By Mark Strotman | | 5 mins
Lakers-Blazers Odds: Should You Bet On Lillard To Upset LA?
The Blazers made quick work of the Grizzlies in the NBA’s play-in round, advancing to Round 1 and a matchup with LeBron James and the Lakers, who are overwhelming favorites in NBA playoff odds to win the series at -450.
The Blazers are the hottest team in basketball (with the exception of the Suns, who didn’t make the playoffs despite going 8-0 in the bubble). But does Portland actually have a shot to become the first team since 2012 to knock off a top seed in Round 1 and hit on its +375 odds at DraftKings?
Why The Blazers Could Beat The Lakers
Remember when shooting and scoring were supposed to be down in the bubble? Damian Lillard didn’t get the memo. The five-time All-Star was out of his mind during the restart, averaging 37.6 points on .497/.436/.888 shooting.
He’s the hottest player in Orlando right now, and he singlehandedly brought Portland to this spot with games of 42, 45, 55 and 61 points in wins. He also added 31 points and 10 assists in the win over Memphis. One player can win a playoff series and Lillard is on an incredible stretch that puts him in that category.
Portland Supporting Cast is Red-Hot
Lillard has rightfully gotten the headlines, but the Blazers aren’t in the postseason without some spectacular supporting cast performances. C.J. McCollum closed out the Brooklyn win to get them to the play-in game and had 29 points in the win over Memphis. Carmelo Anthony is turning back the clock with 20+ points in five of nine games, while Gary Trent has exploded as a sixth man, shooting 50% from deep (35 of 70) in the bubble.
Lillard will need to be All-Pro every night for the Blazers to have a chance, but he has hardly had to do this alone. There are plenty of scorers on the wing as second, third and fourth options.
Blazers Frontcourt Finally Healthy
When the season shut down in mid-March, Zach Collins had been deemed out for the year with a shoulder injury and Jusuf Nurkic was nearing a return — but nowhere near 100% — after a gruesome broken leg suffered the previous season. The four-month hiatus allowed both to return from their injuries, and they’re significant contributors, helping Portland’s depth immensely.
Nurkic has been outstanding. In nine bubble games, he is averaging 18.1 points and 11.4 rebounds. Combine that with Hassan Whiteside, and Portland has the makings of a frontcourt that can go toe-to-toe with either the Lakers or the Clippers. The layoff did wonders for Portland, one of the reasons it was able to advance.
If you think all of this enough, then you should grab the +375 at DraftKings. However, we’re not sold, and we’ll tell you why.
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Why The Blazers Won’t Upset The Lakers
Blazers Defense Their Downfall
Here’s where the good news ends. The Blazers' offense is humming, but the defense is not. Portland’s defensive rating of 120.4 was third worst in the bubble, and it is really showing no signs of improvement.
The Blazers have won four straight, but in those games they’ve allowed 121, 131, 133 and 122 points, and won by a combined 11 points. Their offense had to be elite just to sneak by some marginal teams. That’s a recipe for disaster in the postseason — six of the other seven West playoff teams rank in the top-11 in offensive efficiency.
LeBron James’ Playoff History
The Lakers were awful during the eight-game restart. Only the 1-7 Wizards had a worse net rating (-9.4) than LA’s -6.6 mark, while the Blazers ranked seventh in that category (+2.1) while playing a more difficult schedule.
There’s reason to be concerned about the Lakers' offense and woeful shooting, especially given the depth of talent in the West (and the dominant Bucks looming in the East). The Blazers are a popular upset pick in some circles, with some looking at the latest NBA title odds and seeing opportunity.
Chuck: “The Portland Trail Blazers are getting to the Finals." ?pic.twitter.com/ASaGmBH7CV— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) August 15, 2020
Still, the Lakers are the easy play here. James becomes a different player in the postseason, and his teams follow suit, as do those who follow NBA betting trends closely.
Since 2009, James-led teams are 40-6 SU and 27-19 ATS in Round 1 games. The Cavs and Heat, of course, advanced all 10 times, and just one of those series went beyond five games — if you’re looking for a trend, consider the under. In those 46 first-round games, the under has hit 29 times (63.0%).
Don’t give into recent play or momentum bias. The Lakers will have a game plan for Lillard and the offense will return to its top-5 ways against a porous Portland defense.