Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) drives against Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins (22) during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)


Mike Shara

Staples Center, Los Angeles, 10 pm ET on TNT
MONEYLINE: Lakers -155 (DraftKings)
SPREAD: Golden State +3.5 (Bet MGM)
OVER/UNDER: Under 228 (-112) (FanDuel)

You could make the argument that October is the best sports month of the year. MLB playoffs are on all month long, the WNBA Finals have just concluded, the NFL season is in full swing, the NHL regular season has just begun and, last but certainly not least, the NBA regular season begins tonight!

Bettors, die-hard hoopheads and casual fans alike will be tuning in to TNT to watch the two headline games that kick things off for 2021-22. The second of those games features a revamped, veteran L.A. Lakers squad hosting a Golden State team that has added some youth the last few years and will be looking to get healthy and try to recapture some of their recent glory.

The Lakers’ key acquisition this offseason was former L.A. native and former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, who was acquired as part of a five-team trade to be the third member of their three-stars approach along with Anthony Davis and Lebron James. They also added key veteran players at depth positions, too – including Carmelo Anthony, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, DeAndre Jordan, Wayne Ellington and Trevor Nunn. Few players from their 2019 NBA Championship team remain, as L.A. parted ways with Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso this summer. The big question marks for the Lakers will be if they can be as good defensively as they were the last few years and whether there will be spacing issues with Westbrook playing heavy minutes. His three-point shooting numbers have dropped the last few years and it’s fair to wonder if he will be as effective as a less ball-dominant player who lets the offense run through someone else (LBJ). The Lakers are Westbrook’s fourth different team in four years, but he is still only 32 and has publicly stated a willingness to do whatever his new team needs from him. The fit might be difficult early on in the season, but it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on.

Golden State’s team won’t be as unfamiliar to fans this year. Their core still remains Steph Curry and Draymond Green but this year they’ve added Otto Porter Jr., brought back Andre Iguodala and selected wings Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody in the top 15 of last year’s draft. They are hoping that All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson can finally return from his knee injury by Christmas so that they can get untracked for a run in the playoffs come late April. Despite the Warriors not being contenders, Steph Curry had one of his finest seasons as an NBA player, with his overall numbers closely resembling those from his 2015-16 unanimous MVP season. His team will be counting heavily on him to play at that level again this year and tonight’s clash gives them a chance to avenge their three-point loss to the Lakers in last year’s play-in game.

The Lakers appear to be a much deeper team than Golden State, although they will be missing some of that depth on Opening Night. Ariza is recovering from an ankle injury and Talen Horton-Tucker recently had thumb surgery. They are both out indefinitely. Along with Klay Thompson’s extended absence, the Dubs will be without center James Wiseman, who is also recovering from knee surgery that took place in April and has yet to begin full practices with the team.

Even though Curry and his mates would like nothing better than to travel down the California coastline, walk into the Staples Center and ruin the debut of the Lakers’ new three-headed monster, it is difficult to see that happening. Anthony Davis will be looking to return to MVP-level status after an injury-plagued season (he probably will) and L.A.’s veteran bench should be able to thrive against the less experienced Warriors second unit. I am taking the LAKERS to win the game and cover, but with both teams trying to integrate new players into their system while missing key offensive cogs, I’m also going to take the UNDER.

Parlay Odds +240 : Lakers -3 and Under 226

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