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Lakers Overtake Clippers as Pacific Division Favorites After Improving to NBA Best 22-3 Record

Sam Cox

by Sam Cox in NBA Basketball

Dec 13, 2019 · 7:40 AM PST

LeBron James reaction with Anthony Davis
LeBron James has powered the Lakers to an NBA-best 6-1 start so far this season. Photo from @ESPNStatsInfo (Twitter).
  • Los Angeles Lakers have the joint-best record in the NBA at 22-3
  • LeBron James and Anthony Davis are in the running for MVP 
  • Lakers have overtaken the Clippers in latest Pacific Division betting

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night to move to 22-3, the joint-best record in the NBA. As a result, the Lakers’ odds to win the Pacific Division have shortened.

For the first time this season, the Lakers are favorites in the latest NBA Divisional odds, having pipped the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers’ average price is now -113; it was +117 as recently as November 26th.

This major change in the betting markets comes with the Clippers in second place in the Western Conference. Four games back in the loss column, however, the Lakers risk running away with not just the division, but the Conference too.

2020 NBA Pacific Division Odds

Team Odds
Los Angeles Lakers -150
Los Angeles Clippers +120
Phoenix Suns +10000
Sacramento Kings +10000
Golden State Warriors +25000

Odds taken Dec. 13th

Clippers Resting

Kawhi Leonard has missed seven games so far this season. Paul George spent several weeks absent through injury – the Clippers will be cautious with the former Indiana Pacer.

Leonard’s load management has been a primary talkshow and podcast topic in the NBA over the last few years, and that’s not going to change this season. The Clips are doing all they can to keep Leonard fresh for a deep postseason run, and that means missing out on a lot of regular season action.

The Clippers are 4-3 in games that Leonard has sat out. The four wins without Leonard have come in the last four games without him. In part, that’s because of George’s presence, but it’s also been helped out by relatively favorable opposition in the Pacers, Grizzlies, Thunder and Hawks. Even a Clippers team without Leonard or George would be favored in most of those matchups.

It will be interesting to see how selective the Clippers are with the timing of Leonard’s rest. It remains to be seen if George will be load managed in a similar manner, though there’s no doubt they will be wary of overplaying him. This Clippers team has the depth – as we saw last season – to be competitive against most opponents without having both superstars.

Will the Lakers Drop Off?

The early lead the Lakers have built requires a significant drop off if the Clippers are to force their way back into the division race. The Lakers have had one of the easiest schedules in the league thus far – they have played 18 games against teams currently under .500. It gets much trickier in the second half of the season. Their schedule, like all of LeBron James’ teams, is backloaded for more nationally televised games after the football season.

There’s little to no chance the Lakers keep up a 22-3 pace. James and Anthony Davis have missed one game between them so far (Davis sat out the second night of a back-to-back when the Lakers beat the Warriors by 26 points). That will change, either through injury or rest. As the schedule toughens (and there are a few challenging games to come in December), the Lakers will lose games, and the gap to the Clippers could quickly close.

Davis’ injury history and the fact James is in his age-35 season suggests the Lakers would be wise to give them nights off. The Lakers’ role players have been excellent thus far, but we are yet to get a clear idea of how they would fare without James or Davis against reasonable opponents. Davis’ on/off numbers, for instance, are not pretty, which could be a cause for concern if James rests later in the season.

Still Like the Clips

There’s a risk the Lakers’ odds shorten further in the coming weeks. With road games against the Heat, Bucks and Blazers, as well as home matchups with the Nuggets, Clippers and Mavericks before New Year’s Day, however, it seems unlikely. Their record could look very different by the time 2020 starts.

Even with a notable deficit, the Clippers are the better bet of the two at +120. Their schedule over the rest of December is much weaker, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them regain their status as Pacific Division favorites.

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