May 19, 2012 at 10:30 PM EST
NBA Betting Odds from Bovada
NBA Pointspread: Lakers -1
The Lakers did what they had to when they picked up a hard-fought victory Friday night in Game Three. Oklahoma City still leads the series 2-1, but Saturday night’s game will give the Lakers a chance to square up the series. This is a very rare back-to-back scheduling spot in the NBA playoffs. Which team will this benefit? Let’s preview the all-important Game Four matchup.
Oklahoma City dug a deep hole in the first quarter Friday, but they were able to get all the way out of it. The Thunder actually led through most of the second half, but they couldn’t hold on late in the fourth quarter. Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook combined to score 73 points last night. Unfortunately for the Thunder, the rest of the team combined to score just 23 points. Oklahoma City made just 4 of 17 three-point attempts in Game Three, and they shot just 39.8% from the floor overall.
The Thunder need to do more to push the pace in Game Four. Oklahoma City is clearly at its best when the pace is quick, and the Lakers are the older team here. The back-to-back scheduling spot could certainly help the Thunder, especially if they get out in transition as much as possible.
Los Angeles didn’t play the perfect game Friday night, but they did exactly what they had to do by fighting their way to a tough win. The Lakers made a ridiculous 41 out of 42 free throw attempts in Game Three. Kobe Bryant made all 18 of his free throw attempts. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined to shoot 15 for 16 from the charity stripe. The Lakers won the game because of their aggressiveness and ability to get to the line. Bryant was just 9 for 25 from the floor, but he finished with 36 points. Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake made huge contributions of 12 points each in the win.
The Lakers must continue to try to take advantage of their biggest strength which is their terrific frontcourt. The Thunder have a difficult time matching up with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum when they are being aggressive in the paint. Ramon Sessions was terrific at getting to the hoop in Game Three, and that gets the rest of the team lots of open looks.
Oklahoma City was 14-6 straight-up this year in back-to-back situations. The Lakers were 10-9. The Thunder are 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 road games. The Lakers are 5-13-1 ATS in their last 19 home games.
The over is 6-1 in the Lakers last 7 games when playing on zero days rest. The over is 5-2 in the Thunder’s last 7 games.
Free NBA Pick: Oklahoma City ML
The Thunder had plenty of chances to win in Game Three, and I think Game Four sets up even better for them. Look for them to get more easy buckets in transition in this contest. The scheduling spot should benefit the Thunder here.
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