Utah Jazz (60-32), +8.5, 0/u 213.5 vs. Los Angeles Lakers (63-27), -8.5, o/u 213.5, Staples Center, Los Angeles, California, 10:30 p.m. Eastern, Wednesday
By Oracle of Predictem.com
The Zen Master Phil Jackson is hoping that his ambiance will wear off to his players when his squad heads back to their place of Zen the Staples Center.
The Lakers, who won their first six playoff games, were beaten up on the road in one of the toughest arenas to play in, as the Utah Jazz tied up the series 2-2 by winning both home games last week.
Jackson and the Lakers only have to peer at one telling statistic among the eight teams that find themselves in the NBA Conference semifinals the home teams are 17-1.
The Staples Center may be bounded by a different sensation amongst its spectators that will be watching Game 5 on Wednesday night, which will be telecast on TNT at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.
That’s because Kobe Bryant, who was just named the 2008 NBA MVP last week, tweaked his back during the opening minutes of Game 4, and has had some difficulties in the past couple of off days getting it back to its normal self. Bryant will play tonight, but it’ll be a big question of how his back holds up for the entire game and if or how it will affect his play.
Bryant has recently said his back is getting better by the day, and it didn’t seem to bother him after tweaking it in Game 4, as he finished with 33 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists while playing 46 minutes in a tough 123-115 overtime loss.
The Lakers did play Utah strong at the Salt Palace, pushing a +5-point spread in a 104-99 loss in Game 3 and taking the Jazz to OT in Game 4. They failed to cover the point spread in that contest, though.
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This time out, the Lakers are a big 8.5 favorite against Utah, who struggled a bit at the Staples Center during the first two games of the series. Los Angeles managed to cover spreads of 6.5 and 8 in those contests.
The over/under is an even 2-2 after four games, however, during the regular season, the over was 3-1 when these two teams met up. The total opened up at 213.5 points for Game 5.
The Lakers have dominated the Jazz at the Staples Center this decade, going 16-3 in the last 19 match ups. Utah, known for their impeccable home record, was just 17-24 on the road during the regular season.
However, the Jazz seem to be getting into a rhythm, figuring out what the Lakers are trying to do on defense force quick shots from the perimeter and at the same time they’re getting better overall play from their key players such as Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer.
With a 27-point, 20-rebound performance in Game 3, Boozer surpassed his combined totals from Games 1 and 2 (25 points, 14 rebounds). He also recorded another double-double in his team’s overtime win in Game 4.
Williams, meanwhile, was a beast in Game 4, recording 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting, and 14 assists.
However, the Jazz know if they want to steal one on the road, they’ll need the quality play of guys like Mehmet Okur and Andre Kirilenko, who play vital roles for Utah both offensively and defensively.
Bryant and the Lakers core will try to right the ship tonight behind their home crowd. The reigning MVP has averaged nearly 35 points per game in the series.
The Lakers still have a nice record against the spread, going 8-1-1 in their last 10 overall games. They’re also 7-1 ATS in their last eight as the favorite.
Utah doesn’t have a lot of positives for bettors when they go on the road. However, they are 4-1-1 ATS in their last six games when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game. The Jazz are 0-6 ATS in the last six contests at the Staples Center.
If bettors want to play the total, the over seems like a nice trend, as it’s 4-1 in the last five games between these two squads in Los Angeles.
The over is also 10-2 for the Lakers after a straight up loss and 22-8 for Utah in their last 30 games against teams from the Pacific Division.
The Jazz will try to do the impossible tonight and break the trend of the home team coming out on top. Their track record shows, though, that they’ll need to play one of their best games of the year to do so.
Oracle’s Pick: The bookies know that the Jazz struggle at LA hence the fat spread. The value here still lies with Utah ATS despite the fact that LA will probably win the game straight up. Take the Jazz plus the points.