Utah Jazz (58-31), +6.5, o/u 210 @ Los Angeles Lakers (62-25), -6.5, o/u 210, Staples Center, Los Angeles, California, 10:30 p.m. Eastern, Wednesday
By Oracle at Predictem.com
The way the latter part of this season has shaped up for the Los Angeles Lakers, it has made their soap opera-like off-season a thing of the past.
The Lakers – who seemed destined to trade Kobe Bryant before the start of regular season after citing upper management not bringing in a competitive team around him – have ended up being the best team in the NBA to date.
Not only did they not trade Bryant, but he became the NBA MVP for the first time in his career, his team swept Denver in the first round of the playoffs, took Game 1 against the Utah Jazz, and have won nine in a row dating back to the regular season. It seems as though nothing can stop them.
The Jazz want to put an end to all that, though. Utah, who beat the Houston Rockets in six games during the first round, hasn’t had much luck against L.A. this season, losing four of their five meetings, including all three at the Staples Center, where Game 2 will be played on Wednesday night at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.
The Lakers covered the -8 point spread in the first go-round with Utah, as they won 109-98. This time around, it’s nearly the same story, with the Lakers opening at -6.5 favorites, however, that line has already moved to -7 at some NBA betting shops.
The over/under opened at 210 for Game 2. The 207-point total from Game 1 came in under the set mark of 212.5.
In a series between two teams that rely heavily on their offense to get by their opponents, per usual, it’ll be whoever plays the best defense that will more than likely end up winning.
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If that’s the case, the Lakers got a head start on the Jazz during Game 1. The Lakers forced Utah to shoot early in their offensive sets, limiting them to just 38% shooting. The quick shots also led to 17 fastbreak points for L.A. compared to six for the visiting Jazz.
Like most teams in the league, the Jazz had no answer for Bryant, who got to the free throw line 23 times, making 21 of those attempts. Bryant ended the game with 38 points, while four other Lakers finished in double figures, including a huge 15 points from Sasha Vujacic off the bench.
As a team, Los Angeles shot 45.2% from the field, including 50% from downtown.
The defense of L.A. was the story, though, as they pulled away in the second quarter by outscoring the Jazz 29-17. In that frame, Utah shot just 7-of-25 from the floor and Carlos Boozer committed all seven of his turnovers in that one quarter.
If there is one positive Utah can take away from Game 1, it’s this: They out-rebounded the Lakers by a huge margin of 58-41, including 25-8 on the offensive boards. With those rebounds came 95 field goal attempts, compared to L.A.’s 73 attempts.
So in a sense, Jerry Sloan and the Jazz can sit back and simply say, “We need to hit our shots.”
When it comes to betting on this contest, a big trend for bettors to follow is the fact that the home team is 10-2 ATS in the last 12 head-to-head match ups. Meanwhile, the Jazz are 0-5 ATS in the last five games at the Staples Center.
It was a bit surprising the under came in during Game 1 because the over has a nice 6-2 trend over the last eight games between the two squads and a 20-7 mark for the Jazz when they play teams from the Pacific Division.
If there is one savior for bettors who want to take Utah in this one, it’s the fact that they’re 5-1 ATS in their last six games after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game.
At this point in time, it’s hard to doubt Bryant and the Lakers as they’ve mowed down everybody in their path. Then again, the Jazz are in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs for a reason.
Oracle’s Pick: It’s hard to see Utah struggle as much as they did from the floor twice in a row. Look for them to probably lose the game but cover the spread.