- Nets’ NBA title odds improve to +300 amid an 8-game winning streak
- Lakers remain favorites despite 4-game losing streak
- Clippers, Bucks, Jazz round out the top-5
The Los Angeles Lakers have been the presumptive betting favorites to win the 2021 NBA title ever since they lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy last fall. Los Angeles reloaded what was already an impressive roster this past offseason. Barring a dramatic age-related decline for LeBron James or a major injury to Anthony Davis, there was no reason to believe the Lakers couldn’t repeat this season.
While the Lakers are still the favorites, the Brooklyn Nets are closing in quickly. Brooklyn has been among the title favorites since the offseason thanks to the expected returns of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but the Nets’ odds were boosted in January after the acquisition of James Harden.
The Harden era in Brooklyn got off to a wobbly start, but the team has quickly righted the ship. Entering play Friday, the Nets’ eight-game winning streak is the longest active streak in the league. The fact that Durant has played in just one of those games due to injury should be of concern to fellow title contenders.
Brooklyn hasn’t been mopping the floor with the dregs of the league, either. Over the course of the streak, the Nets have taken down the Pacers, Warriors, Suns, Clippers, and, yes, the Lakers. After Thursday’s blowout victory over Orlando, the Nets’ 2021 title odds moved to +300, which puts them narrowly behind the defending champs at +280.
Durant still has no firm timetable for his return from a hamstring injury, but head coach Steve Nash doesn’t believe it’s a long-term issue. Durant is leading the Nets in scoring with an average of 29 points per game, but Harden and Irving have picked up plenty of the slack during his recent stint out of the lineup. The Nets have also gotten quality contributions out of the likes of Bruce Brown, Joe Harris, and Landry Shamet in recent games.
Lakers’ Injury Woes
The Lakers have plenty of issues of their own. Anthony Davis will be sidelined until after the All-Star break with an Achilles issue, while Dennis Schroder has missed the last few games due to COVID protocols. Schroder is expected to return to the lineup for Friday’s game against Portland, which should give the Lakers a much-needed offensive boost.
LA enters play on Friday at 22-11 on the season, but they have lost each of their last four games. The Lakers were hardly competitive on Wednesday in Utah, when they fell 114-89 at the hands of the red-hot Jazz. Los Angeles’ lone win in their last six games was a fairly narrow win over a Timberwolves team that recently fired head coach Ryan Saunders.
The return of Schroder will take some pressure off of LeBron James, but this team has no hopes of repeating as champions if Davis is missing or hobbled by his nagging Achilles injury. Frank Vogel has shuffled his starting lineup over the last few games in an attempt to jump-start the offense, but the Laker head coach is still searching for answers.
Davis is also the lynchpin of the Lakers’ defense, which has predictably collapsed with the Brow on the sidelines. Marc Gasol is well past his prime, while Montrezl Harrell provides no paint protection whatsoever off the bench. The Lakers will have to hope Davis is able to return to 100 percent before the end of the season. Otherwise, their title hopes could fade quickly.
The Los Angeles Clippers (+550), Milwaukee Bucks (+700), and Jazz (+850) round out the list of the top-five title contenders. The Clippers have dealt with injuries of their own, but LAC is quietly a half-game ahead of the Lakers for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Bucks have been playing without Jrue Holiday for the past couple of weeks, but Milwaukee has won four straight to pull into the No. 3 spot in the East. Utah has the best record in the NBA at 26-6 with just two losses on their ledger since January 8.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu …