The Los Angeles Lakers remain the clear favorites to repeat as champions on the NBA odds, but let’s look at some possible Finals matchups if the Lakers were to trip up or perhaps if LeBron James and/or Anthony Davis were to get hurt.
Possible Championship Matchups |2021 NBA Expert Analysis
In last year’s Finals win over Miami, Davis became one of just five players in league history to shoot 50-40-90 or better in the NBA Finals (min. 20+ PPG). Davis also became one of eight players to win an NBA Championship, NCAA championship and Olympic gold medal. LeBron, of course, never played college basketball.
James has embraced the 3-point line like never before so far this season. He is attempting 6.3 3-pointers per game. That ties the career-high he set last season, but James is playing fewer minutes and taking fewer shots than he did last year. So far this season, 34.1 percent of his field goal attempts have come from behind the arc. That tops last season’s career-high of 32.6 percent and his career figure at 22.1 percent.
The Los Angeles Clippers are +300 second-favorites to win the Western Conference and might be the only realistic challengers to the Lakers. The Clippers are 1-0 vs. the Lakers this season, winning 116-109 on opening night. Did you know that the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard is the winningest player in NBA regular-season history with a 399-134 (.749) record?
How about a Clippers-Bucks NBA Finals? Milwaukee is a +225 co-favorite with Brooklyn to win the East. The Clippers haven’t played either the Bucks or Nets yet. Milwaukee and Brooklyn haven’t played, either, but will in Brooklyn on Monday (Jan. 18).
Brooklyn is currently without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and likely won’t have him back until next week at the earliest. Irving has missed a few games due to personal reasons and now may have violated the NBA’s COVID protocols when seen maskless at a birthday party with a lot of people. The league’s COVID-19 guidelines forbid players from going to clubs, bars and lounges. They also ban players from attending social gatherings of more than 15 people. If a player misses a game for a COVID-19 violation, he would lose 1/72nd of his salary, according to league rules.
Once the Nets do get Irving back, they could be tough to beat in the East with how good Kevin Durant has been in the early going. Durant made a big move on the career scoring list Tuesday, scoring 34 points in Brooklyn’s victory over Denver to surpass Adrian Dantley, Dwyane Wade and Elgin Baylor for 28th place. Next up for Durant on the career list is Robert Parish, who is 27th with 23,334 points.
His career scoring average of 27.04 points is in a virtual tie with LeBron James for fourth in NBA history, trailing only Baylor (27.36), Wilt Chamberlain (30.07) and record-holder Michael Jordan (30.12).
The best Western Conference team Brooklyn has faced so far is Denver, which is +900 to win the West. On Tuesday (Jan. 12), the Nets rallied from an 18-point home deficit to beat the Nuggets 122-116. Durant had 34 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds.
Denver coach Michael Malone said his short-handed team might have been a little tired at the end of a tough stretch.
“But we have to find a way to fight through that and hopefully we can realize once again that playing three quarters is not going to get it done in this business,” Malone said. “You have to find a way to play as close to 48 (minutes) as possible and when we do that, I think we have a chance to be a pretty good team.”
The Nuggets probably aren’t a real threat in the West unless they can acquire James Harden, who might be close to being traded. Following Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers, Harden said this of the struggling Rockets: “We’re not even close, honestly, to, obviously, the defending champions (Lakers) and all the other elite teams out there. Chemistry, talent-wise, everything. It’s clear. I love this city. I’ve literally done everything I can. It’s crazy. I don’t think it can be fixed. Thanks.”
Harden scored 20 points or less for the fourth straight game, his longest streak since the 2011-12 season (his final year in Oklahoma City). Houston snapped a streak of 161 straight games with a 20-point scorer (incl playoffs), the longest active streak in the NBA and the longest overall since the Buffalo Braves from Mar 1974-Nov. 1976 (207).
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