The NBA is back

  • The NBA season officially restarts with two games Thursday night from the bubble at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers have -215 odds taking on the Los Angeles Clippers (+185) in the premier matchup of the night.
  • The first game of the restart features Zion Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans (-130) against the Utah Jazz (+110).

ORLANDO, Fla. – It is truly hard to believe, but the NBA is finally ready to resume their season in 2020. After play was suspended a short four and a half months ago, league officials began the process of creating a contingency plan.

The modified season was drafted after the initial panic of the pandemic and would see the 22 best teams convene for a unique competition in Orlando, Florida.

The announced start date of July 30 seemed so far away at that time, but now the wait is over as the best basketball players in the world are ready to entertain once again.

While the format for the restart can be a bit complicated to follow, the most important component to the plan is the eight seeding games to be played before the playoffs.

Thursday features two of these games between Western conference teams all with different goals during the remaining regular-season games.

NBA Restart – 7/30/20 – 9:00 p.m. EST

  • Los Angeles Clippers +5 (-113), +195
  • Los Angeles Lakers -5 (-107), -225
  • Over/Under 218

The premier game of the evening features the two teams standing atop the Western Conference standings in the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers.

The teams will face off in a game away from their shared home, the Staples Center, for one of the few times in history.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have garnered the majority of media focus throughout the season, which continued into the pandemic. Grey-bearded Lebron James gained some new teammates since they last played, in Dion Waiters and longtime collaborator JR Smith.

While the additional scoring from the two shooters will be appreciated, the most recent concern for the Lakers is Anthony Davis’ eye injury that he suffered in a scrimmage against the Orlando Magic.

Davis will reportedly play Thursday after practicing on Wednesday but could be bothered by the ailment.

Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers fans are ready to welcome back Kawhi Leonard and Paul George into their lives and resume the terrific campaign they had put together before the break.

The duo is reportedly fully healthy and ready to lead their team into the playoffs. Clippers fans are hopeful that this team could be the one to finally make it past the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Unfortunately, they will be shorthanded at the restart, missing key big man Montrezl Harrel and scorer Lou Williams for at least this first game. Harrell is outside of the bubble attending to a personal matter on an excused absence. Lou Williams is under a 10-day quarantine after attending the Magic City strip club in Atlanta while away from the bubble attending a funeral.

Analysis

While the Clippers will still be formidable without these two weapons, it could be difficult to take down the Lakers with a short-handed staff.

The legal sportsbooks are quite aware of this which has led to the inflated odds for the Lakers.

Nevertheless, remember that this is a completely new situation both teams are heading into. Either team could come out stale and out of sync, leading to a sloppy game that goes either way.

While the majority of the money will go on the Lakers, taking the Clippers moneyline at almost double money is worth the risk in the name of chaos.

PICK: Clippers ML +195

NBA Restart – 7/30/20 – 6:30 p.m. EST

  • Utah Jazz +2 (-110), +110
  • New Orleans Pelicans -2 (-110), -130
  • Over/Under 227.5

The first chronological game of the restart features the Utah Jazz against the New Orleans Pelicans.

While the Jazz currently sit in fourth place in the West and have already secured a playoff spot, the Pelicans are one of the select teams currently outside of playoff contention. In order to force a play-in game, the Pelicans have to move up from 10th place during these first eight games. They are also in competition against the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, and Sacramento Kings for the No. 8 seed.

New Orleans Pelicans

The biggest question fans, media, and basketball bettors have about the Pelicans is if Zion Williamson will play Thursday.

Williamson is listed as a game-time decision after leaving the bubble for nine days to tend to an urgent family situation.

“I think I can play the whole game. I’m just a hooper,” said Williamson. “I don’t know nobody that is going to say, “No, I can only play 10 or 15 minutes at a time. I play the whole game if I have to. I’m a hooper.”

While Williamson remains confident, coach Alvin Gentry said he would have to consult with his medical team to create a plan for Zion that could include a minutes restriction.

Without Williamson, the Pelicans are still a formidable opponent behind the talents of Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday, and Lonzo Ball. Ingram emerged as a true superstar this season, increasing his PPG from 18.3 to 24.3 after being traded from the Lakers for Anthony Davis.

The Pelicans have proved they can win without Zion and will have more to play for right out of the gate.

Utah Jazz

The Jazz look to continue their successful season after being the center of attention during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It almost seems like a lifetime ago that Rudy Gobert was touching microphones and becoming the first NBA player to contract the virus. The Jazz center was one of the first prominent athletes to get the disease in the US, and promptly spread it to teammate Donovan Mitchell which reportedly led to a strain on their relationship.

Now, the Jazz will look to rebuild their chemistry as the team is also without forward Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic was averaging a career-high 20.2 PPG before undergoing season-ending wrist surgery.

Analysis

With or without Zion, the Pelicans have more motivation to win these seeding games than any of the teams who have already clinched a playoff spot.

The Jazz looked surprisingly great in some of their scrimmages, but will still be focusing on trying out new plays, lineups, and tactics in the absence of Bogdanovic.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans already know how to play and win without Williamson. While Zion is a game-changing talent, he improves the team more by addition than he hurts it by subtraction.

While it can’t be stressed enough how unpredictable these games could turn out, the best pick here is the Pelicans to win outright.

PICK: Pelicans ML -130

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