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NBA West: Lakers and Clippers Take Center Stage Thursday

There’s not a whole lot going on in the Association today in terms of volume, but there are still a couple of huge games out West and there’s no surprise that they both involve the teams from the City of Angels.

The Clippers will travel to Minnesota to take on a injury-riddled, but determined Timberwolves squad, while the Lakers will play the defending champion Miami Heat at Staples Center. We should have two fun ones are our hands today. Here are the spreads and today’s picks.

No Paul, no problem. Look for Griffin to dominate the paint in the absence of Love

Los Angeles Clippers -4.5 at Minnesota Timberwolves +4.5

The Clippers have continued to stay hot, winning their last two contests without their All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who will be a game-time decision today against Minnesota. Meanwhile, the T-Wolves have suffered more than their fair share of injuries and will be without their star, Kevin Love, until March. Minnesota, on the other hand, has struggled without Love’s production and has dropped four straight.

Not only do the Clippers have one of the best starting fives in the league, but they also have one of the deepest benches with Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner Jamal Crawford in the mix, so it’s safe to say that even without Paul, the Clippers should have no problem picking up their 13th road win of the season and 31st overall today against the banged up Wolves. Take L.A. to cover -4.5 in the victory.

Miami Heat +2 at Los Angeles Lakers -2

With the Dwight Howard back in the lineup and with Pau Gasol expected to return from a concussion today, things are looking up for the Lakers. They are on a nice two-game win streak against Eastern Conference foes since dropping six straight, but will have a hefty challenge on their plate today as the Miami Heat come to town.

While the Lakers have endured an up-and-down (mostly down) season so far, the Heat have maintained that championship-caliber level of consistency that their fans have become accustom to this season. Just when things were beginning to look somewhat shaky, the Heat went out and destroyed one of the West’s best in Golden State last night by a score of 92-75.

What’s amazing is that the Lakers are the favorite in this match-up. Sure, they have the talent, but they still haven’t proven they can: 1. Beat strong teams and 2. Win consistently and play together. I would never bet in favor of a team that is 17-21 against the best team in the East and arguably the league. Take the Heat to cover +2 in this one and win outright.

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