LeBron James will miss his 12th straight game as the Los Angeles Lakers (24-21) head to Chesapeake Energy arena to take on Paul George, Russell Westbrook the the Oklahoma City Thunder (26-17) on Thursday night.
The groin injury James sustained on a Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors continues to keep him out of the purple and gold. James, who has missed 11 games now, did not travel with the rest of the Lakers as they prepare for consecutive road games in Oklahoma City and against the Houston Rockets.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James is nearing a return, which could possibly be Monday against the same Golden State Warriors on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Betting Line & Odds
The Lakers have had their documented struggles without James, and that will continue against the Thunder on Thursday. As of now, the Thunder remain the -10 betting favorite, and the over/under is set at 227 points, which has increased from the original opening total of 223.5.
The Moneyline remains unkind to Los Angeles, currently at +435. Oklahoma Coty is -500. The Thunder are a big favorite because, for the most part, they have been one of the better teams in the NBA in regard to taking care of business this season. The Thunder are 23-20 against the spread this season, which is good for eighth in the NBA.
The Lakers haven’t been the only team struggling since December. Oklahoma City, still sitting comfortably at third in the Western Conference, have shockingly lost seven of their past 12 games dating back to December 23.
Oklahoma City under Billy Donovan has lost defensive focus during its recent stretch. The Thunder gave up 142 points to the Atlanta Hawks in a loss on Tuesday night. Paul George, at times the Thunder’s best player in 2018-19, commented to reporters following the loss:
“We were a bit flat. These are the games that we’ve got to be ready for — the ones where we’re supposed to come in and roll them over. Those are the teams that we’ve got to come out and match the energy they give us.”
It’s hard to evaluate the Lakers without LeBron. Good news is Kyle Kuzma has stepped up in recent weeks and looked like a major building block who will remain in Los Angeles for the three remaining years on LeBron’s four-year contract. Bad news is Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, despite good stretches, have still not taken a leap. The Lakers’ collective free throw percentage remains a paltry 68%.
Prediction: Thunder 124, Lakers 108