NBA Picks for Thursday TNT: Lakers at Kings Odds and Betting Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 4/25/2012
Thanks to the Utah Jazz’s home win Tuesday over the Phoenix Suns – and easy cover, as called by me in the preview here at Doc’s for that story – there really isn’t much playoff drama on Thursday in the NBA, the final night of the regular season. There is still a bit of jockeying for playoff position, but we know the 16 playoff clubs, all six division winners and the top two seeds in each conference: Chicago and Miami in the East and San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the West.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no drama. The NBA’s scoring title could well be decided on Thursday night depending on what Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant does Wednesday night in the Thunder’s season finale and presuming the Lakers play Kobe Bryant in this game against the Kings. Oh, and it’s also possibly the final NBA game in Sacramento, meaning it should be a fired-up crowd against the Laker franchise that Kings fans love to hate.
Lakers at Kings Betting Story Lines
So why do Kings fans so despise the Lakers? Well it seemed like Shaq and Kobe always stood in the Kings’ way for a title back when Sacramento was one of the league’s best and most entertaining teams with Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Mike Bibby, etc. And go back to the 2002 Western Conference Finals between L.A. and Sacramento. Game 6 of that series was at the heart of the scandal of former NBA referee Tim Donaghy.
In that game in L.A., the Lakers attempted 40 free throws to the Kings' 25, and in the fourth quarter alone Los Angeles made 21 of 27 from the line while Sacramento converted 7 of 9. In addition, there was a foul was called against Bibby after he was shoved and elbowed by Kobe, denying the Kings an opportunity to try for a tying basket. The officiating was so questionable that consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader called for a formal investigation.
The Lakers won Game 6 and then Game 7 back in Sacramento (in OT) on the way to the NBA title – the third and final one with Shaq and Kobe together. If not for that Game 6, the Kings might have an NBA title banner and, who knows, maybe a new arena by now. Things have gone downhill for this franchise ever since. The major rift between the city and Maloof family is the revenue projections in the financing plan to build a new arena. The NBA could step in again and try to broker a deal for one more season in Sacramento as it did last year (the league says it’s done with the matter), but that’s far from a sure thing.
For L.A., it begins life without Metta World Peace in this one. The former Ron Artest was suspended seven games by the NBA on Tuesday for his vicious elbow to the head of Oklahoma City’s James Harden on Sunday – and Harden still isn’t cleared to play. Many think Peace got off easy considering his past. That means he can’t return at earliest until a potential Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs yet he could play in a possible Game 1 of the West semis against the Thunder (if the Lakers are extended to six games in Round 1), which doesn’t seem right. Devin Ebanks will start while Peace is out.
As for Kobe, he led the league in scoring for the majority of the season, but Durant has come on since the break and leads 27.97 to 27.86 heading into the Thunder’s game Wednesday at home vs. Denver. That game means nothing for OKC, so I would imagine Durant gets the night off or plays very limited minutes. If Durant doesn't play Wednesday and Bryant does Thursday, Bryant would need 35 points to win scoring title. If Durant plays and scores less than 30, Bryant will have to top Durant’s output by at least seven points. If Durant posts more than 30, Bryant must outscore Durant by at least six (Kobe has played fewer games)
Kobe says he doesn’t care about the scoring title, but I don’t know anyone who buys that (Durant doesn’t). This is realistically Bryant’s final chance to do this. Durant is going for his third straight scoring title, while Kobe is going for No. 3 overall. Bryant, by the way, has had 35 points or more in a game just once since March 2. He has been back for only two games after missing seven with a shin injury.
The good news is that Kobe is averaging 33.5 points this season vs. the Kings, and that Sacramento is last in the NBA in defense, allowing 104.6 points per game. The teams have split two meetings. Way back on Dec. 26, the Lakers lost 100-91 at Sacramento in the Kings’ home opener (L.A. had hosted Chicago the day before). On March 2 at Staples Center, the Lakers won 115-107 behind 38 from Kobe. The Kings have really gone in the tank of late, losing 10 of 12 (2-10 ATS).
Lakers at Kings NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
There is no early line on this game because of the uncertainty of which Lakers will play. They will open as favorites unless Coach Mike Brown sits Kobe, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. But it’s hard to say how big of favorites – it won’t be less than 3.5. The Lakers are 28-37 ATS overall this season and 12-20 on road. Sacramento is 28-37 ATS overall as well and 13-19 at home. Over/under records: LAL 36-28-1, SAC 33-30-2.
The Lakers are 1-8 ATS in their past nine games after scoring 100 points or more in their past game. They are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 games after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game. The Kings are 1-7 ATS in their past eight games vs. teams with a winning record. Sacramento is 0-6 ATS in its past six home games. The Lakers have covered five of the past six at the Kings. The over has hit in 12 of the past 15 at Sacramento.
Lakers at Kings Betting Prediction
Frankly, the line and total don’t matter in my opinion: I couldn’t like the Kings more here. L.A. is locked into a No. 3 seed and probably will limit minutes to some players. I do think those players on the court just feed Kobe and let him fire away for the chance to win the scoring title. Bryant is already fairly rested after having seven games off – he needs his rhythm.
Plus the Kings fans will be so passionate (and believe me, they remember 2002) just in case this is it forever, thus I just can’t imagine the team losing in the potential finale. Even if it’s not the overall finale, it’s obviously the final game of the season so max effort should be given on the court by the Kings. Plus I think the players will want to stop Kobe. Also take the ‘over’, however, because even if Sacramento is motivated it still stinks on defense. For sure take any player prop on Bryant points for the over – he’s going for the scoring title.
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