Eastern and Western Conference leaders will meet Friday night in Los Angeles when the Bucks come to the Staples Center to take on the Lakers. Both teams have considerable leads in their respective conferences, and they may very well be on a collision course to meet in the NBA Finals. This primetime match up may also weigh heavily in deciding the regular-season MVP as two of the NBA’s best players, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will meet for only the second time this season.
Oddsmakers opened the Lakers as a two-point favorite, but with action coming in on Milwaukee, books are now offering the Lakers -1, PK or even the Bucks -1 in some places. The total is currently holding steady at 227.5 after early action immediately pushed it up from 223. In this clash of NBA powers, the side and total are going to be determined by one simple factor: Can the Lakers shoot effectively from beyond the arc?
Lakers Shooting Struggles
The Lakers don’t exhibit many weaknesses, especially on the offensive end, but at times throughout the season, their lack of effectiveness from the free-throw line and 3-point range has been a slight Achilles heel. As of late, however, they have shown a marked improvement in both categories, but especially from behind the arc, which has translated to winning nine of their last 10 games.
The Lakers lone loss in that stretch came on February 29 at Memphis when they shot just 26% from deep and 58% from the line. Since that loss in Memphis, the Lakers have gotten back on track by going a combined 26 of 68 from 3-point range in convincing wins over New Orleans and Philadelphia.
In an effort to add another scoring and deep threat to their second unit, the Lakers signed Dion Waiters on Thursday. Clearly, the Lakers have identified their weakness and taken concrete steps to address it. Unfortunately, the addition of Waiters is a question mark as it pertains to the Bucks on Friday. His availability has yet to be determined due to the quick turnaround. Any production from Waiters should be considered a bonus.
While the Bucks have only lost nine games all season, in those few defeats their opponents have shown that the clear blueprint to beat them is to shoot effectively from 3-point range. In Milwaukee’s most recent loss on the road in Miami on Monday, they gave up 18 long balls on 49% shooting. Earlier this season the Pacers, Mavericks, 76ers, Spurs and Nuggets all turned in similar performances, combining to shoot 45% or 87 for 193 from 3-point range while securing wins over the Eastern Conference leaders.
Lakers vs. Bucks Betting Line & Pick
Parlays are generally considered a sure-fire way to lose money in the long run, but in this case, the correlated nature of the side and total make a 2-leg parlay the best bet. Look for the Lakers to continue their strong shooting. Not only will it result in a win, but it should push this game over the total as well.
On the flip side of that coin, should the Lakers lay an egg from deep then Milwaukee will likely prevail and keep it under the 227.5 total. By making these plays a parlay, bettors can maximize their upside while minimizing their risk. A win will be more profitable, and in the event of a loss, the parlay will likely be a money saver by losing only one bet instead of two.
Pick: Parlay the Lakers PK and Over 227.5
*Odds provided by VegasInsider