Thursday Night NBA Match-up: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

While Thursdays generally offer a substantially reduced amount of scheduled games for NBA Basketball, it’s also been true that some of the best match-ups taking place during the week inevitably fall on this day. That circumstance is no more prevalent than today as despite the fact that just 4 games are on the NBA docket, we are treated to one of the best showdowns you could ask for in the NBA, as the Los Angeles Lakers (31-19, 20-4 home), one of the best home teams in the league, play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder (38-12, 16-8 away), one of the best teams overall and one of the most successful on the road. With tip-off tonight at 10:30 PM ET from the glamorous Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, this is a match-up well worth watching, and certainly well worth a deeper look at for online sports betting at one of the best online sports betting sites reviewed here.

Oklahoma City comes into tonight’s road match-up with the hotter hand, sporting a 4-game winning streak while averaging an astonishing 118.75 points per game. While that average is certainly skewed via a 149 point overtime performance against Minnesota last week, if you look at the 9 other wins for the Thunder this month, they are still averaging 108.5 points per game in wins, by far and away the most prolific scoring figures in the NBA. As per usual, the Oklahoma City Thunder have relied on outstanding play from a select few players, namely Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the last of whom simply has to be considered the favorite for Sixth Man of the Year honors, averaging 17.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. While the Thunder don’t lean heavily on their bench outside of Harden (who accounts for 17.3 of the Thunder’s 32.2 points off the bench per night), they haven’t really had to, considering the ability for either Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook to lead the scoring lines night-in and night-out. For example, in Tuesdays’ 109-95 win over Portland, Westbrook threw down 32 points with 8 assists, while Kevin Durant added 25 points and James Harden put down 21. There’s 78 points of scoring coming from just 3 players…and it happens consistently in every OKC game played. While one would expect some shortcomings via the Thunder’s reliance on just 3 key players, Oklahoma City has excelled by getting good inside play on both offense and defense from Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, and now has a proven veteran leader on board with the recent acquisition of Derek Fisher from the Lakers.

Derek Fisher, while past his prime as a scoring threat no doubt, certainly is missed throughout the Lakers community for his ability to lead by example, and provide a positive role model for younger players on his team. While Los Angeles as a team hasn’t shown much of a fall-off in form without Fisher, winning 3 of 4 games without him, and 7 of their last 10 games to hold third place in the Western Conference playoff race, Fisher is a player that brings a ton of intangibles to the game that could help to give Oklahoma an advantage especially come playoff time. For tonight however, we look past Fisher’s in-game contributions, which won’t play too much of a factor in tonight’s clash against his former team (given that he’s averaged just over 3 points/game for OKC), but rather to how Fisher will affect Oklahoma City’s game-plan via his deep knowledge of his newly-found rivals. Oklahoma City has been trying to find an answer at Staples Center over the years, winning just once there in 12 tries, and with a veteran former Lakers player amongst their ranks for the first time, the Thunder could have the knowledge they need to overcome an L.A. team that has dominated at home on solid defense and impressive rebounding ability.

For the first key to tonight’s game, the battle on the glass will be a crucial point of focus for both squads. Los Angeles, via Andrew Bynum (12.2 rpg) and Pau Gasol (10.6 rpg), rank second in the league with 45.6 rebounds/game, while Oklahoma isn’t too shabby themselves at 43.4 rebounds/game (8th in the NBA) behind Kevin Durant (8.1 rpg), Serge Ibaka (7.9 rpg) and Kendrick Perkins (6.2 rpg). Where Los Angeles may have an advantage tonight in rebounding is on the offensive glass, where the Thunder are tied for 2nd last in the league with just 9.8 offensive boards per game on the road. Los Angeles isn’t that much better at 11.5 offensive rebounds/game at home (14th in the NBA), but against a high scoring team like OKC, any opportunities for second chances could be huge for the Lakers, who find themselves without as much scoring presence across their line-up. Secondly, the one area where Oklahoma City has been susceptible, turnovers, could greatly influence this match-up as well. giving up an average of 16.1 turnovers per game (worst in the league), Oklahoma City though hasn’t really felt the negative side of that stat, as their offense has been more than able to make up for any lack of control with the ball. Against the Lakers however, who are also reckless with the basketball at home (15.8 TO’s, 4th worst in the NBA), this area of the game should have some bearing in tonight’s outcome. The Thunder simply have to avoid the big turnovers against a Lakers team that plays solid defense at home (allowing just 89.1 points at Staples this year). Conversely, Los Angeles has to protect the ball better to avoid allowing the Thunder to get out on fast breaks and keep the tempo up. An OKC team playing fast transition basketball will overwhelm an defense on any given night.

