For the past couple of weeks, the Jazz and Lakers have both split time in eighth place in the Western Conference Standings, but a new contender has risen as well, to create a three-horse race for the final playoff spot in the West.
Although the Lakers have had their fair share of struggles this season, they have a chance to extend their lead to one and a half games, and with only 5-6 games remaining for most teams, that would be a significant edge to obtain heading into the final weeks of the season. Here’s a look at all three teams’ match-ups today:
New Orleans Hornets +8 at Utah Jazz -8
For the Lakers to really seize control of that eighth spot, they’ll first need to see the Jazz lose and Utah hasn’t done much of that at home this season, with a record of 28-10. When you add in the fact that they are playing one of the worst teams in the league, things are looking good for Utah and not so much for L.A. today.
Although the Jazz have taken two out of three from the Hornets this season, every game in the series has been relatively close, so even though I fully expect the Jazz to take advantage of a weak opponent, I don’t expect them to dominate. Look for the Hornets to cover +8 in the loss today,
Dallas Mavericks -2 at Sacramento Kings +2
The Mavericks’ strong second half has put them back in playoff contention, but a recent two-game skid leaves them three games back of the Lakers with only seven games to play. The good news is, they’ve got the Kings today, who are easily one of the West’s weakest squads.
However, as that may be, the Kings are 19-18 at home this season and the Mavs are an ugly 14-24 on the road. The Kings may not have a lot of firepower, but they defend their home floor well and with the Mavs seemingly running out of gas, look for the Kings to chalk up another home victory by covering +2.
Memphis Grizzlies +2.5 at Los Angeles Lakers -2.5
The Lakers have the home floor today, but not much of an edge other than that against the hard-nosed Grizzlies. Los Angeles is still very beat up and may be without Steve Nash tonight, and Kobe Bryant is also not at 100%.
The Lakers are used to putting up points, but they’ll run into one of the league’s toughest defenses today and a team that plays physical, which the Lakers don’t match-up well against. And considering the Lakers are without their most physical defender, Metta World Peace, there will be even more trouble against the Grizz.
The Lakers also have trouble defending, as they are still allowing more than 101 points per game, so even though Memphis sometimes can’t find the bucket, things should be a little easier against the older, softer Lakers.
Basically, this match-up doesn’t bode well at all for L.A., so it’s rather surprising they are a favorite here. Take Memphis to cover +2.5 in the win here.