The Los Angeles Lakers continue on their journey to stay afloat in the Western Conference standings in Thursday’s inter-conference clash with the Miami Heat. A win over the Toronto Raptors may not mean much to some teams, but it meant everything to the slumping Lakers on Tuesday. Every victory buys the team time before the big two, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, returns to the floor. Meanwhile, the Heat recently had a four-game winning streak snapped by the Memphis Grizzlies.
Cavalry could be coming for the LakersRejoice, Lakers fans.
There is hope around the corner with Anthony Davis potentially returning after the team’s current road trip, which extends through next Tuesday. Granted, that isn’t a certainty, and given the nature of the injury (Achilles), there could just as easily be a setback as far as the timeframe. LeBron James’ targeted return could reportedly be at the end of April. But how much damage will be done when the big two gets back on the floor together?
That’s the biggest question hanging over the team in the final stretch to the playoffs. They have already slipped from second place in the Western Conference standings to the fifth seed. It’s a huge problem considering other talented teams are pounding on the door for playoff contention. The Lakers need at least Davis to return to help ensure the team doesn’t fall out of the race entirely. They helped themselves by beating the Raptors on Tuesday.
But can they beat the Heat?
It’ll be a much stiffer defensive test than the one the Lakers faced against the Raptors. Miami is ranked sixth in the league in defensive efficiency, and they’re only allowing 44.7 percent shooting this season. Throw in the fact that they constantly create turnovers, and it’s easy to see how this thing could go from competitive to nightmare at the snap of a finger. Let’s face it, the Lakers are limited in what they can do offensively until James and Davis returns.
Perhaps the only saving grace is the fact that they haven’t gone off the rails defensively. Even without the big two, they’ve held their position as the league’s top-ranked defense. Adding Andre Drummond as a rim protector and janitor on the glass only strengthened that position. But like James and Davis, Drummond is expected to be out on Thursday.
Miami gets cooked from deepThe Heat was feeling some heat from the 17 3-pointers the Grizzlies dropped on their head on Tuesday.
It was one of those rare defensive letdowns that ended with them getting cooked in a 124-112 loss. Even with Victor Oladipo in the lineup, the Heat aren’t a team that typically excels in offensive shootouts. They’re still at their best when frustrating teams defensively and grinding out wins on the offensive end of the floor.
But the Grizzlies got hot enough to end Miami’s four-game winning streak. The Lakers may not be scaring anyone right now on paper, but they just knocked down 18 3-pointers to beat the Raptors.
The Heat better be ready or they could end up on a menu for a second straight outing.
It’s important for them to take the Lakers’ confidence early in this matchup. They’ll need a much better defensive effort by contesting shots and cleaning up on the glass. The latter isn’t necessarily a strength for the team, but they need to compete for rebounds and eliminate the second-chance shot opportunities.
Drummond won’t be on the floor for Los Angeles. Sothere’s no excuse for the Heat not to at least be competitive on the glass.
They also have to continue to improve offensively. As great as the Heat have been on defense, they’re going to have to score a lot of points to keep up with the elite teams in the league.
And it all starts with Jimmy Butler.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Lakers are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
- Lakers are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game.
- Lakers are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games playing on 1 days’ rest.
- Lakers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game.
- Heat are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
- Heat are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games as a favorite.
- Heat are 15-6-1 ATS in their last 22 Thursday games.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Lakers’ recent 3-point clinic against the Raptors is about to get shut down in Miami. Go ahead and put up the red tape and stick a foreclosure sign out front.
Toronto ranked in the bottom-half of the league in perimeter defense, while opposing teams are only averaging 36.3 percent shooting from long distance against the Heat. They’re still clearly one of the best defensive teams in the league, and they’ll be a handful to deal with for a Lakers team riding the back of their bench.
Don’t expect any mercy from the Heat in this one considering this is another rare opportunity for them to stick it to the team that beat them in last season’s NBA Finals. That little nugget combined with the team already coming off an ugly loss at home makes this a recipe for a beatdown. It doesn’t help matters that the Lakers are the second-worst team in the league in turnovers. Those struggles have been even worse without James and Davis on the court.
The Heat will get things going offensively on a night where they’ll have their way with the Lakers on the defensive end of the floor—a two-way effort that leads to an impressive bounce-back victory.
I’m laying the points and taking Miami.
Full-Game Total Pick
The Heat have hit their stride a bit offensively with the team averaging 112-plus points in their last three consecutive outings. Things are only going to improve as Victor Oladipo asserts himself more into the plans. The Lakers have showed some tremendous fight defensively, but they clearly aren’t the same team without James and Davis on the floor. They won’t even have Drummond available for this game, either.
The Heat might actually have a chance to compete on the boards. They’ll certainly compete on the offensive end of the floor by exploding out of the gates and hanging more points than expected on the wounded Lakers. This Heat team has revenge in mind. Give me the over in this one.