Thursday NBA on TNT Preview: L.A. Lakers at San Antonio
by Matt Severance - 03/12/2009
One of the best rivalries in the NBA and the matchup that most expect to be a repeat of the Western Conference Finals highlights the NBA on TNT doubleheader on Thursday night when the San Antonio Spurs host the Los Angeles Lakers, who are 2.5-point underdogs on Bodog.
Both teams enter off impressive wins.
The Lakers won 102-96 in Houston, ending the Rockets' 12-game home winning streak and Los Angeles' three-game road losing streak. The Lakers did it mostly behind Kobe Bryant's 37 points but also thanks in large part to Josh Powell, who had 17 points and nine rebounds while starting at power forward in place of Lamar Odom, who was serving a one-game suspension but will return tonight. The Lakers had another change to their starting lineup on Wednesday, with Trevor Ariza getting the nod over Luke Walton; Ariza had eight points and six rebounds in 30 minutes.
And, of course, Los Angeles remains without starting center Andrew Bynum; the Lakers are 14-4 (10-8 ATS) since his latest injury and have actually increased their West lead to seven games from five over San Antonio. Bryant has averaged 31.5 points per game since Bynum's injury.
As for San Antonio, it ended Charlotte's franchise-best winning streak at six on Tuesday night. The Spurs have won three games in a row overall (3-0 ATS), but they will remain without Manu Ginobili and new acquisition Drew Gooden tonight.
Ginobili did some shooting Wednesday but is at least a week away from returning from his ankle injury. He has missed the past 12 games with this injury and 25 overall this season. Tony Parker has really stepped up for Ginobili lately, averaging 26.1 points and 7.6 assists while shooting 51.6 percent from the field over his last nine games - he has led the Spurs in scoring in each of those games.
Gooden hasn't yet played with San Antonio since he was signed after being released by the Kings. The power forward, nursing a groin injury, could make his debut this weekend, however. He could be a nice addition for a playoff series against the Lakers, adding another big body against the big Los Angeles frontcourt.
The Lakers lead the NBA in scoring but should be severely tested tonight, as over their past 10 games the Spurs are limiting opponents to 41.7 percent shooting, tops in the NBA in that stretch. The over/under is 195.5 for this one, with the under hitting in six of the past seven meetings.
The teams have split two meetings this season, with the Spurs winning 112-111 at home on Jan. 14 thanks to Roger Mason's three-pointer with just more than 10.5 seconds left. The Lakers then got revenge in Los Angeles, 99-85, on Jan. 25. Overall, the teams have split their last 10 games, and the Spurs have won six of their last 10 home games against the Lakers, including the last three.
Tonight's game is the final matchup of the regular season; Los Angeles is attempting to take only its second regular-season series against San Antonio since 2003-04. The Lakers are 10-5 ATS on the second night of back-to-backs this year.
Both teams are 4-0 ATS in their past four Thursday games, while the Lakers are 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.