For Lakers fans, the seven-game winning streak for the purple-and-gold is surely nice and cozy, but for bettors who have been backing the Lakers, L.A. has been downright frigid. The Lakers’ last three wins have come by a total of eight points, meaning three straight failures to cover against a pair of teams that are 5-10—the Thunder (twice) and the Grizzlies. This constitutes a crisis. What’s the point of winning seven straight if you’re not drubbing the league’s bottom-feeders in the process?
The big culprit has been the Lakers defense, which was No. 1 in the league at 99.8 points per 100 possessions a week ago. In the last three games, though, the Lakers have adopted a new defensive posture: the shrug. They have given up 49.6 percent shooting and 38.2 percent 3-point shooting in the three games, for a defensive rating of 114.4 in that span. The overall defense dropped from first to fifth thanks to those lax performances.
That means it’s not a great time to get the Spurs, who have been a nifty offensive machine in recent weeks, averaging 113.1 points on 49.3 percent shooting in their last eight games—the team shot better than 45 percent in all eight games and topped 50 percent four times. The flip side is that the Spurs—yes, those Spurs—have one of the worst defenses in the league, allowing 113.1 points per 100 possessions, 26th in the NBA. They’re 6-11, the kind of team the Lakers should be chewing up, but also the kind of team the Lakers have definitely not been chewing up.
Lakers vs. Spurs Preview
As disappointing as the Lakers’ D has been in the past week, the number that matters here is what San Antonio has done at home. The Spurs have lost three straight and four of their last five at home. They’re 4-4 at home, which includes tight Ws over the Blazers and Wizards, neither of whom should require tight Ws. In all, the Spurs are 1-7 ATS on their home floor.
For any visiting team, a trip to West Texas generally does good things for the shooting percentage. The Spurs allow 47.7 percent shooting on their home floor, and they’ve done so against teams that otherwise shoot 45.9 percent. That’s an increase of 1.8 percent among the worst marks in the league.
If this makes you wonder why the Lakers are only favored by 5.5 points, we remind you how bad the Lakers defense has been lately. With a shootout in the offing, the over/under is fairly high (223 points) but probably reachable. Both sides are due for some course corrections, the Lakers likely to see a defensive improvement soon and the Spurs likely to cool off from the field. But let’s just assume that won’t happen tonight.
Lakers vs. Spurs Pick & Prediction
PICK: Lakers -5.5
OVER: 223 points
SCORE PREDICTION: Lakers 123, Spurs 107