NBA on TNT Thursday Odds: Los Angeles Lakers at Brooklyn Nets

L.A. Lakers at Brooklyn

Time: 7 PM CST (TNT)

Spread: LAL -5.5

Total: 228.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Los Angeles Lakers have lost two of its last four as it takes to Brooklyn. L.A. is 19-4 SU on the road this season and is 5.5-point favorite at Brooklyn, with the betting total set at 228.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.

LAL NEWS & NOTES:

The Los Angeles Lakers are now 35-9. It is currently seated atop the Western Conference with a four-game lead over the No. 2 seeded Utah Jazz. The Lakers have lost two of its last four overall, but still boast a +7.6 point differential, the second-best in the league.

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.

BRK NEWS & NOTES:

Brooklyn enters as losers of its last four. The Nets are 18-24 but still very much in the playoff chase. It is seeded No. 8 with a 2.5 game lead on the No. 9 Detroit Pistons.

Is Brooklyn really in a chase though?

A superficial glance at his stats would indicate “yes,” but there is far more to it than that. Irving has been questionable in terms of his leadership, and he is doubtfully really making his teammates better while he is on the court. Even so, LeBron James’ former sidekick is putting up numbers: 28.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game. Perhaps what has really enabled the success though is the play of Spencer Dinwiddie, who is a legitimate All-Star this season. Dinwiddie was expected to regress with Irving joining the fold, and the opposite has happened: He is having his best career year.

Dinwiddie is averaging 22 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game while posting the third-highest PER of any Net (18.54). Caris LeVert has missed the majority of this season after suffering an injury early in the season. Prior to going down, LeVert was averaging 15.6 points and 3.4 assists per game. He is needed as a third scorer in the starting lineup, and his subtraction only appears to be minor. LeVert has a penchant for finding his offense and he would take some pressure off of Irving and Dinwiddie, and indeed, the Nets will be far more formidable when he returns to the fold. The injury to his thumb was expected to cause him to miss 4-to-6 weeks after having surgery, but there is no real time table on his return even so.

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