The Los Angeles Lakers are showing signs that they are in fact worthy of the West's No. 1 seed as they try to notch back-to-back wins in Saturday's Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
When Portland won the first contest in this best-of-seven series, it looked like the Lakers may bow out in the first round. Those concerns quieted after a dominant Purple and Gold performance on Thursday, which resulted in a 111-88 rout.
Can L.A. keep it going? Check out the rest of abe Insights' preview, featuring breakdowns of the odds and primary lines, stats to consider and more vital information to take into account prior to betting.
Date: Saturday, August 22
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Lakers 75%; Blazers 27%
Spread: LAL -7.5
Moneyline: LAL -300; POR +275
Not having key veterans like Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in the backcourt has really tested the Lakers' resolve in the bubble. The squad's guards are a mishmash of new additions and underwhelming contributors who've been, almost without exception, flat throughout the Lake Show's time in Orlando.
Speaking of perimeter problems, Blazers superstar Damian Lillard suffered a dislocated left index finger in Game 2, yet promised to play tonight. Portland's frontcourt is also thinner with Zach Collins out for the season due to an ankle injury.
38.3 vs. 30.3: The Blazers gave up the second-highest 3-point field goal percentage during the regular season. However, that latter figure is LA's 3-point FG% during the eight games prior to the playoffs. It's going to be key for the Lakers to shoot like they did in Game 2 (36.8% on 38 attempts from beyond the arc).
28.8 vs. 26.3: These figures represent opponents' offensive rebound percentage allowed from the 2019-20 campaign. Portland's number was third-worst in the NBA, and L.A. was just outside the league's top 10.
19.0 vs. 14.3: Transition offense off of takeaways is one area where the Lakers were elite this season, ranking third in points per contest off of turnovers. Meanwhile, the Blazers ranked dead-last in this area, although they did offset that to a degree by allowing the third-fewest points off turnovers per game (14.3).
There are many ways to dissect why LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers are prohibitive favorites. LeBron had one of his worst playoff performances ever in Game 2, scoring only 10 points. That's where Davis stepped up, leading all scorers with 31 points and spearheading a dominant defensive performance.
If Davis is as engaged as he was then on a more consistent basis, The King doesn't have to play hero ball and dish so often to a supporting cast that bricks wide-open outside shots more often than they should. Even a decent showing from LeBron and AD playing closer to his ceiling will likely be a winning formula.
Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic and super sub Gary Trent Jr. have been curiously underwhelming this series. Nurkic has been inconsistent since his return from injury, yet he's been dominant at times, including in a 30-point effort versus Boston. The big man must improve his 38% shooting against L.A. — and also must do better guarding Davis.
As for Trent, he was a sensational 3-point shooter (50.7%) and scored almost 17 a night during Portland's 6-2 stretch that got the squad to the playoffs. He's shooting 33.3% from the field and averaging only 6.5 points. Especially with Lillard hurting, it's on Trent to step up and get buckets like he was before.
Averaging the same amount of postseason points for Portland is Carmelo Anthony, but only on 23.5% shooting from the field. Invaluable as Lillard is, his supporting cast really needs to capitalize on mismatches against a seemingly pedestrian opponent outside of AD and LeBron.
Credit the Lakers for playing strong team defense, though, as the Blazers' electrifying offense has put up only 194 points in two combined games.
Per TeamRankings.com, only three teams hit the Under more often than LA, and, well, that's certainly been the case against Portland. Due to Lillard's dubious health situation and poor execution by the Blazers thus far, expect bets to favor the Under.
Again, given Lillard's condition, the spread seems generous, but the betting public has a clear hedging strategy with these odds and lines. Action should skew heavily to the Lakers' spread, but the Blazers' moneyline is too profitable to pass up if you're going to wager on that particular aspect of Game 3.
Note: Odds current as of 8:40 a.m. ET on Saturday, August 22.
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