We’ve finally reached the end of the long NBA season and the league couldn’t ask for any better drama… possibly. The Jazz and Lakers are taking their battle for the final playoff spot down to tonight. The Jazz take on the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis at 8pm EST, then the night caps off with the Lakers hosting Houston at 10:30 on ESPN. It is a brilliant night of television, provided the Jazz win. If they LOSE the Lakers game becomes a lot less dire, though still important for seeding.
The Lakers clinch the 8th spot with a Jazz loss, but a win tonight against Houston moves them into the 7th spot and sets up a first round date with San Antonio as opposed to Oklahoma City. Both team would certainly prefer the injured Spurs, so I expect a hard-fought game regardless of the Jazz outcome.
So that’s the stakes and scene for tonight. Now let’s take a look at some good wagering opportunities.
Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies -4.5
It is better for television if the Jazz win tonight… but I just don’t think they are going to. They have been absolutely s=abysmal on the road tonight, and provided Memphis doesn’t lay down (which they shouldn’t as they have important seeding and positioning at stake tonight as well), it’s hard ot see them winning in Memphis.
The Grizzlies match up well with Utah, with both front courts being rugged and physical, but the offensive advantage going the way of the Grizz. I’ll also take Mike Conley over the Utah point guards any day of the week.
I expect Memphis to play well at home and make a strong push for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Give me the Grizz laying the 4.5.
Free Pick: Memphis Grizzlies -4.5
Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers -2.5
This is it. No, seriously this time. It really is DO OR DIE time for the most celebrated franchise in the NBA. And, though they have burned me many times this year, I really think they are going to get it done tonight.
This is an interesting matchup, as both teams have decided advantages at different positions. The Lakers frontcourt should dominate the Rockets smaller interior, especially with their increased utilization now that Kobe is out. However, the Rockets guards are certainly better than the Steve Blake/Antawn Jamison/Metta World Peace/Jodie Meeks combo the Lakers will employ.
I am going to give the Lakers the edge for two reasons; one, they are at home and the crowd will be electric. Two, they KNOW they have a legit chance to make some waves if they can slide up to #7 and get San Antonio in the first round. Just LISTEN to the language Dwight Howard has been using talking about Kobe’s injury. The word “opportunity” comes up over and over. That is exactly what this IS for Dwight (and to Pao Gasol to a lesser extent); an opportunity to show they can carry a franchise and win a playoff series WITHOUT Kobe.
I like LA tonight, and I think it will be solely because of the dominance of Dwight and Pao.
Free Pick: Los Angeles Lakers -2.5