Nets vs. Lakers Odds
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
The NBA gifted this marquee matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers to their fans to see the league’s biggest stars collide in the prime-time slot of the Christmas Day slate. However, this dream matchup will be a lot less starry thanks to the recent league wide outbreak of COVID-19.
Before the season started, these two teams were both favorites to win the NBA Championship. The Nets still look like they are on track for success despite not having Kyrie Irving. On the other hand, the Lakers have a lot of work to do. They are off to a slow start and are one game below .500.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant, two of the greatest NBA players of all time, don’t get to face off very often. They’ve only faced off in 21 games during the regular season in their storied careers. They haven’t played against each other since Christmas of 2018.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook, former teammates and childhood friends, will get to play each other after their less-than-amicable split from the Rockets. And Harden, Westbrook and Durant haven’t been on the court together since Harden was traded from the Thunder. Let’s not forget the James and Irving dynamic.
With so many exciting narratives at play, this game could be huge in a normal year.
This could be a bigger Christmas moment than Shaquille O’Neal vs. Kobe Bryant facing off for the first time after O’Neal left the Lakers in 2004. It could be bigger than Phil Jackson’s notching his 1000th win back on Christmas in 2008. It could’ve even been as great as the Cavaliers vs. Warriors Finals rematch thriller on Christmas of 2016 where Cavaliers edged the Warriors out 109-108.
This could’ve be bigger than Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago on Christmas Day!
But alas, this recent outbreak has hit both teams hard and COVID is looking to play the role of the grinch that steals Christmas from us all. The Nets have had all three of their games postponed this week. The Lakers also have numerous players going through COVID protocols; it’s an absolute mess for both teams.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has no plans of pausing the season. Instead, many teams are signing G-League players and veterans to fill in for the time being.
With so much uncertainty on this matchup, let’s break down what we do know about both teams and where the value lies in the matchup.
Nets Rotation Too Thin
James Harden, Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter have cleared protocol and can now be available for the big game. However, three new players have entered protocol: Cam Thomas, David Duke and Kessler Edwards.
As of the morning of Christmas Eve, most of their other key rotation players are still in COVID-19 protocol, including Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bruce Brown, James Johnson, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Bembry.
The Nets will have a massive rest advantage and have gotten some much-needed days off for their stars. Harden and Durant have been logging in some hefty minutes at 36.2 and 37 per game, respectively. However, Durant won’t be among them.
With Harden as the lone star, I am much more pessimistic about the Nets’ chances. Harden has been known to shrink in big games, especially when he is the main go-to person. If he does not get the calls he normally gets or doesn’t get his shot going, he becomes passive and looks for someone else to defer to. With few options, the Lakers can focus on putting the clamps down on Harden on the defensive end.
The Lakers’ Westbrook, Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan have all been former teammates of Harden. With Harden as the focal point, I think they all are aware of his tendencies and will know how to better defend him.
Patty Mills should have a big game and many open shots with the Lakers’ full attention on Harden. I will have my eye on the over on Mills’ points props. I potentially see a nice opportunity for him to have a high-scoring game.
Struggling Lakers Motivated on Primetime Stage
Lakers will be at home capping off a three-game homestand. Unlike the Nets, they did not get any games off and had to power through with their limited roster. They’ve lost four games in a row and have continued piling onto their disappointing season.
Ariza recently joined Austin Reaves, Malik Monk, Avery Bradley, Kent Bazemore and coach Frank Vogel in the list of Lakers in health and safety protocol.
Big man Anthony Davis will be out for a while with an injury, so the Lakers have been forced to adjust their game plan. They are shooting more 3-pointers recently; however, they aren’t hitting at a high rate. Anthony, Wayne Ellington and Isaiah Thomas are all known chuckers. If the Lakers want to win this game, they will need to hit their 3-pointers, but the Nets are first in the NBA in 3-point percentage allowed (31%).
Aside from being a Christmas Day game, this will also mark the first game the Lakers play in the rebranded Crypto.com Arena. They bid adieu to the legendary Staples Center and they will look to start off their first game in the newly named arena with a win.
I expect James to show up big in this game. We all know he loves the spotlight and basketball fans all over the world will be tuned into this game. He will want to silence all the doubters that have criticized this Lakers for failing to meet expectations all season long. I think he will be motivated to get a win in the first game in the newly named arena, another accolade he can add to his legacy.
Finally, James has a chance to surpass Kobe Bryant on the NBA’s all-time Christmas scoring list. He enters the matchup with the Nets just 12 points behind Bryant on the list, so this is the cherry on top for motivation.
All signs point to Durant sitting out this game. Barring any changes to that assumption, I think the Lakers are the play here.
The Nets are well-rested, but I think the Lakers are the more motivated team. They will be looking to turn over a new leaf in their first game in the rebranded Crypto.com Arena. They will be able to focus their defensive efforts on Harden while so many other key players remain out of the lineup.
Bet on “The King” to make history to become the all-time leading scorer on Christmas and for the Lakers to get the win at home. The current line is a pick’em and my recommendation is a bet on the Lakers, up to -2.
Pick: Lakers PK