Thunder vs. Lakers Odds & Picks: L.A. Is a Nightmare Matchup for OKC

Credit:

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: Steven Adams and Dwight Howard

  • Raheem Palmer breaks down Wednesday's Lakers vs. Thunder matchup, complete with analysis of the odds.
  • Los Angeles is a matchup nightmare for Oklahoma City, so where's the betting value?
  • Palmer makes his pick on a key player prop.

Thunder vs. Lakers Odds, Picks

Thunder odds +6 [BET NOW]
Lakers odds -6 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -220/+205 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 217.5 [BET NOW]
Time 6:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

Odds as of Wednesday morning and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


The Thunder played well above expectations this season and beat some of the best teams in the league, but not the Lakers. OKC went 0-3 against L.A. before the NBA shutdown in March.

Now they face off for a fourth and final time, with the Lakers already wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the West.

Where is the betting value in this matchup? Let’s break it down.

Oklahoma City Thunder

When you have a point guard like Chris Paul who is notoriously careful with the basketball, you shouldn’t have many turnovers. During the restart, however, turnovers have been OKC’s biggest issue.

The Thunder are seventh in the league in turnover percentage, turning the ball over on 13.6% of their possessions. During the restart, that’s been at 18.6%.

The three-guard lineup of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder has been dominant and the driving force behind OKC’s success this season. In 401 minutes together, the team has an Offensive Rating of 127.1, Defensive Rating of 98.6 and a Net Rating of +28.6.

OKC missed Schroder in Monday’s loss against the Nuggets as he left the bubble for the birth of his child; he’ll be absent against the Lakers.

That isn’t the only concern. Terrance Ferguson has been a key rotational piece and will remain out against the Lakers after missing the past two games with a right lower leg contusion. The Thunder are also dealing with the absence of Mike Muscala, who was diagnosed with a concussion against the Nuggets. He isn’t as important but will hurt the depth.

Andre Roberson has spent all year recovering from a serious knee injury, but OKC’s scrimmages indicate that he’s still an elite defender, and he’s trying to add a 3-point shot to his game.

It may not happen in the short term, but I expect him to be a key rotational piece for Oklahoma City at some point in the bubble as he works his way back from knee surgery.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with Monday’s win over the Utah Jazz and have nothing to play for. The Lakers haven’t done much load management this season and have elected to build chemistry and continuity by playing games while limiting their stars in practice.

Anthony Davis filled up the stat sheet Monday night against the Jazz with 42 points after a disappointing showing against the Raptors. It’s becoming increasingly clear that if the Lakers are going to win a championship, Davis has to be their MVP.

The Lakers are at their best when AD is aggressive offensively without sacrificing his defense. Although AD has been adamantly against playing the 5, for the Lakers to be at their best, he’ll need more minutes there.

LeBron had been coasting through the restart, and it appears he found his rhythm against the Jazz, putting up 22 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, two steals and one block.

The Lakers’ current starting lineup of KCP, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee hasn’t been at its best since the restart, posting a Net Rating of -27. We saw them dig out of a 13-0 hole to start the game against Toronto and start slow against the Jazz.

The big question mark for the Lakers moving forward is how they replace Avery Bradley. As I said over the weekend when breaking down their matchup against the Raptors, the Lakers are 9.2 points per 100 possessions better with Bradley in the the starting lineup vs. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Most of that was on defense, as their rating jumps from 101.4 points per possession with Bradley in to 113.5 with KCP.

I’m sure the Lakers would like to go into the playoffs with their starting lineup playing as well as it did pre-lockdown, so I expect them to take some of their remaining games seriously based on their approach to load management this season.

The question is … which games?

Betting Analysis & Pick

There’s a lot of question marks surrounding this game — mostly how motivated the Lakers will be coming into this matchup. The Lakers have the Rockets on the back end of a back-to-back on Thursday.

Under normal regular season circumstances, this would be a classic lookahead spot for a team that is coming off clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. But under these circumstances, it’s likely we see the Lakers play one game to keep a rhythm and punt the other one.

Seeing the Bucks struggle with the Brooklyn Nets, who rested Jarret Allen, Joe Harris and Caris LeVert, should be a warning sign for anyone who underestimates the impact of motivation on a teams playing in the bubble. None of Milwaukee’s starters played more than 20 minutes; Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton each played 16 minutes.

The Lakers struggle with athletic teams that like to run and push the pace such as the Raptors or the Rockets, who they get Thursday. The Thunder don’t fit the bill: They’re 22nd in pace at around 99.16 possessions a game.

In addition, the Thunder struggled with the size of the Nuggets, and the Lakers could replicate that with Davis, McGee and Dwight Howard.

I like the Lakers in this matchup but I have absolutely no interest in playing this game. Sports betting is about finding value, and I don’t believe there’s much value in playing the Lakers in this spot outside of live betting them if they have another sluggish start. The six-point spread is priced properly, and for a team as popular as a the Lakers, their perception often doesn’t meet reality in terms of fair lines.

In terms of one bet I do like, with the absence of Schroder, second-year PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has finally had the opportunity to play as the team’s primary PG when CP3 is on the bench.

Although Chris Paul will start at PG, Thunder coach Billy Donovan will stagger the minutes of Paul and SGA with no third point guard available. SGA played 13 minutes at PG and had a 25.1% usage rate in his game against the Nuggets, up from his average of 23.7%.

We should see an uptick in his minutes at PG against the Lakers if he can stay out of foul trouble. Given that the Thunder is shorthanded without Schroder, Muscala and Ferguson, they will need his scoring.

SGA is averaging 19.4 points and 3.3 assists per game. With the Lakers’ struggles in defending guards (see Kyle Lowry’s performance), I think we see a dominant performance from SGA.

The PICK: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Points + Assists Over 24.5

[Bet now at FanDuel. NJ, PA, CO, IN and WV only.]

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