One of the most anticipated games of the NBA's regular season is Thursday night when the Brooklyn Nets visit the Los Angeles Lakers as that is the favored exact Finals matchup via oddsmakers. Alas, this meeting has lost some luster with Kevin Durant out for the Nets and Anthony Davis on the bench for the Lakers. Kyrie Irving will return from a one-game absence for Brooklyn, which is a 2-point underdog on the NBA odds at William Hill Sportsbook. Check out the SportsLine Projection Model's simulation for this game.
Los Angeles is a +110 favorite to repeat in the West and +240 to win another NBA title, while Brooklyn is the +140 leader in the East and +350 second favorite to win its first-ever championship. Thursday might be their only meeting before potentially the NBA Finals as it's not clear if the teams will play in the second half of the schedule because they reside in different conferences. All teams from the East and West will not play home-and-homes this year with the slate shortened to 72 games. Some will, though.
Davis was ruled out likely until the All-Star break early this week with a calf injury. The Lakers improved to 5-1 without AD this season with Tuesday's 112-104 win at Minnesota. Kyle Kuzma has been starting when Davis has sat, but Kuzma had only seven points vs. the Timberwolves. LeBron James had 30 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Durant (29.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 5.3 apg) has missed the past two with a hamstring injury and obviously the Nets want to play it safe with him. Brooklyn has won both without KD, shockingly so in Phoenix in the second of a back-to-back Tuesday, 128-124, with Irving also sitting. The Nets were down 21 at the half and had been 0-106 in franchise history when trailing by 21+ points at the half.
Irving was out with what is being called lower back tightness, but it was more likely simply that it was the team's second game in 24 hours, and he's listed as probable here. Of course, Irving and LeBron led the Cavaliers to that franchise's lone NBA title with the 2016 Finals shocker over the Golden State Warriors.
The Nets and Lakers have one other thing in common: Interest in Cleveland center Andre Drummond if the Cavs can't trade him and Drummond is bought out of his contract.
Of course, Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd played for the Nets for years and was the team's head coach during the 2013-14 season. Nets coach Steve Nash played for the Lakers from 2012-15. The Hall of Famers were teammates with the Phoenix Suns from 1996-98.
Brooklyn has won six straight games vs. Western Conference opponents this season (8-3 overall) and is 6-0 vs. West teams currently in playoff position. The Lakers are 3-7 against the spread in their past 10 at home.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times, and it returned over $5,000 in profit on its top-rated NBA picks last season. The model is also up more than $8,400 on top-rated NBA picks over the past two-plus seasons. Dating back to last season, it enters Week 9 of the 2020-21 NBA schedule on a stunning 83-48 roll on top-rated NBA picks against the spread. Anybody who has followed it has seen HUGE returns.