NBA Betting Odds, Picks and Predictions: Lakers vs. Rockets (Thursday, August 6)
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets.
Editor’s note: After this after was published, LeBron James was ruled out, moving the spread from Lakers -1 to Rockets -2.5 and the over/under from 226.5 to 223.5. Check out our Labs Insiders tool to stay up to date on the latest NBA injuries and lineups.
Lakers vs. Rockets Betting Odds
|Lakers odds||+2.5 [BET NOW]|
|Rockets odds||-2.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+136/-114 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||223.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
Thursday features another full slate of NBA action, headlined by a showdown between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are the odds-on favorites to win the title this season — they’re listed at +250 at DraftKings — while the Rockets rank fifth at +1400.
Both squads have also started strong in the bubble, with each posting a mark of 2-1 through their first three games.
That said, will either team bring their A-game to this contest? Let’s break it down and try to identify the betting value.
The big news for the Rockets is that Russell Westbrook has been listed as questionable with a quad injury. According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Rockets are anticipating “being without Westbrook” on Thursday, so it’s possible he’s closer to doubtful.
If he’s unable to suit up, that’s going to leave the Rockets pretty shorthanded. They’re already down Eric Gordon, and the Rockets played just an eight-man rotation in their last game.
Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore stand out as the most logical candidates to replace Westbrook in the starting lineup if he’s ultimately ruled out. That obviously looks like a huge downgrade on the surface.
Digging deeper though, it’s possible that the absence of Westbrook could work as a positive for the Rockets. They’ve actually decreased their Net Rating by -1.5 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook on the court this season (per Cleaning the Glass).
With Westbrook off the court, James Harden has taken on an even larger offensive workload, and that is undoubtedly a good thing for the Rockets. Harden has increased his usage rate by +7.9% in nine games without Westbrook this season, which brings his average to an otherworldly 45.1%. If we look at games without Westbrook and Eric Gordon, that number increases to 45.7%.
Harden’s combination of volume and efficiency is basically unmatched by the rest of the league. He ranks eighth in touches per game this season – which is probably lower than you’d imagine – but he’s averaged 0.406 points per touch. That’s the top mark among all players who have averaged at least 65 touches per game this season.
Even if you think that Harden is “boring” or “doesn’t play the game the right way”, the fact that he is a prodigious scorer is undeniable.
Ultimately, the Rockets have posted a record of 5-4 without Westbrook as long as Harden suits up, so his absence is far from a death blow.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Rockets aren’t the only shorthanded team in this matchup.
The Lakers have already clinched the top spot in the Western Conference, so they really have nothing left to play for during the seeding games. They will also be playing on the second leg of a back-to-back, so it’s not surprising that they’ve decided to give LeBron James the night off. Even in his 17th season, James is still the driving force for the Lakers. They’ve increased their Net Rating by +9.7 with LeBron on the court this season, which puts him in the 93rd percentile for all NBA players.
LeBron has been the engine the drives the Lakers all season. He’s arguably playing as well as he ever has in his 17th season in the league. His scoring numbers are down a smidge, but he’s made up for it but handing out a career-best 10.4 assists per game. That puts him on pace to lead the league in that category, which is something he’s never done before.
The good news is that the Lakers will likely have Anthony Davis in the lineup. He’s currently listed as probable, so he’ll get the opportunity to run the show in tonight’s contest.
Is that enough to propel the Lakers to a victory? I’m not so sure. No disrespect to Davis, but he hasn’t been nearly the same dominant force as LeBron in 2020. The Lakers with Davis on the court and James off the court have been a clear downgrade:
- Both players On Court: +9.1 Net Rating
- LeBron On, Davis Off: +10.5 Net Rating
- Davis On, LeBron Off: -0.9 Net Rating
Again, this is not meant to be disrespectful to Davis, but it’s clear to see why LeBron is one of the greatest players of all time.
LeBron isn’t the only injury the Lakers are dealing with either. Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley remain out, and Alex Caruso is listed as questionable.
Head Coach Frank Vogel has previously stated that he would like to see the full roster on the court during the seeding games to try to build rhythm before the playoffs, but the health of the roster is obviously the first priority.
With LeBron already out, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Caruso get the night off as well. He’s been one of the most important role players for the Lakers this season, ranking second on the team with a Net Rating differential of +5.3.
Betting Analysis & Pick
This is an interesting betting situation because of all the uncertainty. Neither of these teams will be at full strength, and neither has much incentive to give this game their full attention.
That said, the Rockets seem to have more to play for. They are currently tied with the Thunder for fifth in the Western Conference standings, and finishing fourth of fifth means they should avoid the Clippers in the first round.
The Clippers could finish either No. 2 or No. 3 in the conference — they’re just 0.5 games up on the Nuggets — but everyone knows they are more talented than their record indicates. They have basically treated the regular season like a glorified warmup for the playoffs, so no one wants to play them. I also think the Rockets are much better equipped to handle their absences than the Lakers are to play without LeBron.
I recommended grabbing this line before it moved in an earlier edition of this piece, but I still think you can play the Rockets at the current number.
The Pick: Rockets -2.5