NBA betting odds: Lakers favored vs. Nets in marquee matchup, but lean on Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Co.

There are only three games on the NBA schedule this Thursday night, but while we don’t have quantity, we definitely have quality. In the second game of a nationally televised doubleheader, the Los Angeles Lakers will host the Brooklyn Nets in one of the most anticipated games of the year.

Unfortunately, the matchup has lost a little bit of luster due to injuries. Anthony Davis is out for a few weeks due to a calf injury and Kevin Durant’s hamstring will keep him on the sidelines for this game. Still, there will be plenty of star power on the court in this potential Finals preview. 

So with the Lakers entering as slight favorites, how should you bet this one? Let’s take a look:

Line via William Hill Sportsbook

Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers -3

Case for the Nets: Riding a four-game winning streak, and undefeated so far on this West Coast road trip, the Nets have climbed to second place in the Eastern Conference and are playing some of their best basketball of the season. Kyrie Irving and James Harden have come to an agreement about their backcourt roles — “You’re point guard, I’m shooting guard … simple as that” — and they’re proving right now that good offense beats good defense. 

While Durant is sidelined, they have won the last three games he’s sat out because they still have two of the best offensive talents in the league in James Harden and Kyrie Irving. In 148 minutes this season with just Harden and Irving and no Durant, the Nets still have a plus-4.8 net rating. 

The Nets are on an absolute roll right now and facing a Lakers team that is just back from a cross-country road trip to play the Minnesota Timberwolves, and is very average without Anthony Davis. So far this season, the Lakers have a 106.7 offensive rating sans Davis, which is equivalent to 26th in the league. That’s terrific news for a Nets team that isn’t great on the defensive end. 

Case for the Lakers: They’ve won eight of their last nine games, and have lost just five times since the calendar turned to 2021.  And though they’ll be without Davis, that hasn’t been much of a problem this season, as they’re 5-1 in the six previous games that he’s missed. 

That’s largely because though Davis is one of the best individual defenders in the league, their defense has remained elite even when he’s sat. In fact, the numbers are actually slightly better for them on that end of the floor without Davis, as their defensive rating improves from 106.2 to 102.3 when he hits the bench. 

With one of the best offensive units ever assembled rolling into town, the Lakers will need to lean on that strong defense on Thursday night. The Nets have shown time and again that they just want to outscore teams and won’t do too much defending, so if the Lakers can figure out how to slow them down, they’ll be in good shape. 

The verdict

There are valid cases for both teams, as shown by the small line, and the injuries figure to make this a little unpredictable. However, if we have to lean one way it will be toward the Nets. 

Even though they’ve continued to win, the Lakers haven’t looked quite right for a while, They had to go to overtime in three straight games against some pretty bad teams earlier this month, and barely beat the Timberwolves the other night. Now they’re back in L.A. after that cross-country trip, and playing without Davis who is so important to everything they do. 

The Nets might be shorthanded, but they’re on a roll and even without Durant have so much firepower. Brooklyn could easily win this game outright, so we’ll take the points. 

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