San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers Preview and Pick

San Antonio Spurs (64-30), +7, o/u 197.5 vs. Los Angeles Lakers (65-27), -7, o/u 197.5, Staples Center, Los Angeles, California, 9 p.m. Eastern, Wednesday
By Oracle of

We’ve heard all of the talk about how nostalgic it would be if the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics matched up in the NBA Finals this season. Fans would reminisce about Magic vs. Bird and the fierce rivalry between the two squads back in the 80’s.

However, although in the same conference, it’s the Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs who have provided a modern day playoff rivalry.

The two squads have been dominant this decade, winning seven of the last nine championships.

The Lakers were nearly unstoppable with Kobe Bryant and Shaq The Diesel leading the charge. They won three straight championships from 2000-02, before getting knocked out of the Western Conference playoffs in 2003 by none other than the Spurs, who went on to win the NBA championship that season.

Since then, the Spurs have been a consistent squad, winning two more titles, including last season. However, the Lakers went in the opposite direction, not making the playoffs and trading Shaq to Miami. Overall, the Lakers have gotten the best of the Spurs in the postseason, going 7-3 in their 10 playoff match ups, including 3-0 in the conference finals.

But that was years ago, before the downward spiral.

Bryant, who has been trying to shed off the label as O’Neal’s wingman, is now just four wins away from the NBA Finals. He’s doing so with the help of a new look team, comparative to their 2002 championship season, which included players like Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Brian Shaw, Samaki Walker and Mitch Richmond.

Now he has, and had, guys like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar to rely on.

For the Spurs, they have their team in tact from a championship campaign of just one year ago, with the exception of adding Kurt Thomas midway through this season.

Now that you’ve had your history lesson, let’s focus on Wednesday night’s Game 1 showdown at the Staples Center in a contest scheduled to be broadcast on TNT at 9 p.m. Eastern.

The two teams split their regular season series 2-2, with the home team winning all four times, including a dominant 106-85 Lakers win at the Staples Center in the last regular season match up of the year. The Lakers have been flawless at home as of late, winning all six playoff games at the Staples Center.

The Spurs covered three out of those four regular season games. They’ll be the underdogs heading into L.A., as they opened with a +7 line on the road at most sportsbooks. The over/under opened at 197.5 as well, a drastically different amount than the New Orleans series, in which the Spurs won in seven games.

Speaking of Game 7, the Spurs overcame a miserable first three games in New Orleans to take down a youthful Hornets squad in their arena, 91-82. Coincidentally, after their thrilling victory, it went downhill for the Spurs.

Instead of taking a late night scheduled plane straight to Los Angeles after the game, their flight was delayed for hours, which meant they got their night’s sleep inside of an airplane because of the lack of hotel space in New Orleans.

To contrast San Antonio’s tiresome adventure, the well-rested Lakers have been off since Friday after beating Utah in six games, and have had the comfort of sleeping in their own homes.

Advantage L.A.

Bryant has been dominant in the playoffs, averaging 33.3 points per game and scoring under 30 points just a total of twice in their 10 playoff contests.

San Antonio’s powerhouse forward Tim Duncan has struggled on the road in the playoffs, as he went just 17-of-55 from the floor in New Orleans last series.

Both squads will need their future hall-of-famers to produce big time numbers in this series.

Since the Spurs were the NBA champs last year, it shouldn’t be a surprise to bettors that they’re 5-1 ATS in their last six conference final games. For some reason, though, whether it’s their age showing or some other dynamic, they’ve struggle on the road in the playoffs, going 1-4 ATS in their last five.

They’re also 2-8 ATS on the road overall in their last 10 games, dating back to their series against Phoenix in the first round.

The Lakers have been impressive in the playoffs, and bettors have made out nice if they’ve gambled on them. L.A. is 9-0-1 ATS in their last 10 games following a win. They’re also 5-0 ATS in their last five games when having at least three days rest.

The home team is 5-1 during the last six games in the head-to-head match up. A nice over/under trend is the 12-5 over record the last 17 times these two teams butted heads at the Staples Center.

It’s clear the Lakers have the upper hand heading into Game 1, having plenty of rest while the Spurs have had a hard time just getting to L.A. But then again, how can you count out the defending NBA champs?

Oracle’s Pick: The public is all over the Lakers on this one, but San Antonio won’t be as flat as many expect. They know what it takes to win on the road in the playoffs. They may not win this contest, but they’ll keep it close. Take the Spurs plus the points!