Banana boat buddies LeBron James and Chris Paul will square off Tuesday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Lakers have been the class of the Western Conference, while the Oklahoma City Thunder are a team searching for a new identity after trading its franchise point guard Russell Westbrook this offseason, for Paul.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis is battling a sore shoulder but is probable for this matchup against the Thunder. The Thunder have been healthy for the most part all season but are still without defensive-minded Andre Roberson. The Thunder are winless on the road this season, 0-5 overall, while they are 3-2 against the spread on the road. The Lakers are favored by 10 in the matchup, with the O/U set at 211.5.
Not Exactly Favorable
With the Thunder playing so poorly on the road this season, this is exactly the contest they don’t want to play right now. Looking at the splits, it’s quite obvious that it’s Oklahoma City’s defense on the road that’s been the issue. They give up four more points on the road than they do at home, averaging over two fewer blocks per game, while at the same time averaging three more offensive rebounds, which is rather confounding.
Floor general Paul’s play has started to become more consistent and resemble the Paul of the past. He’s averaged 18 points, six assists, and two steals per game over his last six games, which is a considerable bump in his season numbers, which sit at 16.7, 5.3, and 1.8. Paul’s home and away splits are also rather confusing this season, as he averages more points but fewer assists. His offensive rating drops from 123 at home to 112 on the road, while his defensive rating actually improves from 105 to 106.
Line ’em Up, Knock ’em Down
Los Angeles is likely not worried about the visiting team, regardless of who they are. The excellent and efficient play of James and Davis together has been no huge shock for NBA aficionados. The play of the Lakers role players and bench players has been a pleasant surprise though, and one that should propel them into a deep playoff run.
James leads the league in assists while Davis leads the league in blocks. While they will be without Avery Bradley, who is averaging nearly 10 points per game to go along with his phenomenal defense, they will look to Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green to step up their game and minutes. Kuzma is complementing James and Davis very well, averaging over 14 points per game. Green is shooting over 42 percent from beyond the arc as well.
Is 10 Points A Lot?
In today’s NBA, the answer to that question is no, 10 points is not the spread that it once was. The Lakers’ efficiency on both ends of the floor will likely give Paul and company fits. However, if anyone in the league can pick apart a defense, it’s Paul.
The question here is can the Thunder keep it close, rather than can they come out on top, and I don’t believe they can. The Lakers win here, and likely in blowout fashion. They are the pick, and they cover the 10 points.