It was all looking so promising for the Los Angeles Lakers. 17 wins out of 23. A surge into the NBA play-off places. A semblance of chemistry. But when Kobe Bryant sustained an ankle sprain during Wednesday’s loss in Atlanta, their entire campaign might have turned on its head.
Bryant will likely sit out on Friday night, when his short-handed side travel to Indiana. As tough as the former MVP is, he will have to bid his time like a mere mortal before returning. The Lakers own a tiny half-game cushion over Utah for eighth place in the Western Conference but with the margin for error so slim, they will lean heavily on Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to keep up their momentum.
That won’t be easy against the Pacers, with Roy Hibbert finding a new lease of form in recent weeks and his team winning seven of their last ten to remain on top of the Central Division. Hibbert should occupy Howard, leaving David West and Paul George with opportunities to score inside. Indiana are still holding opponents to under an average of 90 points per game but they’ve also put up an average of 108 in their last three victories so they have enough to heap further misery on LA.
The Houston Rockets have fared well this season with a young quick exciting team, built around a burgeoning superstar. That was Minnesota’s plan too before injuries wholly decimated their hopes. Despite a shock blowout of San Antonio earlier this week, it still figures to be a miserable end to the year for the Timberwolves with Andrei Kirilenko their latest casualty.
Houston have been performing well at home of late, winning seven of their last eight. They’re just one game into a run of seven consecutive games at the Toyota Center. With the score set to soar, take the Rockets to win on a handicap of -14.5 points at 1.91.
Best bet: Take Indiana on the handicap over the LA Lakers