I'm not a huge fan of either Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, but I obviously respect their greatness. And it's a shame that arguably the two best players of this generation never got to play against one another for an NBA championship. Of course they have played together for Team USA in the Olympics, winning gold in 2008. But their best chance for a Finals matchup probably was in 2009. Those Cavaliers led the NBA with 66 regular-season wins and the Lakers were second with 65. But the Cavs were knocked off by Orlando in the conference finals. The Lakers beat the Magic in a five-game Finals. The Lakers got back the next year, too, but Cleveland didn't, losing to Boston in the East semis. I bring this up because Wednesday could be the final time Kobe and LeBron square off. Yes, the Cavs visit the Lakers on March 10, but who knows if Kobe will be healthy by then.
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Hornets at Pacers (-4.5, 201)
Charlotte got back to .500 with a 108-91 pounding of the visiting Bulls on Monday. Kemba Walker had 30 points and Nic Batum 19 points and 13 rebounds. Indiana beat the visiting Lakers 89-87 on Monday. Paul George scored six straight points late to lead a comeback. Ian Mahinmi suffered a gash over his eye and had eight stitches but returned to action. This is the first meeting of the season between the teams. Indiana has won 11 consecutive regular-season home games in series.
Key trends: The home team is 4-0-1 against the spread in the past five meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in six of the past seven in Indiana.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Spurs at Magic (+9, 199.5)
Wouldn't shock me to see Gregg Popovich rest some guys here as San Antonio was in Miami on Tuesday and this is the team's final game before the All-Star break. I'd actually be surprised if Pop doesn't do that. The Magic completed a home-and-home sweep of Atlanta on Monday, 117-110 in OT. They were down as much as 20 in that one. Nikola Vucevic scored 25 of his 28 points after halftime. Forward Tobias Harris sat out both games with a sprained ankle. San Antonio has won nine straight vs. Orlando, including 107-92 at home on Feb. 1.
Key trends: The Spurs are 4-0 ATS in the past four in Orlando. The under is 5-2 in the Magic's past seven vs. the West.
Early lean: Magic and under.
Kings at 76ers (+4, 217.5)
Will this be the final game for Kings head coach George Karl? Some reports are that it will be but then others that he's still safe after a last-second change of heart by Kings management. What a clueless franchise. The Kings have dropped four straight and allowed at least 120 points in the past three. Ironically, Karl took over the Kings during last year's All-Star break. Former Kings forward Corliss Williamson was expected to take over as interim coach if there's a move. Philadelphia blew a 19-point lead Monday in a 98-92 OT home loss to the Clippers. The 76ers had a chance to win it in regulation, but Jahlil Okafor's 18-foot jumper was long. The Sixers won in Sacramento 110-105 on Dec. 30.
Key trends: The underdog is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 6-1 in the Kings' past seven overall.
Early lean: 76ers and over.
Clippers at Celtics (-1.5, 209)
Los Angeles clearly took Philadelphia for granted early in Monday's game in falling behind by those 19 points, the Clippers' largest deficit of the season. But L.A. managed to win in OT despite giving Paul Pierce the night off to rest. J.J. Redick had 23 points, including the tying 3-pointer late in regulation. The Clips have won 12 of their past 14 on the road. Pierce certainly will play here against his former team. Boston was in Milwaukee on Tuesday on a four-game winning streak. The Clippers have won four straight games against the Celtics, their longest win streak against Boston in franchise history.
Key trends: The road team is 4-0 ATS in the past four. The under is 5-1 in Boston's past six in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
Grizzlies at Nets (TBA)
Memphis dropped a second straight home OT game on Monday, 112-106 vs. Portland. Jeff Green accidentally tipped in a Blazers miss at the end of regulation. Marc Gasol scored 11 points before leaving late in the first quarter with a right foot injury. He did not return. My guess is he gets this game off. Brooklyn beat visiting Denver 105-104 on Monday thanks to a buzzer-beating banked-in 3-pointer from Joe Johnson. Rookie Chris McCullough made his NBA debut for the Nets, more than a year after suffering a torn ACL while at Syracuse. Memphis beat the visiting Nets 101-91 on Halloween.
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 7-2 in the past nine in Brooklyn
Early lean: Wait on Gasol.
