I'm starting to like the Lakers' Kobe Bryant in his crusty old age. Kobe knows his career is going to end on a down note because the Lakers obviously aren't going to the playoffs again this season. But at least Kobe isn't going down without a fight. He ripped rookie D'Angelo Russell and second-year player Julius Randle following L.A.'s sixth straight loss on Saturday night. That's the role Bryant has to play now: veteran teacher. He's not going to help the Lakers win much on the court, but he needs to instill a killer instinct in the team's future star players.
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We also learned over the weekend what kind of slights fuel Kobe. Tuesday night is the final time Bryant will ever face the Dallas Mavericks. On Dec. 20, 2005, at Staples Center vs. the Mavs, Bryant had 62 points through three quarters, one more than Dallas had as team. Bryant admitted he wanted to stick it to Mavs assistant Del Harris. He coached the Lakers from 1994-99 and Bryant hated playing for Harris as a rookie because he was only getting about 15 minutes a night. "I always said if I get a chance to get revenge, I'm going to get it," Kobe told reporters over the weekend about that 62-point game. Phil Jackson rested Bryant in the fourth quarter or 90 might have been in play.
Clippers at Pacers (pick'em, 209)
Los Angeles is off a 112-94 loss in Toronto on Sunday as the Clippers were swept in the season series for the second straight year. The Clips are now 11-3 without Blake Griffin, who does appear to be pretty close to returning from a strained left quad. The L.A. bench was dominated in the loss. Indiana dropped a second straight Saturday, 108-97 in Sacramento as it couldn't stop DeMarcus Cousins (48 points). Paul George had 34 points as the Pacers concluded their four-game road trip at 1-3. Starting point guard George Hill was back after a three-game absence, but center Ian Mahinmi missed a second straight with a sprained ankle. The Pacers won at the Clippers 103-91 on Dec. 2 behind 31 points and 10 boards from George. Chris Paul missed the game and J.J. Redick only played briefly as he sprained his ankle.
Key trends: L.A. is 5-0 against the spread after its past five ATS losses. Indiana is 0-4 ATS in its past four after a loss. The "over/under" is 5-1 in Indiana's past six at home following a road trip of at least seven days.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
Suns at 76ers (+1, 205.5)
Plenty of good seats available for this ugly matchup! Phoenix ended a six-game losing streak with a 98-95 home upset of Atlanta on Saturday. Archie Goodwin hit a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds remaining. Tyson Chandler tied a Suns record with 27 rebounds. His 13 offensive boards were a team record. Suns starters Brandon Knight and Markieff Morris both missed another game due to injuries and are questionable here. Philly lost by 20 at home to Boston on Sunday, a game moved back a day due to the winter storm. It was the Sixers' 11th loss this season by at least 20. Guard Nik Stauskas returned to the lineup after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury but had only two points. The 76ers won in Phoenix 111-104 on Dec. 26. Stauskas had 17 in that one. That was the game Phoenix lost leading scorer Eric Bledsoe for what turned out to be a season-ending injury.
Key trends: The Suns are 1-10 ATS in their past 11 following an ATS win. The Sixers are 5-1 ATS in their past six overall. The Suns are 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: 76ers and under.
Heat at Nets (TBA)
Miami was in Chicago on Monday trying to end a four-game losing streak and without Hassan Whiteside. Brooklyn ended a five-game skid with a stunning 116-106 home upset of Oklahoma City on Sunday. Brook Lopez scored a season-high 31 points and added 10 rebounds. The Nets never trailed and scored their most points this season in a regulation game. The Heat and Nets have split two games this season, each winning on the road. Miami has won three straight in Brooklyn.
Key trends: The Heat are 4-0 ATS in their past four in Brooklyn. The over is 5-2 in the Nets' past seven.
Early lean: Heat are so banged up it's not clear who plays here. I like the Nets to win outright.
Thunder at Knicks (TBA)
This is the first of a NBA TV doubleheader and should have live betting at sportsbooks. Oklahoma City's seven-game winning streak ended in a 10-point loss in Brooklyn on Sunday. Maybe the Thunder's rhythm was thrown off with the game pushed back four hours because of the blizzard and the team snowed in its hotel for 36 hours. Kevin Durant had 32 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. The Thunder were without center Steven Adams and lost swingman Andre Roberson during the game to injury. Don't expect either here. It's not clear if Carmelo Anthony will play for the Knicks as he's questionable. He's battling knee soreness and sat the fourth quarter of Saturday's 13-point loss in Charlotte. New York won in Oklahoma City 93-90 on Nov. 20. Carmelo had 25. Durant missed the game.
Key trends: OKC is 1-5 ATS in its past six in New York. The under is 7-3 in the past 10 meetings.
Early lean: Wait on Melo, but I can't see the Knicks sweeping the season series.
Wizards at Raptors (-6.5, 206)
Washington hosted Boston on Monday. Toronto won an eighth straight Sunday, 112-94 over the visiting Clippers. Toronto's Big 3 of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas combined for 59 points. The Raptors' bench scored a season-high 51 points. The franchise record for wins is nine in row set in 2001-02. Toronto has won six straight regular-season meetings with the Wizards. The Raptors are holding Washington .375 shooting from the field in three victories this year. DeRozan is averaging a team-high 29.7 points vs. the Wiz.
Key trends: Washington is 4-0 ATS in the past four in Toronto. The under is 8-2 in the past 10 meetings north of the border.
Early lean: Raptors and under.
Magic at Bucks (-3, 195)
Orlando was in Memphis on Monday looking to end a five-game skid. Milwaukee lost 116-99 in New Orleans on Saturday to finish a four-game trip at 2-2. The Bucks' bench had just 16 points in that game and was outscored by 41 by the Pelicans' reserves. Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd will return from hip surgery for this game. He has been out since the third week of December. The Bucks were 11-18 under Kidd and 8-9 under assistant Joe Prunty. The Magic won the first meeting with Milwaukee, 114-90 on Nov. 27 in Orlando.
Key trends: The Magic are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in Orlando's past five road games.
Early lean: Bucks and under.
Kings at Trail Blazers (TBA)
Sacramento hosted Charlotte on Monday with the Kings trying for a sixth straight win. Portland beat the Lakers 121-103 on Saturday behind 36 points from Damian Lillard. CJ McCollum added 28 points for the Blazers, who have won eight straight vs. L.A. Portland beat Sacramento 98-94 in the first meeting between the teams. McCollum had 35 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Lillard missed that one. The Blazers have won four straight at home in the series.
Key trends: The underdog is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 14-2 in the past 16 in Portland.
Early lean: TBA because of the Kings' Rudy Gay, who was questionable for Monday. Blazers win this one.
Mavericks at Lakers (+9, 205)
The NBA TV nightcap. Dallas lost a second straight Sunday, 115-104 in Houston. Chandler Parsons had a season-high 31 points in the loss. Mavs center Zaza Pachulia, having by far the best season of his career, missed the game with a right leg injury. He's questionable here. L.A. dropped that sixth in a row Saturday with the 18-point loss in Portland. That was Kobe's final game in that city, and Bryant finished 6-26 in regular-season games in Portland, his worst record in any city. Lakers rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. missed a fourth straight game with a right knee injury. He's close to coming back. Dallas has won nine straight regular-season meetings with the Lakers, including two this year.
Key trends: The Mavs are 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings. The under is 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Lakers and over.
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