Virtually nothing has been normal about the current NBA season, largely due to the league stoppage caused by the coronavirus. After the NBA’s hiatus, while they attempted to decide on restarting the season, the bubble in Orlando was created, allowing action to return in late-July.
But while the NBA managed to resume its season, it came with a unique format. Specifically, only 22 teams made the cut, and one team that had a ton of work to do in order to make the playoffs was the Portland Trail Blazers. Behind a red-hot Damian Lillard, the Blazers ripped off a 6-2 record in the eight seeding games to create a play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Blazers have advanced past Memphis and will face the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed and NBA title favorite, Los Angeles Lakers.
How We Got Here
The Blazers’ 7-2 stretch to make the postseason and earn a date with the Lakers has been well-documented. But the struggles of LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ squad have been noteworthy on some levels.
The Lakers posted a 3-5 record in the bubble and didn’t look overly-impressive in several spots. They had double-digit losses to the Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings.
Regardless of the ups and downs that come with the NBA bubble, the Lakers are still the No. 1 seed in the West. They will be the favorite to take home the title, at least until their first major slip-up.
The Lakers-Blazers series has been dubbed as not the “normal” No. 8 vs. No. 1 matchup, and it’s fair to say. The recent play of Portland’s loaded roster featuring Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside, and Gary Trent Jr has fans intrigued.
For the Lakers, LeBron and Davis are going to be the focal points and keys to the overall success, but the play of Kyle Kuzma has been impressive. The young forward has scored in double-digits during six of the team’s seven bubble games, while finishing with nine points in the lone outlier.
Kuzma has scored 16 or more points on four occasions and should be pivotal in the Lakers’ championship push.
Betting Line, Prediction & Pick
Betting Line: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers (-6.5 at -105)
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook
Entering the NBA bubble, the Lakers would have been a popular pick to cover 6.5 points against virtually any team in the playoffs outside of possibly the Milwaukee Bucks or Los Angeles Clippers.
As good as the Blazers have been, many fans are curious whether “playoff LeBron” is going to show up in a big way to start this postseason, and if so, it could make all the difference in this series.
As good as the duo of LeBron and Anthony Davis is, they’ll have their hands full with this Blazers roster. With how hot Portland has been over the recent weeks, paired with the number of playmakers in this series, I think we’ll see a number of close games, beginning with this one.
The Lakers will get the job done and win Game 1, but it’ll be closer than the line. I expect LeBron and company to hold off a late surge by the Blazers to win by one basket, setting up the Blazers to cover this line. If you have the option to move the line to +7, it couldn’t hurt to do so here.
Pick: Portland Trail Blazers +6.5 (-115)