NBA: Betting the Lakers as Underdogs

NBA: Betting the Lakers as Underdogs

The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers have ruled the Western Conference for most of the last decade


The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers have ruled the Western Conference for most of the last decade, combining for nine of the last 10 conference titles and seven league championships in that span. The way both are playing to start 2009, it wouldn't be surprising to see that trend continue this spring. Their season series will begin on Wednesday in San Antonio, as the teams meet for the first time since Los Angeles quickly ousted the Spurs in last season's conference finals.

Los Angeles (31-6, 17-20 ATS) came within two games of its fourth NBA title of the decade last season, but lost to Boston in the finals. Over the past 10 seasons, they remain one championship shy of San Antonio's four league titles since 1999.

Last May's series marked the sixth playoff meeting in the last decade for these clubs, which again appear to be the class of the West. Coach Phil Jackson's Lakers have emerged as the team to beat after eliminating the Spurs 4-1 last season and charging to a 31-6 start to 2008-09.

"They're the best team in the West, maybe the best team in the league, and that says it all," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They've done a great job at both ends of the court, and they knocked us out of the playoffs last year, so we know as much or more than anybody how good they are."

The Lakers have won four straight games and 10 of their last 11, averaging 108.5 points over that span - more than 30 of them per game from Kobe Bryant. Bryant had 33 in Los Angeles' 105-100 win at Houston on Tuesday. Although he made just 13 of his season-high 32 shot attempts, the reigning NBA MVP scored 13 points in the fourth quarter including a key 3-pointer with 27 seconds to play. "My shots felt good, they just weren't going in for me," Bryant said. "Once the fourth quarter came around, I had to focus even more to try to put the ball in the hole."

Where NBA bettors have to be careful is when the Lakers become too offensive-minded. They are 1-4 ATS in last five games, allowing 109.2 points per game. L.A. is 3-8 ATS in last 11 contests after opponent punctured the century mark in points scored.

The Spurs (24-12, 17-18-1 ATS) faltered in the final quarter of their most recent game, giving up 31 points en route to a 105-98 home loss to Orlando on Sunday. Tony Parker's 31 total points weren't enough for San Antonio, which had won nine of its last 10 games (5-4-1 ATS).

Manu Ginobili, who missed time early this season with an ankle injury, continues to struggle to get untracked. He's shooting a career-worst 33.3 percent from 3-point range and averaging 14.5 points - five fewer than last season. "I am still not feeling like myself last season at this point," said Ginobili, who played through injury in the postseason and was held to 10 or fewer points in four of the five games against the Lakers.

"I am physically pretty good. Nothing is hurting," Ginobili added. "It's just a bit of probably mental and other confidence." They will need his confidence and are fairly rested, which could work to the Spurs benefit with 29-10 ATS record in home games when playing six or less games in 14 days.

The Spurs may lean on Tim Duncan, who has averaged 23.0 points and 12.8 rebounds in 68 career games against Los Angeles including playoffs. They are 18-6 ATS in home games versus up-tempo teams averaging 83 or more shots a game. has San Antonio as 2.5-point favorites with posted total of 199.5. The Lakers are 13-7 ATS as road underdogs of three or less points and are perfect 5-0 against the spread on the road where the total is between 190 and 199.5 points. Nine of the last 11 meetings between these Western Conference combatants have played Under the total. The Lakers are 29-12 UNDER off a road win and the Spurs are 16-5 UNDER after allowing 105 points or more.

The home team won all four games (3-1 ATS) in the 2007-08 regular-season series. "It tells you where you stand," Ginobili said of facing the Lakers. "… It makes you see the mistakes you made, how far you are from them and stuff like that. I wish we played them 10 times (per season)."

This is part of ESPN's regular Wednesday night NBA package which will start just after 9 Eastern. Don't be concerned about Los Angeles playing last night either, they are 16-6 ATS in the second of back-to-back games.

StatFox Power Line San Antonio by 4

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