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Cleveland vs L.A. Free NBA Pick (Dec. 25)

NBA Christmas Day Classic – Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Two of the NBA’s biggest stars. Two of the NBA’s best teams. Kobe vs. LeBron. Cavaliers vs. Lakers. Christmas Day. Who ya got?

The Lakers come into this game as not only the defending NBA Champions, but also the elite team in the entire NBA so far during the 2009-2010 season.

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They are of course led by the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant, who despite turning 32 this year, is as good as ever. So far, Bryant is second only to Carmelo Anthony, averaging 29 points per game, and as always, is amongst the league leaders in steals and free throw percentage. Bryant has been helped additionally with maybe the NBA’s premiere frontcourt, in Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest. All three are averaging double-figures, in points with Gasol leading the way with 17 per game.

Here are some basketball betting trends which may impact this game:

Los Angeles: 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games
Los Angeles: 15-1 SU in their last 16 games
Los Angeles: 6-0 SU at home in their last 6 games

Cleveland: 11-6 ATS on the road
Cleveland: Total has gone OVER in 9 of 17 road games

The three in the frontcourt are also the backbone of what has become the league’s best defensive team. So far this season, they’re holding opponents to an NBA best 42 percent shooting from the field, as well as just 94.5 points per game. Bynum and Gasol are each averaging close to two blocks per game.

As for their opponents, the Cleveland Cavaliers as we head into 2010, after having the best record in the Eastern Conference 2009. A large part of that is due to starting center Shaquille O’Neal, who simply hasn’t been as dominating as the Cavaliers had hoped he’d be. He is averaging just 10 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes per game, a far cry from the output he once produced, when he was one of the NBA’s most dominant big man earlier this decade.

Obviously that adds additional burden to last year’s league MVP LeBron James, and “The King,” is doing everything in his power to keep the Cavaliers afloat. He is averaging almost 29 points seven rebounds and eight assists per game, and is again maybe the league’s best all-around player. As always, for the Cleveland to stay close in this game, James will have to play his best.

With these two teams squaring off on Christmas day, the clear advantage would have to go to Los Angeles. But it’s not why you think.

Despite the star power on the perimeter, it is actually the guys down low who’ll make the difference. The three starters for Los Angeles are substantially more productive than O’Neal and J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao for Cleveland. Expect the Lakers to have control the boards on Friday night, as they average a league high 45 per game.

The Lakers have the advantage at almost every position, and Kobe Bryant simply never loses big games. And this is a big game. Because of it, take the Lakers. They are deeper and more talented overall. LeBron can only do so much, and the Cavaliers will learn the hard way, that sometimes even he, is not enough.

Pick: Lakers by 9

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