The Oklahoma City Thunder are the surprise team of the NBA season, and will seek to improve their playoff seeding against the West-leading Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday in Orlando.
Although they dropped their last contest, the Thunder are only a half-game behind Houston and Utah for the fourth seed. LeBron James and the Lakers have clinched the top spot after defeating the Jazz their last time out.
Gear up for this exciting matchup with abe Insights' betting preview to find some key stats to consider, wagers analysis the best odds, taken from lines at all the major sportsbooks.
Date: Wednesday, August 5
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Thunder 33%; Lakers 69%
Spread: LAL -6
Moneyline: OKC +205; LAL -220
OKC has been bucking the odds all season, but coach Billy Donovan's squad is without probable Sixth Man of the Year Dennis Schroder, who's awaiting the birth of his second child. Depth on the wing and frontcourt is also thinner as Terrance Ferguson (leg) and Mike Muscala (concussion) are sidelined.
With Rajon Rondo still recovering from a fractured thumb and Avery Bradley opted out, the Lakers are working on chemistry within their backcourt rotation. Integrating new pieces like Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith will likely be key to LA's championship hopes.
26.8 vs. 22.6: OKC has the league's second-lowest offensive rebound percentage, while the Lakers have the eighth-best. Against the likes of Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis, Thunder big men Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel will really have to step up.
15.5 vs. 13.6: L.A. has a bottom-five turnover percentage in the NBA, whereas the Thunder give up the ball far less, ranking eighth in this statistic. Playing with discipline and valuing every possession is one of the many ways Oklahoma City has managed to defy expectations.
13.7 vs. 9.8: These are the respective positive points per 100 possessions the Thunder and Lakers enjoy when Chris Paul and LeBron James are on the court. The former accounts for 34 Expected Wins Added for OKC.
Paul has struggled throughout his career to shake the criticism that he hasn't won a championship. It continues to define his legacy — or at least it did. Now, such talk is on the back-burner, because his presence on the Thunder has been transformative.
After years of dealing with injuries and underachieving on loaded teams, CP3 took on a plant-based diet, didn't diva-bully his way out of OKC with its undermanned roster after he was traded there and, ultimately, led the team to a most improbable postseason berth.
Speaking of underappreciated storylines, how about LeBron? He fully embraced the point-forward position to the point where he's essentially the Lakers' point guard. All he's done in Year 17 as a pro is lead the NBA in assists. With so many shooters surrounding him, The King is still as dangerous as ever, and can still get to the rim with the game's best.
This particular Thunder-Lakers clash will probably be decided on shot-making by OKC. If buckets are falling from the perimeter, perhaps Paul and Co. have a chance. Otherwise, LA's ability to earn second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass and the matchup nightmares Davis and James pose are bound to be too much to handle.
The Thunder made easy work of Utah without Schroder and other key reserves in the bubble opener, but lost to a deeper team in Denver. Additions like Smith and Waiters should help the Purple and Gold stay fresh.
Due to these factors and the fact that L.A. simply has more star power, bettors are likely to go toward the Lakers' spread. However, OKC can never truly be counted out as relishing the underdog role, and the Thunder moneyline is a strong hedge play due to the high payout.
You'll see much greater point total projections across the NBA, and it makes sense that these teams wouldn't put up a ton of points against each other. Expect a grittier, defensive battle, and though the total is pretty spot on, wagers are likely to skew to the Under.
Note: Odds current as of 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, August 5.
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