A long, frustrating and ultimately disappointing season finally comes to an end for the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Tuesday night. 2018-2019 was supposed to be the ‘Rebirth of Showtime’ with LeBron James donning the purple and gold. It ended up going about as badly as it could have gone. LeBron missed several weeks during the heart of the campaign and along with injuries to other players, poor chemistry, poor defensive effort and unrealistic expectations the whole thing came crashing down. The result is another year out of the playoffs for the Lakers but the first for LeBron since his second year in the league. That means there will be some significant changes made over the off season. Head coach Luke Walton could take the fall and the entire lineup could look drastically different come next season.
In the other corner, the Portland Trailblazers are having a very good season and check in to this contest with a record of 51-29. They still have a theoretical chance of catching the Houston Rockets for the #3 spot in the West though they’d have to get some help from the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight. More realistically, they’re locked into the #4 spot with the Utah Jazz 2 games back at #5. Portland has been in very good form of late winning 8 of their last 10 games and 12 of their last 15. They’re only 4-6 ATS in their last 10 and 8-7 ATS in their last 15 so it could be that they’re getting a bit overvalued relative to the numbers they put up on the court. They’re just 20-20 SU on the road this year though they have gone 21-19 ATS. They have been a very good road favorite going 12-2 SU/11-3 ATS in 14 spots as an away chalk this season.
It’s not apparent whether its a case of lowered expectations or lowered pressure, but the Lakers have actually played better since they were eliminated from the playoffs and LeBron James was ‘shut down’ for the year. Los Angeles has covered 7 of their last 9 games after only 1 cover in their previous 11 games. They’ve also gone 6-3 SU during that stretch beating some decent teams outright including Utah, the Clippers, Charlotte and Sacramento. Worth noting that the only road SU victory came at moribund New Orleans meaning that the effort has been particularly strong for the Staples Center faithful.
Portland is relatively healthy at this stage of the season and they no doubt want to keep it that way heading into the playoffs. With the exception of starting center Jusuf Nurkic who is out for the year with a nasty ankle injury the only entry on the injury report is forward Maurice Harkless who is listed as ‘questionable’ for this game. The Lakers have a lot of question marks–Rajon Rondo is doubtful here, Tyson Chandler is out both due to ‘rest’. Kyle Kuzma and Reggie Bullock are questionable. The rest of the Lakers’ wounded are the ones everyone is aware of–LeBron, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball all out for the season.
Given the Lakers’ performance in the closing games of the regular season there’s every reason to think that whomever they end up playing on Tuesday night will turn in a solid effort against a Portland team that might already be looking ahead to a tough first round matchup with the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are better defensively and have been smoking hot–only Houston has a better record than Utah since the All Star Break. The Jazz have won 12 of 14 and are not a team to be taken lightly. Ultimately, just too many points to be laying on the road against a Los Angeles Lakers team that has been a good ATS investment since they were eliminated for the playoffs. In their final game of the season they sure look like a ‘live dog’ given their recent form.