2013 NBA Picks: OKC Thunder @ LA Lakers Odds and Predictions – Free NBA Picks 1/27/13 The NBA is back on the big stage as ABC’s Sunday Showcase returns this weekend, and in the second game of the doubleheader, the Oklahoma City Thunder (34-10) visit the Los Angeles Lakers (18-25). The two teams have had some epic playoff battles in recent years, and after the Lakers added some firepower in the offseason, another postseason showdown was supposed to be brewing. Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan, and while the Thunder have the best record in the NBA, the Lakers are a mess and will be lucky to make the playoffs unless something drastic happens. Oklahoma City has already knocked off Los Angeles twice this season, and they are three-point favorites on the road in this one.
The Thunder have been every bit the juggernaut they were expected to be when the year began. Oklahoma City owns the NBA’s top-scoring offense at 105.9 points per game, and the team also has the third-best field goal percentage. As he has in each of the past three seasons, Kevin Durant is leading the NBA in scoring. Point guard Russell Westbrook also ranks in the top 10 in scoring while Kevin Martin has provided the bench scoring lost when James Harden was traded to Houston. Oklahoma City has been solid defensively, as well. Led by shot blocker Serge Ibaka and enforcer Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder rank 10th in rebounding, first in scoring differential and are holding opponents to the third-worst field goal percentage. It isn’t hard to understand why this team owns the league’s best record.
When Los Angeles added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Lakers appeared to have a championship-caliber team. Instead, the season has been a disaster. Yes, they are third in scoring and sixth in rebounding, but the Lakers rank 26th in scoring defense. Meanwhile, Nash had been hurt, Howard has been inconsistent and new coach Mike D’Antoni has Gasol shooting jump shots and coming off the bench. Sometimes a team is better than the sum of their parts, thus far, the opposite has been true for Los Angeles.
The Thunder Win If:
If Oklahoma City takes care of business on the offensive end, it is going to be in the driver’s seat. The Lakers really don’t have an answer defensively for Durant or Westbrook, and if the two are sharing the ball and getting good looks, the Thunder are going to overwhelm a struggling Los Angeles defense. Getting off to a fast start offensively will also force Bryant to try to shoot the Lakers back into the game, and if the Thunder make Los Angeles a perimeter team, this game is going to get ugly. At the end of the day, Durant and company are going to go three-for-three against the Lakers if their offense shows up and performs like it has all year.
The Lakers Win If:
If Los Angeles is going to get its season back on track against the NBA’s best team, it needs to be a team effort. Bryant is having a great season, but he isn’t going to outscore the league’s best offense by himself. If Howard and Gasol can provide some frontcourt scoring and Nash can add some perimeter points, Bryant just might have something left in the tank at the end of the game to close out the Thunder. Defensively, Howard needs to play like the three-time Defensive Player of the Year that he is and keep Durant and Westbrook from living at the rim. In addition, the Lakers’ perimeter defenders need to stay out of foul trouble to avoid relying on the team’s thin bench. If Los Angeles can establish a balanced attack on offense and make the Thunder a jump-shooting team, the Lakers have a chance.
This game is a mismatch on paper, and it will be the same on the court. The Lakers are a terrible defensive team, and the Thunder own the league’s best offense. Worse yet, Los Angeles struggles defending the point of attack and strong perimeter scorers in general, and Oklahoma City has two of the best in the business in Durant and Westbrook. In fact, Durant is averaging 33.0 points per game in his last six meetings with the Lakers, and Westbrook is averaging 27.5. Los Angeles isn’t going to find an answer for either player any time soon. Plain and simple, the Thunder are too fast, too athletic and too stout on offense for the Lakers. The fact that D’Antoni refuses to play through Howard and Gasol in the post and control the tempo only ensures that Los Angeles is going to try to beat the Thunder at their own game, and it is going to end badly.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder (-3) Cover the Spread
OKC Thunder @ LA Lakers
Spread: OKC -4.5
Time: 3:30 PM EST on ABC
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