The NBA trade deadline was moved ahead of the All-Star break this season to Feb. 8 and chatter around the NBA is starting to pick up on potential deals. The Lakers, for example, reportedly talked to the Dallas Mavericks about a swap of Julius Randle for Nerlens Noel – not so much that the Lakers love Noel but they want to clear Randle’s salary (Noel will become a free agent). L.A. also is dangling Jordan Clarkson around the league. Here’s a look at two big NBA betting picks this week – check back for the latest NBA odds around gametime. I’ll also have an in-depth preview of Thursday’s big Warriors-Rockets matchup here on Wednesday.
Top NBA Betting Pick & Predictions of the Week – January 2nd Edition
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Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics NBA Betting Pick & Prediction
When: Wednesday, 8 PM ET (ESPN)
It’s a possible preview of the Eastern Conference Finals as of course these teams met in the East Finals last year and made that stunning offseason trade with Kyrie Irving going to Boston and Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, etc., to Cleveland. What would make this even more must-see TV would be if Thomas were playing in his return to Boston – he was a huge fan favorite there.
Thomas will make his Cleveland debut on Tuesday night vs. Portland but for some reason the Cavs aren’t going to play him here in the second of a back-to-back. OK, you can understand not want to play Thomas two games in 24 hours as he’s off a serious hip injury that cut his time short in last year’s East Finals. But why wouldn’t the Cavs throw ESPN, a huge league partner, a bone and play Thomas here instead of Tuesday? Perhaps Coach Tyronn Lue was worried that Thomas would be too jacked up for his return to Boston and might risk injury? He will be on a minutes restriction for a while – he wasn’t expected to play more than 12 minutes on Tuesday vs. the Blazers.
“It won’t be that tough,” Thomas said of sitting out Wednesday’s game. “I know where I am right now and I wouldn’t want to put myself out there to just try to force it. But I can wait until February. I think we play them in February again so I can wait and put on a show then.”
What Can Be Expected from Boston?
Expect the Celtics to honor Thomas with some sort of video tribute and for him to get a warm welcome from the Boston faithful. The Cavs are back in Boston on Feb. 11.
The Celtics opened the season in Cleveland and the Cavs won 102-99 – you surely remember that was the night new Celtics forward Gordon Hayward gruesomely broke his ankle early in the game. He’s not expected to play again this season. LeBron James led Cleveland with 29 points and fed Kevin Love for a critical 3-pointer with 46.3 seconds left to put the Cavs up 102-98.
James became the first NBA player to ever post at least 29 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists in a team’s opener; it was also the first time James had 16+ rebounds in a season-opening game. Irving had a chance to tie it with a 3-pointer at the horn but his shot was short. He had 22 points and 10 assists in his return to Cleveland.
Oklahoma City at LA Lakers NBA Betting Pick & Prediction
When: Wednesday, 10:30 PM ET (ESPN)
It’s the first meeting of the season between these teams – the big storyline here will be surrounding Paul George. Of course, the Thunder traded for him this offseason even though George is set for free agency and it’s no secret around the NBA that he wants to play for his hometown Lakers.
OKC enters on a two-game losing streak, both at home to Milwaukee and Dallas. George on the defense slipping some the last few games: “It’s real frustrating, especially [since] we’ve come a long way offensively.” Russell Westbrook had his 12th triple-double of the season in the loss to the Mavericks.
It doesn’t appear we will get to see Westbrook torch Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball as Ball remains out with his shoulder injury and isn’t considered likely for this one (although it’s possible). Westbrook led the league in scoring last season (31.6 points per game) and leads the NBA in assists (10.0 assists per game). No player in NBA history has ever led the league in scoring and then assists in consecutive seasons.
How Have the Lakers Done Without Lopez?
L.A. also remains without center Brook Lopez and he has been missed defensively. Lopez ranks second in the NBA behind Karl-Anthony Towns in contested two-pointers per game with 10.6, and first in the league in contested twos per-36 with 17.1. Since he went down with his ankle sprain, the Lakers have seen their contested twos per game drop from 46.9 (would rank first in the league) to 40.6 (which would rank 10th).
Scoring in the interior has been a strong suit for the Lakers this season, as the team leads the NBA in points in the paint. L.A.’s 54.9 per game would be the second-highest average ever recorded since the NBA began tracking the stat in 1996-97.
Expert Predictions & NBA Betting Picks of the Week
Take Boston at home as likely a slight favorite. The Thunder will keep the Lakers struggling.