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NBA Odds & Picks for Clippers vs. Lakers: Back Kawhi & Co. to Spoil Ring Night

NBA Odds & Picks for Clippers vs. Lakers: Back Kawhi & Co. to Spoil Ring Night article feature image

Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers.

  • The Los Angeles Clippers and LA Lakers face off on opening night as the reigning champions begin their quest for another championship.
  • The Lakers enter Tuesday's matchup as the favorite, but Raheem Palmer thinks the market may be overvaluing the champs.
  • Check out his full game breakdown of the matchup, including his favorite betting picks.

Clippers vs. Lakers Odds

Clippers Odds +2.5 [BET NOW]
Lakers Odds -2.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -150 /+125 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 219.5 [BET NOW]
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds as of Tuesday 8:30 p.m. ET and via BetMGM. Get an INSTANT $500 deposit match at BetMGM today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

The NBA season is back!

Just two months after winning their 17th NBA championship, the Los Angeles Lakers kick off the 2020-2021 NBA Season against the LA Clippers who failed to meet expectations in the bubble after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.

While this matchup wasn’t in the cards for the Western Conference finals, we’re thrilled to start the season with the long awaited battle for LA.

With the Lakers set to receive their Championship rings, can Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers ruin the ring ceremony and snatch the crown? Or will LeBron James show us that “the King stays the King?”

LA Clippers

The Clippers finished the 2020 regular season with the league’s second-best Net Rating (6.3), second in Offensive Efficiency (113.3) and fifth in Defensive Efficiency (106.9), per NBA Advanced Stats. However, chemistry and cohesion issues doomed this team when it mattered last season and the Clippers appear to be well on their way to correcting those issues.

Former head coach Doc Rivers has been replaced by Tyron Lue. Serge Ibaka came over from the Toronto Raptors to replace disgruntled big man Montrezl Harrell who left for the Lakers this off season. While losing the reigning Sixth Man of the Year is considered a significant loss for the Clippers, Harrell was a defensive liability who could be hunted off the floor by LeBron in crunch time.

It was Doc’s decision to play Harrell over Ivica Zubac in the playoffs, which largely cost him his job. Unlike most of the world, I was bearish on the Clippers’ chances of making or winning the NBA Finals in 2020 because I didn’t trust Rivers to properly manage the minutes of Harrell and Lou Williams given their defensive deficiencies.

I don't trust Doc at all to manage the minutes of Lou Will & Montrezl in high leverage situations. Even with Kawhi & PG out there, we've seen their defense struggle because of Lou and Harrell's deficiencies. During the last Lakers/Clippers game Lebron hunted them into oblivion.

— raheem palmer (@djrtodaizza) June 7, 2020

I ended up being right. With the Clippers posting a team-worst -11.6 Net Rating in the playoffs with Harrell on the floor, and a -30.1 Net Rating while sharing the floor with Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers will benefit by replacing him with Ibaka while also playing Zubac more minutes off the bench.

In one of the more surprising moves, the Clippers will be starting Ibaka over Zubac, which means they’ll be playing a lineup of Patrick Beverley – George – Leonard – Marcus Morris – Ibaka. Although Ibaka isn’t the defensive anchor that Zubac is, having five shooters to space the floor will make this offense even more dangerous.

The Clippers even traded Landry Shamet for Luke Kennard. While both are 40% 3-point shooters, Kennard is bigger and a more capable pick-and-roll scoring threat. While the Clippers did lose the tough and versatile JaMychal Green, they did pick up Nic Batum who provides another wing off the bench in place of Leonard and George.

The new moves haven’t particularly translated in the preseason, however as the Clippers went 0-4 and posted a 99.6 offensive rating and a 115.4 defensive rating. It is just preseason and this team is still learning Tyron Lue’s new system so I wouldn’t take too much from it.

LA Lakers

The defending champions enter this season as clear cut favorites to win back-to-back championships. James and Anthony Davis are the best duo in the league and just having a merely competent roster around them makes them a contender. Despite their lack of consistent 3-point shooting, they dominated in the playoffs on the way to an NBA title.

Although the Lakers will be receiving their championship rings Tuesday, this is a much different team as they’ve replaced five key rotation players — JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Danny Green and Avery Bradley. Rarely do you see this much turnover in key roles from a championship team.

In the front court, Marc Gasol and Harrell step in for McGee and Howard. I’ve covered Harrell’s defensive deficiencies above, but he is instant offense off the bench and Gasol continues to be one of the best defensive centers in the league. The Spaniard should add an element of passing and playmaking from the center the position that the Lakers didn’t have last season.

The Lakers lost Bradley (who opted out of the bubble) and traded Danny Green, who shot just 25% from deep in the seeding games and 33.9% in the playoffs. They were replaced with Wesley Matthews who shot 39.5% from behind the arc in the 2020 playoffs during his tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Although the Lakers may miss Rondo’s experience, they acquired Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Dennis Schröder, who should give them a well needed ball handler, scorer and creator outside of James.

While I have questions about Schröder and Harrell in the post season, they’ll make the Lakers a better regular season team as they should crush opposing benches offensively while providing the opportunity to load manage James and Davis.

If there’s anything that brings me pause about this Lakers team, it is the drop off in rebounding without McGee and Howard. In the playoffs, they had an Offensive Rebound Rate of 31.6%, second behind the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers had just a 20.4% Offensive Rebound Rate in the preseason, down from 31.3% in the previous preseason.

They were able to mask their 3-point shooting deficiencies with defense and rebounding, so their role players will need to shoot better from behind the arc this season.

Nonetheless, with James, Davis and their newest additions, plus another year of experience for Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (maybe the emergence of Talen Horton-Tucker), the Lakers have more than enough to repeat. 

Clippers-Lakers Pick

Last season, the Lakers and Clippers split their four meetings with each team winning two games apiece. However, the Clippers had a 3-1 edge against the spread, even winning last season’s opening night matchup without the services of George who was recovering from shoulder surgery.

In the past 10 seasons, favorites in opening night games are 23-8 straight up (74.2%), but just 14-17 ATS (46.2%). Championship teams haven’t done well ATS on opening night either, per our Bet Labs database. Although they are 12-3 SU in the past 15 seasons, they’re just 6-9 (40%) against the spread since 2005.

This is hardly a substantial sample size, but it’s clear championship teams are being overvalued throughout the market on ring night.

Here are three of the six covers on this list:

  • 2019 Raptors vs. Pelicans  (no Zion Williamson)
  • 2017 Cavalier vs. Knicks (yuck!)
  • 2016 Warriors vs. Pelicans (73-win season)

I wouldn’t say those teams started out the season punching at their own level, but the Lakers are punching at their level in this matchup.

The Lakers enter the season with minimal time to rest after playing deep into October and the Clippers were getting trolled all offseason — this is their chance to get right. James has played on opening night nine times throughout his career. In the four games in which James’ teams were laying points, they were just 1-3 ATS.

My model makes this game a PK and while perception and the market says the Lakers have gotten better by adding Gasol, Schröder, Matthews, and Harrell, I’m not buying that they’re now three points better on what is essentially a neutral court at Staples Center without fans.

I like the Lakers’ additions, but they will feel the loss of McGee and Howard on the offensive boards.The Clippers playing 5-out, getting rid of Harrell and adding a new voice in the room in coach Lue, I believe they’ve gotten better just as much as the Lakers, despite the market not pricing it in.

I’ll take the +3.5 with the Clippers and sprinkle a small portion of my wager on the ML.

Pick: LA Clippers +3.5 | Clippers moneyline +135

[Bet the LA Clippers at BetMGM and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

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