NBA on TNT Thursday Night Picks: L.A. Lakers at Golden St. Warriors

Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors

Time: 9:30 PM CST (TNT)

Spread: LAL -10.5

Total: 223.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Los Angeles Lakers have won six straight and eight of its last 10 to improve to 44-12 on the season. It leads No. 2 Denver by five full games, and it travels to face the Golden State Warriors in the first game of a Thursday night TNT doubleheader. The Lakers are 10.5-point favorites, with the over-under set at 223.5 according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.

LAL NEWS & NOTES:

The Los Angeles Lakers are now 43-12. It is currently seated atop the Western Conference with a three-game lead over the No. 2 seeded Utah Jazz. The Lakers have won five straight and seven of its last 10.

It appears the gamble to wager so much young talent to obtain Anthony Davis has paid off thus far. Davis leads the team in scoring, providing a powerful punch that LeBron James has done little more than feast from.

The Lakers rank No. 8 in the Association in scoring at 113.7 points per game while possessing a defense that limits teams to just 106.1. The Lakers also rank No. 7 in the league in assists per game as a team, tallying an impressive 26.1 per game.

James, of course, ranks highest in the assist category, even with the dime-dropping Rajon Rondo coming in to play alongside him. James is averaging 10.9 assists per game, to go with his 25.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks/steals per game. Davis is leading the way with 27.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists while coming up with 1.4 steals and 2.5 blocks per contest.

The missing thing, if anything, has been the Kyle Kuzma that Los Angeles is used to seeing. Kuzma has played 25 games this season since returning from injury, but he has only started one of those. He averages just 23.8 minutes per game, and his shooting percentages are mediocre at 42 percent field goals and 35 percent triples. Kuzma averages the third-most of any Laker at 12.2 per game, but he really should be over at least 15 points per game. Avery Bradley is the No. 6 scorer at only eight points per game, though Bradley is known to be a defensive pest and that is his primary focus while on the court.

Kuzma, meanwhile, is known to be a shooter but not really excelling in that lone aspect of his offense. Rondo, as mentioned, comes off the bench to play 21 minutes a game, picking up nearly six assists in those limited minutes. The biggest pleasant surprise has undoubtedly been Dwight Howard. While his numbers are far from eye-popping, he has embraced the role of a defensive-minded presence whose job is to protect the rim and grab boards.

Howard has averaged just under 20 minutes a game, providing just under seven points, seven rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He has rotated well on defense, communicated, and been something of a second-unit leader. The Lakers are pleased with their low-risk investment in Howard, which drew more than its fair share of criticism even though the Lakers were not contractually bound to the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

To be sure, he is not the “same guy” that averaged over 21 points per game for the Orlando Magic. That All-Star form is firmly in the past, but Howard’s defensive energy is partly responsible for the Lakers’ overall turnaround as a team on the defensive end. Davis is, naturally, an even bigger part of this picture, but the Lakers were expected to be a slow team on defense, and that has been nowhere close to true, even with Davis often playing the 4-spot.

In fact, so many things have fallen into place that other than getting better play out of its No. 3 scorer in Kuzma, it is hard to find any other areas of overt weakness in the Lakers approach thus far in 2019-20.

GOLDEN ST

The Golden State Warriors are just 12-46 on the season and in the last place in the Pacific division and also in last place in the West. It is, thus far, the worst team in the entire Association, in fact. The Warriors have lost its last seven overall.

This is an unfamiliar territory from a team that had boasted four All-Stars a season ago. Out is Kevin Durant, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets, while the Warriors are also without sharpshooter Klay Thompson. D’Angelo Russell was a dynamite scorer, but the Warriors are also without Stephen Curry for a long period this season due to an injured wrist. Draymond Green is the only one of the Warriors’ top-4 players from a year ago to suit up at this point.

Russell was ultimately dealt for swingman Andrew Wiggins. The jury will remain “out” on that trade for several seasons, but Wiggins is just 24-years-old and could fulfill his massive potential in a Warriors uniform once Curry and Thompson are back in tow.

The next on the list of active scorers though is rookie and second-round pick Eric Paschall. He has been impressive, almost like a more offensive (and of course less defensive), Draymond Green. Paschall is averaging 14.1 points, 4.5, and 1.8 assists per game.

Golden State scores just 106.3 per game. So, with a patched-up roster consisting of a lot of rookies, young talent, discarded reclamation projects (like Willie Cauley-Stein), the Warriors are simply not a team that stacks up to most of the other teams in the Association anymore.

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