Lakers offered at $3.35 by JustBet to retain NBA titleFriday, February 19, 2021
BY MARK ARCHER
The previous National Basketball Association (NBA) season began on October 22, 2019 and was originally slated to end on April 15, 2020. However, the season was suspended on March 11, 2019 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and, following approved plans by the NBA board of governors and NBA Players Association, resumed on July 30, 2020.
At the time of the suspension, all teams had played between 63 and 67 games, and under the approved plans of resumption, 22 of the 30 NBA teams played eight additional regular season games inside a 'bubble' (without spectators) to determine play-off seeding.
The conventional 16-team postseason was also played inside the NBA isolation zone, with very limited spectators, and the Los Angeles Lakers emerged with their 17th championship on October 11, 2020 after defeating the Miami Heat 106-93.
The finals ended 355 days after the regular season opening day which made it the longest season in NBA history. The late conclusion resulted in a very short off season which, therefore, impacted the start of the 2020-21 season. On November 9, 2020, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced the structure and format of the 2020-21 season.
The 2020-21 season started on December 22, 2020 and, if all goes well, is slated to conclude on May 16, 2021. All teams will play a truncated schedule of 72 games, 10 fewer than a typical 82-game NBA season. Based on the scheduling, each team will play three games against each intraconference opponent (42 total), and two against each interconference opponent (30 games).
Additionally, based on the agreed structure for this abbreviated season, there will be a “Play-In Tournament” to include the teams with the 7th highest through to the 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference.
At the conclusion of the regular season, but before the first round of the play-offs, the team with the 7th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 8th-highest winning percentage in a play-in game (the “Seven-Eight Game”). The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will earn the number 7 seed.
The team with the 9th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 10th-highest winning percentage in the “Nine-Ten Game”. The loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a play-in game, and the winner of that game in each conference will earn the number 8 seed.
However, there is a long way to go before those play-in games, and the highlights of the season, thus far, have been the NBA's newest “Big 3” where the Brooklyn Nets added James Harden to a roster that already included Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the impressive play of the Phoenix Suns following on their 8-0 performance inside the bubble last year and the remarkable run of the Utah Jazz who are 9-1 in their last 10 games (up to Tuesday, February 16).
The Nets are the odds-on favourite to win the Eastern Conference, and they currently sit in second place, behind the Philadelphia 76ers, with a 18-12 record. The Big 3 have played just seven games together and have won five of them, but last Tuesday night, with both Durant and Irving sidelined, Harden (38 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds) muscled a win over the Suns with a dominating second-half performance.
There are still questions about how the three stars will fit together, but it appears to be working out in the Nets' favour, at least offensively. Harden has seemingly taken on the role as facilitator, averaging 11.6 assists in 14 games since being traded to Brooklyn. On the other hand, Durant has averaged 27.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and Irving has put up 27.9 points with Harden as a teammate.
But, while the Nets will undoubtedly put points on the board, they need to figure out a way to stop their opponents. They have slipped from 27th in defensive rating, prior to Harden's arrival, to last place in the NBA.
The Suns, despite losing to the Nets on Tuesday, sit at fifth place in the Western Conference and are 8-2 in their last 10 games. The loss to Brooklyn was especially disappointing following, arguably, their best half of any game in the season, where they led 75-54 at half-time and kept that lead with 31 seconds left in the game. The Phoenix squad is filled with young talent and they can only learn from the experience.
The Jazz are currently overperforming and have the best record in the league at 23-5 and are on an 8-0 run (up to Tuesday). Their record is just better than the reigning champions (Lakers) at 22-7, while no team in the Eastern Conference is yet to win twenty games. Some teams in the East have got better, but it appears the core strength of the NBA still lies in the West – then again, the season has a long way to go.
Up to Tuesday of this week, most teams would have played 27 to 30 games out of their 72-game schedule — the Memphis Grizzlies played 23 — but there have already been 30 games postponed or rescheduled in accordance with the NBA's health and safety protocols for the 2020-21 season. Hopefully, there will be no major mishaps, and there will be no reason for a bubble or an extended season this year.
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Los Angeles Lakers 3.35
Brooklyn Nets 4.60
Los Angeles Clippers 6.20
Milwaukee Bucks 7.40
Utah Jazz 11.00
Philadelphia 76ers 15.00
Boston Celtics 19.00
Denver Nuggets 22.00
Miami Heat 30.00
Phoenix Suns 40.00
*Only top-10 odds shown (see
website for full list)
*Odds are subject to change.
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