Bookmaker: Lakers Would Be Favored vs. Clippers in L.A. Series, But Not in Orlando
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers, LeBron James #23 of the LA Lakers.
The Los Angeles Clippers are the one team that may actually benefit from the considerably awful circumstances of the NBA’s resumption of play.
Everyone has been anticipating an LA vs. LA Western Conference Finals since last summer when Anthony Davis joined the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard teamed up with Paul George to join the Clippers. There’s been a solid consensus that the Clippers have an advantage over the Lakers, going 2-1 vs. the Klutch Sports West Coast in the regular season.
However, the Clippers’ location and arena naturally cause issues in a series. The Lakers’ fanbase isn’t just larger than that of the Clippers, it dwarfs it by a magnitude. In a potential playoff series at Staples, there just aren’t enough Clippers season ticket holders to drown out what would still be a partisan Lakers crowd for Clippers “home games.”
But the move to Orlando, with no fans, negates that. And that moves the odds on a potential series.
Jeff Sherman, Vice President of Risk Management for Westgate Superbook, told The Action Network this week that the series price for a series at Staples, with fans, would be Lakers -120.
In Orlando, fully healthy, under the NBA’s current set conditions, the line moves to Clippers -120.
That’s not any sort of significant movement, it means going from 45% implied odds to 55%. But in a series between two of the league’s best teams, that difference might be the deciding factor. Starting every game, even your home games, at a disadvantage, is a problem game by game. If a game should be a 55% opportunity in a crucial Game 4 for the Clippers, having it be 45% is a pretty big deal.
The Clippers are the only team that has two top-flight perimeter defenders with the physical size to guard LeBron James. That doesn’t mean they’ll completely neutralize him, but it puts more pressure on Anthony Davis, who has struggled in key situations this season.
The Clippers, before the suspension, ranked third in offensive rating and fifth in defense, compared to the Lakers who were fourth in offensive rating and third in defense.
It’s an even matchup, tilted by the perception that the Clippers’ playoff fastball has the most heat of any team in the league. That’s an unproven and untested theory, but it’s based on Kawhi Leonard’s historical performance. Much of this depends on him, just as it did last season with the Toronto Raptors.
The Lakers are currently +160 to win the Western Conference at FanDuel, the Clippers are +190. So you’ll get better value now on conference title odds than you will in a series for the Clips. That adds in risk for the Clippers to lose to the Nuggets and Rockets, both of whom got wins vs. the Kawhi & Co. in the regular season, but that’s probably the move right now.
I have less confidence in their chances against a potential Eastern Conference matchup, particularly the Bucks.
Overall, the change is minimal. It’s not a dramatic adjustment. But if you were leaning towards a Clippers future for the Western Conference of NBA title before COVID-19 brought the world to a halt and are still considering such a future, there’s even more reason to go in.
The Clippers having an advantage by not having home games is the most Clippers thing, ever.