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Welcome to the Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for tonight I feel has profit potential at DraftKings SportsbookFanDuel Sportsbook888 Sportsbook and BetStars Sportsbook.

Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads, or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.

Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager we favor over the other side. This play could end up on our card with the release of additional information.

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Season to Date:

ATS Picks: 17-12 (.586)

ATS Leans: 5-5 (.500)

Moneyline: 11-4 (.733)

Over/Under: 5-2 (.714)

12/13/18 NBA Betting Pick:

Los Angeles Lakers (17-10) at Houston Rockets (12-14)

DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Rockets -5
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: Rockets -5.5
888 Sportsbook Odds: Rockets -5
BetStars Sportsbook Odds: Rockets -5.5

Over/Under Total: 223.0

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The Breakdown

The Rockets have seen their season surprisingly defined by a series of fits and starts. Following an unforeseen 1-5 opening to the year, Houston has on multiple occasions given the impression they had figured things out. However, they’ve inevitably gone on to hit the skids again. The Rockets own winning streaks of three and five games. However, they’ve also lost four consecutive games on two separate occasions and three straight in another stretch. After generating an eye-popping 34-7 home record last season, Houston is just 6-5 at Toyota Center in the current campaign. All five of those defeats have been by double digits.

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Granted, the Rockets have been much better on their home floor of late. Houston has not only won five of their last six games at Toyota Center; they’ve mostly done it against quality opponents. The Bulls qualify as the only pushover out of that sample. Houston has otherwise defeated the Trail Blazers, Pistons, Kings and Warriors over that span. However, despite those recent strong efforts, it’s worth noting they’ll come into Thursday’s contest just one game removed from a three-game losing streak (in all road games). Plus, the Rockets still have a long way to go in figuring things out on defense. Houston is allowing 109.5 points per game, up from 103.7 per contest a year ago. And they’ve actually been worse at home. They’re yielding 111.8 per contest at Toyota Center, eighth-highest in the NBA, and four more per game than they allow on the road.

Meanwhile, the Lakers stroll into the Lone Star State riding high. Like the Rockets, they got off to a rocky start this season. However, they’ve turned things around after their 2-5 start. Los Angeles is 15-5 since that point. And a lot of that success has come in the last several games: LeBron James and company have prevailed in six of their last seven. That sample includes an impressive 23-point road win at Memphis two games ago. It’s worth noting the stellar performance of Kyle Kuzma has played an integral part in the Lakers’ recent surge. The second-year pro has eclipsed the 20-point mark in seven of his last nine games, helping make up for the current absence of Brandon Ingram (ankle).

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Then, James remains as elite as ever. His 28.3 PPG and 20 shot attempts per game are his highest figures since the 2009-10 season. His 37.1 percent success rate from three-point range also qualifies as his best since the 2013-14 campaign in Miami. The future Hall of Famer’s arrival has unsurprisingly been a boon for Los Angeles’ offense. The Lakers are averaging five more points per game over last season (113.1, compared to 108.1). And they currently boast the seventh-highest team shooting percentage (47.4). That includes the sixth-highest three-point percentage (38.0) over the last three games.

The fact that the Lakers have been able to go 2-1 thus far in Ingram’s absence is encouraging with respect to them keeping Thursday’s game close at a minimum. Los Angeles has also been a top 10 defense in terms of shooting percentage allowed, including on the road. The Lakers are allowing the seventh-lowest shooting percentage (44.7) overall, as well as the fourth-lowest figure (44.6) in away contests.

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By the Numbers

The Lakers are 2-2 (50 percent) against the spread as a road underdog. Los Angeles is also 10-9 (52.6 percent) versus the number in conference games, 8-8 (50 percent) against the spread after a win, and 4-3 (57.1 percent) against the number when playing with two days of rest.

The Rockets are 10-16 (38.5 percent) against the spread overall this season, the second-worst mark in the NBA. That includes a 5-6 mark (45.5 percent) versus the number as a home favorite. Houston is also 6-11 (35.3 percent) against the spread in conference games, 5-6 (45.5 percent) against the number after a win, and 5-7 (41.7 percent) versus the spread when playing with one day of rest.

The Final Word

This should be an entertaining wire-to-wire battle that will feature two of the NBA’s elite scorers. James should be especially well rested after two days off since his last game. Meanwhile, James Harden will certainly be out to help defend home court and keep up with LeBron’s exploits. Each club has a key injury, as the Rockets are missing a solid defensive component and occasional offensive contributor in James Ennis III (hamstring). The Lakers appear to have truly hit their stride on both ends of the floor, and they should have enough in their arsenal to keep this close enough to come in under a surprisingly elevated number.

The Pick: Lakers +5.5

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