Basketball fans will get a preview of a possible Western Conference Finals matchup when the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz go at it on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. In this post, we’ll be doing our Lakers-Jazz prediction while highlighting the Lakers-Jazz odds.
The Lakers have been skidding since losing Anthony Davis to what is being called a calf strain. The loss off Dennis Schroder has not helped much, either. Los Angeles has lost four of its last five after a seven-game winning streak, with the only victory coming over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Utah, on the other hand, continues to stake its claim as the best team in basketball. The Jazz have won 21 of their last 23, including a blowout victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night.
Can the Lakers get back on track, or will the Jazz continue to steamroll their opponents? Let’s take a closer look at the betting odds for Wednesday’s showdown between two Western Conference elites.
NBA Odds: Lakers-Jazz Odds
Lakers +9 (-110)
Jazz -9 (-110)
Over 219 points (-110)
Under 219 points (-110)
All odds obtained via BetOnline.ag
Why the Lakers could cover the spread
Simply put, the Lakers are really struggling to put things together.
Los Angeles failed to eclipse the 100-point mark in two of its last three games. The Lakers put up 124 points against the Washington Wizards on Monday, but that’s not overly impressive considering they needed overtime and the Wizards are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.
The most concerning element of L.A.’s recent stretch is the inability to shoot the three-ball. LeBron James is 6-for-37 from beyond the arc in his last six games. The Lakers made just 34 percent of their threes against the Wizards, and shot 28.9 percent from deep against the Miami Heat on Saturday.
Despite the shooting issues and missing Davis, however, the Lakers are still grinding on the defensive end of the floor. Plus, they are desperate, and LeBron is not one to accept consistent losing.
Speaking of James, he is getting basically whatever he wants inside the arc even though the three-ball isn’t falling. It would not be a surprise to see LeBron get in the post and operate from there against the Jazz.
Another thing to watch is just how aggressive Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be. Caldwell-Pope is 7-for-13 from beyond the arc in the last two games, and scored 21 points on 15 shots against the Wizards. The Lakers might need him to be every bit as assertive as a scoring wing especially if he is checked by Bojan Bogdanovic, who is one of Utah’s worst defenders.
Head coach Frank Vogel might look to mix up his lineups to help L.A. on the boards, as well. It would not be a surprise, for example, to see more Montrezl Harrell both as an energy guy as well as someone who can give the Lakers second opportunities on the offensive end.
Marc Gasol could be the X-factor. If he is a threat in pick-and-pop, he could draw Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert out of the paint, leaving more room for James to get space in the post and look for driving lanes.
Finally, the Lakers will guard and force the Jazz to move the ball. Utah actually ranks just 21st in assists per game. It might be tougher to play drive-and-kick basketball against a stout Lakers defense.
There’s also the simple fact nine points is a large spread to cover, even for a Jazz team on an incredible roll.
Why the Jazz could cover the spread
The Jazz do pretty much everything at a high level.
They rank second in rebounding and third in three-point percentage. Utah runs shooters off the three-point line and right into Gobert at the rim. The Jazz switch and have versatile on-ball defenders. They don’t give up free points, either ranking first in free-throw attempts allowed per game.
Obviously, the key has been the three-point shooting. Utah ranks first in threes made and threes attempted, while also ranking third in three-point percentage.
The Jazz made a whopping 28 of 55 triples in Monday’s win over the Hornets. Anybody can get hot at any given time, and Royce O’Neal is a capable stretch-4 who lets Gobert dive to the rim and harass opposing teams on the offensive boards.
Los Angeles has defended the three well in recent games, but the Lakers have not controlled the boards in Davis’ absence. They have to contend with multiple shooters on the floor at any given time, as well as Gobert lurking underneath the basket and he and Donovan Mitchell capable of making things happen in pick-and-roll.
The other component here is the Jazz have way more scoring and playmaking off the bench, especially with L.A.’s depth being depleted by key injuries. Jordan Clarkson can fill it up from anywhere on the floor. Joe Ingles is a sniper and gives Utah a secondary ball-handler and capable playmaker. Derrick Favors does the dirty work underneath.
Los Angeles will have its hands full with a Jazz team that is scoring at a high level and can defend with anyone.
Final Lakers-Jazz prediction and pick
I’ve got the Jazz taking this one, but the Lakers to cover the spread. It’s a bold Lakers-Jazz pick, but given the Lakers-Jazz odds, it makes sense.
Utah is ultimately too deep and too sound on both ends of the floor, and Los Angeles hasn’t really found a secondary shot-creator without Davis and Schroder. Kyle Kuzma is the ideal type to fill that void, but “Kuz” has been especially inefficient from inside the arc.
That said, the Lakers are going to scrap and fight for a win. Nine points is simply too large a spread to pick against a team that still ranks first in the NBA in defensive rating.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION & PICK FOR LAKERS-JAZZ: UTA 110, LAL 104 (LAL +9)