April 20th’s NBA betting action on ESPN pits two of the best teams in the Western Conference against one another, as the Los Angeles Lakers face off with the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center.
The Lakers have been playing quite a bit without Kobe Bryant of late, including in a game in which they were mauled by these Spurs at Staples Center. Bryant wants to get back in the fold for this one, probably in part because of the way that San Antonio absolutely smacked LA on its home court just a week ago, and partially because of the importance of the game. The Lakers enter Thursday night just a half game up on the Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division, and there is a big difference between being that No. 3 seed and the No. 4, as everyone seems to want to avoid the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the postseason. We have spoken a lot about the play of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum of late, but the man that is really keeping this team together at the moment is Metta World Peace. The artist formerly known as Ron Artest has had seven straight games with at least eight points, including five efforts with at least 18 points. For a man that is only averaging 7.6 points per game, those are huge numbers, and they have come at a perfect time with Kobe out of the fold.
The Spurs have their eye on a bigger prize right now. They are in a position where they could still be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and winning out will get the job done. Of course, last year, we all know that that top seed didn’t do anything for San Antonio, as the team was booted out of the playoffs in the first round by the aforementioned Grizzlies. That being said though, there does seem to be a noticeable difference between being that top seed and likely avoiding the Lakers until the conference finals and drawing a team like the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, or Houston Rockets, and being the No. 2, having to almost certainly contend with LA in the second round, and the getting either the Denver Nuggets or Dallas Mavericks as a first round foe. Still, the MO for Head Coach Gregg Popovich is to rest his players down the stretch, and he is doing just that. Tim Duncan was rested in a 127-102 win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, which is the fifth straight win for the Spurs, three of which came on the road.
The Final Word: With Kobe back in the fold, we just don’t see how the Lakers are going to go down in this one. This is the type of game that both teams start off playing full bore, but when things get a bit out of hand, Popovich is likely to throw up the white flag. Go with LA to exact some revenge for a brutal loss earlier in the week.
Los Angeles Lakers @ San Antonio Spurs Free Pick: Los Angeles Lakers
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.