The Los Angeles Lakers have seized momentum since a series-opening loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, and can advance to the conference semifinals with a win in Saturday's Game 5.
This contest was on delay following social justice protests by NBA players, but on the heels of Monday's 135-115 rout, L.A. holds a commanding 3-1 lead. The Blazers offense has sputtered while their lackluster defense has been exposed in the Lakers' past three victories.
Can the Purple and Gold seal the deal to move to the next phase of the playoffs? In abe Insights' betting preview, you'll find analysis of the primary betting lines, key stats for both squads, and more vital information that will better inform your wagers.
Date: Saturday, August 29
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Blazers 11%; Lakers 91%
Spread: LAL -13.5
Moneyline: POR +800; LAL -1075
Without cagey veterans Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in the backcourt, it took the Lakers a while to adjust to their altered rotation in Orlando. Now, they seem to be hitting their stride, and should only improve as the postseason wears on.
Blazers face of the franchise Damian Lillard dislocated his left index finger back in Game 2, and suffered a sprained right knee that'll keep him out of action tonight. That pretty much seals Portland's fate, barring a miraculous effort from CJ McCollum and others.
35.7 vs. 33.1: The Blazers have a slight edge in this series on 3-point shooting percentage, but they allowed L.A. to shoot 43.6% (17-of-39) the last time out. In lieu of Lillard, Portland must focus on defending the arc against the shooters flanking LeBron.
31.9 vs. 27.2: The Lakers now rank first among playoff teams in offensive rebound percentage, while Portland is seventh. Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside must create second-chance opportunities for the Blazers by crashing the glass hard.
48.0 vs. 36.5: An additional area Nurkic and Whiteside have to step up is protecting the rim. These figures are the points in the paint per game for both teams this series, with L.A. having a prohibitive advantage.
One critical aspect of the Lakers' blowout win on Monday was Anthony Davis playing only 18 minutes. Given the fact that Lillard is out tonight, it could be a similarly lopsided affair, allowing AD and LeBron to sit for long stretches of time while other L.A. role players get invaluable postseason reps.
Part of the reason Davis barely played can be attributed to back spasms, which he said weren't of any major concern. Davis also discussed how he's done his best to balance being methodical but also more attack-oriented on offense, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin:
"My whole thing is just be aggressive for the rest of the time I'm here. I don't want to come out and not be aggressive if the team needs me to be aggressive and I've been able to find spots where I'm very comfortable and just take my time and make shots. But also making the right reads. And guys are making shots.
"If we're making shots from the perimeter, from outside the paint, it opens the floor up for everyone and I just got to take my time and make shots."
If Portland somehow pulls off the improbable in Game 5 sans Lillard, it'd be one of those epic last-stand type of victories. There's no way the Blazers are getting out of the first round unless Lillard close to 100% healthy. Sadly, that's no longer a possibility.
No one can question the heart of coach Terry Stotts' bunch. McCollum is playing through a fractured back as it is, and Lillard put the team on his back as a supreme scorer just to get the Blazers into the playoffs. The Lakers are championship favorites for a reason, and with Davis operating under his current mentality, there's no reason to discount them.
With Nurkic back healthy for a full season in 2020-21 and the chance to upgrade the roster in the abbreviated offseason, Portland should ascend in the West next year and beyond.
The spread is so large for L.A. that bettors might be tempted to take Portland as it desperately fights to stave off elimination. With the way the Lakers are playing on defense, though, it's more logical for the betting public to hedge with the Blazers' moneyline and side with Los Angeles' spread.
Look for wagers to trend to the Under on the point total. The Lakers' role players probably won't light it up as much as they did in Game 4, yet should maintain their exceptional defensive form, especially with Lillard out.
Note: Odds current as of 8:50 a.m. ET on Saturday, August 29.
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