Portland at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: POR -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The L.A. Lakers keep on winning, and Lonzo Ball keeps getting better. Following another near triple-double, Ball and the Lakers ride a 5-game win streak back to the Staples Center where it hosts the Portland Trail Blazers as 2.5-point underdogs in NBA action Monday night on NBA TV.
The game will tip off at 9:30 PM (CT) and has an over/under set at 224.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The L.A. Lakers have won its past five, with victories over Dallas, Sacramento, Atlanta, Miami and San Antonio. Three of those five teams are out of the playoff chase, and the Lakers have been playing their best ball of the season. The Lakers hung 131 points on the defensive-oriented Miami Heat in a 131-113 win, as Isaiah Thomas recaptured some of his mojo in scoring 29 points on 11 of 20 shooting.
Power forward Julius Randle also had a big game, scoring 25 points and grabbing six boards while starting and playing 34 minutes. Former starter Kyle Kuzma came off the bench behind Randle to hit 6 of 10 from the floor in 28 minutes en route to 16 points. Randle had 25 points and three assists in 33 minutes in the 116-112 win over San Antonio.
The Lakers did start Lonzo Ball at the 1-spot, and the rookie came through with eight points, six steals, seven assists and six rebounds while posting a team-best +24 in his 34 minutes on the court against the Heat. Ball does so many of the small things, and he is really making an impact as the numbers reflect the Lakers playing better ball with the former UCLA guard on the court. Ball has averaged 7.5 points and six assists in three games since returning from injury, but his game against the Heat was probably his best since returning from injury. Against San Antonio, Ball had 18 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds while shooting 6 of 10 from three-point range, a supposed weakness of his, but an aspect that has been coming along.
After the Heat contest, Miami guard Dwyane Wade was impressed, and called himself a “fan” of Lonzo Ball, and Luke Walton said he was “the best player on the court, though he only shot five times,” adding, “He is a unique player who can impact the game all over.”
The Lakers may have a long-shot to make the postseason, but with the pieces coming together and the way the team is playing, the future is probably far brighter far sooner than most have anticipated. Ball is the real deal, even if the hype from his father has cast a light on him far brighter than he wanted to deal with.
Portland has been getting some real superstar play from 2-guard C.J. McCollum.
While Damian Lillard is having an outstanding season, it was McCollum scoring 50 points in just 29 minutes of play for his second career 50-point game. McCollum is averaging 19.7 points and 2.5 assists over his past 10 games, and this season against OKC he has averaged 24.5 points and four assists in the teams’ two meetings.
Portland is 37-26 and currently has a No. 6 ranked defense with a defensive rating of 106.6. The Blazers are No. 3 in the West as of today, trailing No. 2 Golden State by an insurmountable 12 games.
Its offense ranks No. 13 with a rating of 108.4. The Blazers have one of the strongest backcourts in the Association, but it has issues with depth, particularly in the frontcourt behind starting center Jusuf Nurkic. Meyers Leonard shows flashes but is a defensive liability, and rookie Zach Collins is not yet ready, either. Lack of depth and perhaps need for yet another perimeter stud caps Portland’s potential and makes them a likely first round out to a 3 or 4 seed in any showdown.
Nurkic was an upgrade over the departed Mason Plumlee, but he still is unable to play massive amounts of minutes and the Blazers struggle when he is on the pine. McCollum has emerged as a legitimate second star alongside Lillard, but the Blazers still seem a man short. Perhaps Carmelo Anthony even would have been better suited in the Northwest, but until the Blazers get Lillard another perimeter star and some depth behind Nurkic, they will likely even fall short against legitimate Eastern Conference playoff foes like tonight’s Pistons draw.