It will be interesting to see how Los Angeles utilizes its new acquisition, Ramon Sessions, in tonight’s game with the Thunder. Sessions has certainly given LA a boost in the scoring department, averaging over 13 points/night in 7 games with the Lakers since coming over from Cleveland, and should pose as a key factor in tonight’s match-up. Most likely assigned to guarding opposing point guard Russell Westbrook, Sessions will have a huge task of limiting one of OKC’s top scorers, as well as providing outside shooting for the Lakers. The Lakers have most certainly been lacking a solid 3-point shooter, as Kobe Bryant has been tasked with being the main deep-shot threat (5.1 attempts per game, though just 28.7 percent of attempts made), and getting Sessions (a 43.4 percent 3-pt shooter on the year) to fill more of that role will definitely help to ease the pressure off of Bryant. Look out for a resurgence of form after Tuesday’s lackluster 7 point performance at Golden State, and expect Sessions to put in upwards of 15-20 points against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t pay too much attention to defensive efforts (allowing over 97 points/game).

For Oklahoma City to pull out a rare victory at Staples Center, defense has to be improved in the face of a Los Angeles team that is starting to show signs of making a serious push towards the playoffs. That starts first and foremost with the battle inside the paint, where OKC has to show better form against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, two of the most capable inside scorers in the league. That puts added pressure tonight on Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, who will have to be diligent in the paint, avoid foul trouble, and make life difficult for the Lakers’ big men. If Los Angeles has success down low tonight, they will likely be able to spread their scoring around the perimeter too, as OKC’s defense will find itself spread too thin to deal with both Bynum and Gasol inside, as well as Bryant and Sessions on the outside. Lastly, the Thunder’s defense has to limit the effectiveness of the Lakers’ bench. L.A. already is one of the worst bench scoring teams in the league, and in the last victory over the Lakers at home, OKC managed to hold L.A. to just 11 points off the bench, and held shooters to just 38.5 percent from the floor. There is no doubt that with the Lakers scoring focused only on their top four players, and with an improved effort on defense, the Thunder could walk out with a well-earned road win tonight before heading into much tougher waters to come (games against Chicago, Memphis, Miama and Indiana to come).

Betting Lines for the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder at Bookmaker Sportsbook

Looking across the betting lines for tonight’s game at one of the best online sportsbooks found on our website, we find the odds very tight between the two teams, as both enter tonight’s game on good form.

On the money line, the visiting OKC Thunder are a slight favorite to win tonight, with -115 odds straight up, while Los Angeles is a slight underdog at -105 odds. OKC is 5-1 straight up in its last 6 games, but LA is 11-1 straight up at home against the Thunder, despite being just 3-3 straight up over the same period.

Against the spread, Los Angeles has not delivered well for spread pickers, going 21-29 this year. Oklahoma City on the other hand has done reasonably well, beating the spread 28 out of 40 times. The spread is tight for tonight’s game as OKC is just a one point favorite, but could be worthwhile especially for Thunder pickers, as the spread offers slightly better odds than taking the Thunder straight up.

Onto the total points line tonight, 200 points sets the over/under tone. Interestingly enough, the total has gone UNDER in 4 of the last 5 meetings between these two teams, but in the last 5 Lakers’ games heading into this match-up, the total has gone OVER each time. While the total has gone OVER in 5 of the last 7 Thunder games overall, it has been UNDER in 6 of OKC’s last 8 games played on the road. That seems to point to a higher likelihood of points staying under, especially with Los Angeles intent on playing quality defense at home against the league’s top-scoring opposition.

Make sure to look over each of the betting lines available tonight at Bookmaker Sportsbook, or any of the other top online sports betting websites reviewed here, and get ready for an exciting and action-packed Western Conference showdown at Staples Center tonight!

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