An emotional night is in prospect on Wednesday at Staples Center, as the Los Angeles Lakers play for the first time since the death of their long-time owner Jerry Buss, architect of arguably the most successful team in American professional sport.
Buss, who passed away on Monday at the age of 80, has left the team in the hands of two of his children, but only time will tell if they can pull off the same magic in keeping the Lakers so consistently competitive.
It’s almost appropriate that they host their greatest rivals Boston and there’s a little vengeance on the minds of LA after their 116-95 thrashing at the hands of the Celtics just 13 days ago. The game marked Dwight Howard’s return but he was held to just nine points. Since then, his team have won just two out of four and even those two victories came against lowly Phoenix and Charlotte.
Boston have won nine out of eleven, despite a 97-90 defeat at Denver on Tuesday. Yet with the Lakers hungry to come out fighting after All Star and make a charge for the play-offs, back LA for the win on the handicap of -7.5.
Reigning champions Miami went into the break on a roll, winning seven straight, including a demolition of Oklahoma City. They’ll try to maintain that momentum on a trip to Atlanta.
The Heat have beaten the Hawks twice already this season by an average of 7.5 points, but the hosts could be on the verge of a break-up.
Josh Smith, their game-high scorer in two wins last week, is firmly on the trading block with his contract due to expire in the summer. He’s averaged an impressive 21.3 points over his last ten games and at this stage in his deal, it’s unlikely the Hawks can get back full value, risking a slide back into ignominy.
Even with Smith in the line-up, it’s hard to see Miami going down in flames here with their Big Three in such dominant offensive form.
Bet of the Day: Take Miami on the handicap of -5.5 over Atlanta
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