Lakers vs Clippers Gives NBA Bettors Tantalizing LA Question
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The NBA arms race in Los Angeles has not disappointed. When Anthony Davis joined LeBron James and the Lakers, they became favorites for the NBA title. But the “favorite” mantra was quickly handed off to the across-the-hall Clippers when Kawhi Leonard left the defending champion Toronto Raptors to join the red-and white and they added star Paul George.
As the NBA resumes play Thursday following its All-Star Break, the Lakers (41-12) have the best record in the Western Conference. The Clippers (37-18) are in the No. 3 spot, one game behind the Denver Nuggets, but injuries haven’t yet allowed the Clippers to be their best.
If a trip to the Finals goes through L.A., which Staples Center tenant has the advantage? Let’s break down the matchup from an NBA betting perspective and choose a side most likely to win the West.
The Milwaukee Bucks, the leader in the East with the NBA’s best record (46-8), are the NBA futures betting favorites to win the NBA title. But this is about the Western Conference. And in the West, Hollywood rules.
At PointsBet, both sit at +150 to win the West.
When the season started, the Clippers were the favorite. Their odds to win the NBA title were +350. One would assume that doesn’t mean much now, but preseason odds have shown to be astonishingly accurate. The past 10 years, the preseason favorite has advanced to the NBA Finals.
Teams that win NBA title have stars to lean on, and there’s no shortage of them on either side of the L.A. fence.
We haven’t seen the best of what the Clippers’ duo of Leonard and George can do at the same time. Leonard has missed 13 of L.A.’s 55 games, George has missed 21.
The Clippers have had a whopping 26 different starting lineups this season, but when Leonard and George have both been in it, the Clippers are 18-6 (.750).
Meanwhile, there is no bigger star-studded duo than James and Davis. Combined, they’re averaging 51.6 points and 17 rebounds per game. James also leads the NBA in assists (10.8) and Davis is a shot-blocking menace at 2.8 bpg.
We know what we’re getting with the Lakers. They’ve had just seven starting lineups, and when James and Davis are both in it, L.A. is 35-9 (.795).
If the Lakers lead in stars, the Clippers certainly lead in supporting cast. Aside from Leonard and George, they have four other players averaging in double figures. Based on matchups the Clippers have a solid No. 3 scoring option in either guard Lou Williams or post presence Montrezl Harrell. That’s not even counting the recently acquired Marcus Morris, who’s averaging 19 ppg between the Knicks and Clippers.
The Lakers’ No. 3 scorer is Kyle Kuzma (12.6 ppg) but he’s shooting just 43.7%, including 33.2% on 3-pointers. Nobody else is averaging more than 10 ppg. Even Lakers legend and former team president Magic Johnson admits the Clippers have the depth advantage.
Results So Far
The Clippers have beaten the Lakers in both regular-season meetings so far. Each game was tied going into the fourth quarter, but the Clippers won by five and 10 points.
Oddly enough, James and Davis didn’t lead the team in scoring in either showdown – Danny Green did in one, Kuzma in the other. Leonard, meanwhile, went off for 30-plus points in each.
One other key note: George didn’t play in the first one and went 5-of-18 shooting in the second one. The Clippers still won.
Bet against LeBron James at your own risk. That said, going against Leonard, last year’s Finals MVP, isn’t a good idea either.
The Clippers have a far deeper bench, two stars to rely on and have the regular-season results to prove they can hang, regardless of which team is the higher seed. When Leonard led the Raptors to the title, they were the No. 2 seed in the East.
When it comes to the Battle of L.A., the Clippers have the edge.