SU. They failed to cover the line in each of their last five games and are now 16-14 ATS.
Teams will find a way to get around the ‘load management’ fiasco and turning a minor injury into something more concerning is a way to do that. I’m not saying the teams are faking injuries, but LeBron and Leonard both missed Sunday’s games. James has a pulled muscle in his rib cage while Leonard is nursing a sore knee. Let’s face it, this contest losses some of its appeal with the biggest names on the bench. Early reports say LeBron is going to suit up and with a few days off between games I expect Leonard to be back on the floor. Kawhi got the better of the first matchup scoring 30 points in his team debut, a 112-102 Clips victory. James nearly had a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Player To Watch
Take your pick in this matchup. But you have to say Anthony Davis has been a major reason for the Lakers early season success and their choice as a favorite to win the NBA title. The Lakers gave up a lot to get him and the ROI has been outstanding so far.
Davis was the center of attention against the Nuggets knocking down a team-high 32 points on 13 of 23 shooting. He doubled up the second-leading scorer and added 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. For the season Davis leads the Lakers with 27.9 points per game and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor. He also tops the club in minutes at nearly 35 per night.
Since scoring 50 points against the T-Wolves a few weeks ago, AD has strung together five consecutive double-double games averaging 28.8 points and 11.2 rebounds in that span. He scored 25 points with nine boards in the first meeting between the teams.
Free NBA ATS Picks
Assuming both teams are at full strength, this should be a good one to spend the Christmas holiday watching. The Lakers have one of the better defensive efficiency teams in the NBA, but they had trouble during their losing streak allowing nearly 115 points per game, up nearly 10 points from their season average. The offense has sputtered as well.
The Clippers are a much deeper team with Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell coming off the bench. Williams moved into a starting role on Sunday, affecting the team’s rotations. With Leonard out the Clips let a double-digit second half lead slip away in their loss to OKC.
Both squads have downplayed the head-to-head meetings, but you know they want bragging rights and to prove who has the better team. The spread will move depending on the status of LeBron and Leonard. However, I do like the Lakers to show a sense of urgency and end their mini-skid.
NBA Odds: Lakers 113, Clippers 107
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