NBA: Nets, Clippers Chase L.A. Lakers
The defending NBA champion L.A. Lakers remain the odds-on favorite to win their second consecutive Larry O’Brien Trophy. But the Brooklyn Nets are closing in, and other teams are on the rise.
The defending NBA champion L.A. Lakers remain the odds-on favorite to win their second consecutive Larry O’Brien Trophy, but the Brooklyn Nets are closing in, and other teams are on the rise, with the Nets and L.A. Clippers chasing the Lakers.
The Lakers will likely retain the crown, and their odds to repeat have held steady. But lately, other squads are closing the gap. Sure, L.A. was easily the top pick before the season began in December, when the team came in at +250. At that point, Brooklyn, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers were a distant second at +650.
But in just under two months, the Nets have moved to +350, and the Clippers are now at +500. Even the Bucks have trended up, going to +600. All of which has ramifications for the L.A. Lakers.
Bucks Star: Jazz Better than Lakers
In the locker room after losing to Utah, 129-115, Milwaukee’s star big man, Giannis Antetokounmpo, crowned the Jazz the best team he’d faced.
“Today, we played a game against the best team in the West,” Antetokounmpo said. “They’ve been playing amazing. They won—with this game—17 out of their last 18. They’re playing good, moving the ball, making threes. …They’re keeping it simple.”
As of Wednesday, Utah had the best record in the NBA at 23-5. With Monday’s 134-123 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, they’ve won 19 of the last 20.
While the team has been a boon for moneyline bettors, they’re also rewarding fans who bet them against the spread. In that same span, the Jazz are 17-2-1 ATS.
Utah head coach Quin Snyder was Western Conference Coach of the Month for January. His peers have taken notice.
“Quin Snyder is a very underrated coach,” Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “Quietly, he’s built this team into a very cohesive group that’s really at the top of the league in both offense and defense.”
“They’ve been good for a long time,” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “The continuity is apparent right away. They all know each other so well. They execute their stuff beautifully.”
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L.A. Lakers-Jazz Matchup Will Test Both
Utah will see how good they really are when they face the defending champion Lakers next Wednesday, February 24 (watch the game from the home of the Jazz, Vivint Smart Arena in Salt Lake City, at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN). It’ll be the first and only meeting between the two teams this season.
Los Angeles currently is two games behind the Jazz in the Western Conference standings. The team got a scare last week when Anthony Davis left the game against the Denver Nuggets late in the second quarter after reaggravating his right Achilles injury.
Davis reportedly will miss the next several weeks, resting up so he’ll be ready for the playoffs in March. “If it was a quad or finger, anything like that, I wouldn’t mind playing,” the All-Star said. “But I just don’t really want to play around with an Achilles.”
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LeBron Steps Up
Without Davis, the Lakers have lost one of their two impact players. Now it’s up to LeBron James to carry this team, though preserving the 36-year-old superstar for the playoffs is also a concern for L.A.
King James is averaging 34.6 minutes a game, and has routinely gone over 40 minutes in several contests this year, which bodes well for his chances to win the MVP. He’s currently the +120 favorite to capture his fifth MVP award. According to Davis, LeBron is more than capable of picking up his workload.
“From the start of the season to now, he’s shown why he’s in the MVP race,” Davis said. “I think he’s No. 1 in that race. He’s continuously playing at a high level for our group. And like I said, I think the biggest difference is his ability to shoot.”
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