Nuggets at Pistons (-6.5, 210)
Denver lost by one at Brooklyn on Monday on that buzzer-beater by the Nets' Johnson. Danilo Gallinari scored 24 points and Kenneth Faried had 24 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets. Detroit lost a second straight Monday, 103-89 at home to Toronto. The highlight of that game was a made 80-footer by Pistons center Andre Drummond, the longest made shot in the NBA since 2007. Denver beat the visiting Pistons 104-101 on Jan. 23.
Key trends: The home team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 9-4 in the past 13.
Early lean: Pistons and over.
Lakers at Cavaliers (-16, 207)
First game of an ESPN doubleheader and should have live betting at sportsbooks. L.A. lost a second straight Monday, 89-87 at Indiana. Kobe was just 6-for-25 from the field and 4-for-14 on 3-point attempts. The Lakers shot a season-low 31.2 percent from the field and were 8-for-35 on 3-point attempts. L.A. center Roy Hibbert missed his first game of the season due to a sprained ankle. Cleveland blew out the Kings on Monday behind LeBron's first triple-double of the season: 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He didn't even play the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving matched his season high with 32 points and tied his career high with 12 assists. Kevin Love was back after missing a game with a bruised thigh.
Key trends: The Lakers are 1-4 ATS in the past five in Cleveland. The over is 4-0 in the past four.
Early lean: Cavs and over.
Hawks at Bulls (TBA)
Atlanta was swept in a home-and-home by previously struggling Orlando on Monday, 117-110 in OT. The Hawks were up 20 in the first quarter. Al Horford led Atlanta with 27 points and Paul Millsap had 22 points and 13 rebounds. Millsap made a jumper at the end of regulation, but it was just after the buzzer. Chicago finished a seven-game road trip at 2-5 after a 108-91 loss in Charlotte on Monday. Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Rose all sat out; only Rose has a shot of playing here. Butler could miss up to another month and thus the All-Star Game. Hawks won first meeting of season with Bulls 120-105 at home on Jan. 9.
Key trends: The Hawks are 3-7 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The under is 8-1 in the past nine in Chicago.
Early lean: TBA for Rose. I like Hawks regardless.
Raptors at Timberwolves (+6.5, 208.5)
Toronto won its third straight and 14th in the past 15 on Monday, 103-89 in Detroit. Kyle Lowry led the way with 25 points. Toronto outscored the Pistons 16-3 in fast-break points. The Raptors have now won 23 consecutive games when allowing fewer than 100 points. Minnesota had a two-game winning streak end in a 116-102 win over New Orleans on Monday. Karl-Anthony Towns had 19 points and 12 rebounds in the loss. First meeting of the season between the Raptors and Wolves.
Key trends: Toronto is 9-1 ATS in its past 10 at Minnesota. The under is 8-3 in the past 11.
Early lean: Raptors and over.
Jazz at Pelicans (-2.5, 194)
New Orleans snapped a four-game losing streak with a 116-102 win in Minnesota on Monday. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday scored 27 points apiece. The Pelicans turned it over only four times. Tyreke Evans sat out again and won't play here. Utah was in Denver on Tuesday looking for a seventh straight win. The Pelicans and Jazz have split two meetings this season in Salt Lake City.
Key trends: The Jazz are 4-0-1 ATS in the past five in New Orleans. The over has hit in 10 of the Pelicans' past 13 overall.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
Warriors at Suns (+17, 218.5)
Golden State hosted Houston on Tuesday on a nine-game winning streak. Phoenix lost 122-106 to Oklahoma City on Monday for its ninth straight loss. The Suns scored on their first 15 possessions but still couldn't take the lead. The Warriors have won both meetings this season and five straight vs. Phoenix.
Key trends: The home team is 9-4 ATS in the past 13. The over is 5-0 in Golden State's past five vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Rockets at Trail Blazers (TBA)
The ESPN nightcap. Houston was in Oakland on Tuesday with James Harden questionable. Portland won at Memphis 112-106 in OT on Monday for its second win in a row. Damian Lillard had 33 points. Forward Noah Vonleh missed his third consecutive game with a left ankle sprain. The Rockets and Blazers have split two meetings in Houston this season. Portland has won the past two at home in series.
Key trends: Houston is 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings. The over is 6-2 in the past eight in Portland.
Early lean: Portland regardless of what Houston does vs. the Warriors.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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