Los Angeles Lakers (63-25), +4.5, o/u 215 @ Utah Jazz (58-32), -4.5, o/u 215, EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah, 9 p.m. Eastern, Friday
By Oracle of Predictem.com
With virtually nothing going right in the first two games of the Western Conference semifinal playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Utah Jazz can finally breath a nice, long sigh of relief.
Home Sweet Home.
With the Lakers capturing six straight wins, including a sweep of the Denver Nuggets in Round 1, to start the playoffs, they are seemingly on an unstoppable roll.
Utah hopes that their home court will help trip up L.A., as they sported an NBA best 37-4 record at EnergySolutions Arena during the regular season. However, one of those four losses came to the Lakers, who ended Utah’s 19-game home winning streak.
Although Los Angeles dominated most of the first two games, they head into this contest as underdogs, no doubt because of Utah’s dominance on their home floor. The Jazz opened as favorites 4.5 by many Sportsbooks, while the over/under stands at a wealthy 215.
The Lakers have slapped Utah around all year long, winning five out of the six games they’ve faced each other. The first two games of the series, L.A. defended Utah’s normally ascendant pick-and-roll game, forcing the Jazz to take outside shots instead of getting to the rim.
One of the players the Lakers defense has contained is All-Star forward Carlos Boozer, who is just 9-for-24 in the first two games of the year and was held to just 10 points in Game 2 because of early foul trouble. He averaged 21 points and 10 boards in the regular season.
When Boozer and others have tried to get into the lane, the sagging defense of the Lakers has been there to adjust their shots or even block them, as evident of the 17 blocks in two games for L.A.
Kobe Bryant has played like the MVP that he was awarded earlier this week, averaging 36 points in the first two games.
As a team, the Lakers used a blitzkrieg on Utah by shooting 57.4% from the field in Game 2, including 64% from downtown. Derek Fisher was the unsung hero, finishing with 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including draining four triples. For the second consecutive game, Sasha Vujacic played a huge role by scoring in double figures (12 points).
Utah can’t hang their hats on much during the first two games except for their dominance on the boards. They’ve out-rebounded the Lakers 99-78, including 41-16 on the offensive boards. They’ll need to do the same in Game 3 if they want any chance of a win.
The Lakers covered both spreads as the favorite during the first two games and they’re 8-0 ATS dating back to the regular season in their last eight overall games. They also don’t mind being a road dog, as they’re 4-0 ATS as dogs of .5 to 4.5 points in their last four games on the road.
The good news for bettors who like the Jazz in this one is that the favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five head-to-head contests between these two Western Conference powerhouses., while the home team is 5-1 ATS.
The over and the under have come in once each in the first two games of the series, but the total of 230 points scored between the two teams in Game 2 is more likely to happen again, as these two offenses are two o fthe best in the NBA. The over is 11-5 in the last 16 match ups, indicating a plethora of points will be scored the rest of the series.
This is it for Utah. If they can’t get a hold on this series on Friday night with a win, it’s all but over.
Oracle’s Pick: There have been many teams throughout the playoff who have taken the first two games, but then lose the third one on the road (i.e. Spurs vs. Hornets yesterday). Take Utah to give L.A. their first loss in the post-season at the Salt Palace which is a very tough place for opponents to come in and steal a win
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