The Los Angeles Lakers sent out an injury update yesterday but it read more like the casualty list. Kobe Bryant? Out. Jordan Hill? Out. Steve Blake, a new addition? Out. With Steve Nash requiring an epidural to numb the pain in his hamstring and Jodie Meeks nursing a sprained ankle, it’s not beyond the realms of fantasy that Dwight Howard will become the NBA’s tallest point guard on Friday night as his team try to fight back from a 2-0 deficit in their first round Playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs.
It would be a monumental achievement if they can, even with home advantage for the first time. Their hopes rest with Howard and Pau Gasol making an impact, but if the former incurs the same kind of foul trouble he did in Game 2, when the Spurs won 102-91, their hopes are surely buried.
The odds are also against them. LA are 2.72 to come out on top with San Antonio a tempting 1.91 on the -4.5 handicap. On the 20 previous occasions that the Lakers have trailed 2-0 in a best-of-seven Playoff series, they’ve only won twice. Across the league, only 6% of teams in a similar hole have dug themselves out and advanced. Few, surely, have been this badly beat up.
Their great rivals Boston are also two games behind as their series with New York shifts to Beantown, where the Celtics were 27-13 in the regular season. The hosts are favoured by -3 on the handicap but the Knicks have been impressive defensively so far and that might prevent Boston rediscovering their shooting touch. The Celtics have plenty of heart and won’t roll over, but with their lack of depth, the Knicks (available at 2.23 for victory) have the reserves to wear Boston down.
Stephen Curry’s shooting delivered an upset win for Golden State over Denver in Game 2 and the Warriors now get to go for a 2-1 series lead when they return to Oakland. Curry’s ankle is a concern but it’s hard to see him sitting out. That’s a worry for the Nuggets, who were 1-1 on the road against Golden State this season and need to improve defensively to stop their nemesis.
Denver are 2.00 for the win with the Warriors favoured by -1 on the handicap. But with both teams resting their hopes on scoring big, look over the total points line of 212 at 1.91.
Best bet: Take San Antonio over the LA Lakers on the handicap of -4.5 at 1.91