The Los Angeles Lakers started the NBA season with ambitions of a title. Right now, they’re just trying to make sure they end it in the play-offs. Hollywood’s most dysfunctional family are hanging on to the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference and on Sunday, and they’ll have to keep scrapping when they ‘visit’ the LA Clippers.
The Lakers have won three straight games, including valuable defeats of Memphis and Dallas, and with signs of a little internal combustion from their neighbours, they will harbour some hope of avoiding a 4-0 season sweep. And although Steve Nash might sit out for the Lakers, he has struggled anyway in his match-up with Chris Paul.
More might rest on the clash between the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Lakers’ Pau Gasol, with the latter producing one of his best games of the campaign with 19 points and 9 rebounds in Friday’s victory over the Grizzlies. A repeat could give the edge to the Lakers, who are worth a punt on the handicap to make their rivals wait at least one more game before stealing away the Pacific Division crown.
The longest winning streak in the NBA will come under severe threat when New York bid for an 12th consecutive victory in their visit to Oklahoma City. It’s also a battle of the NBA’s two top scorers as Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony duel.
Durant is averaging 28.4 per game, including 34 when OKC edged out the Knicks 95-94 last month. Anthony, on 28.3, missed that one but he’s been in red-hot form, averaging 43.7 points over his last three games. Expect both gunners to come out firing again, which could push the total points over the line of 196.0.
But the Thunder have lost only once at home in their last eleven appearances and are fresh from crushing two high-calibre opponents in Indiana and San Antonio. With the top spot in the West within reach, back OKC on the handicap of -8.0 at 1.91.
Best bet: Take the LA Lakers to beat the LA Clippers