Money time. Show time. Time to turn on the switch.
Whatever cliché time phrase there is fits the Los Angeles Lakers as they open their first-round Western Conference playoff series hosting New Orleans Sunday at 12:30 p.m. PT on ABC.
The two-time defending world champion Lakers finished the regular season losing and failing to cover in five of their last seven games.
But is there any doubt that the second-seeded 57-25 Lakers won’t steamroll the seventh-seeded Hornets?
The Lakers have the shortest odds to win a third consecutive world championship at plus 185, according to Bookmaker.com. The Lakers are minus 2100 to dispatch the Hornets in the series with New Orleans plus 1250 and 90/1 to win the title.
Despite their recent struggles and center Andrew Bynum not 100 percent because of a bone bruise in his surgically-repaired right knee, the Lakers still are 10-point favorites in Game 1 with the ‘over/under’ at 183 ½. It’s only the fourth time all season the Hornets are taking double-digit points.
However, New Orleans has failed to cover its last eight playoff games when getting between five and 10 ½ points.
David West, the Hornets’ leadings scorer at 18.9 points a game, is out with a knee injury.
Point guard Chris Paul, who ranked fourth in the league in assists at 9.8 per contest and first in steals, shot just 41.5 percent from the floor in his last 10 games. Paul hasn’t been 100 percent much of the season due to a sore knee.
The Lakers swept the Hornets in four regular season games wining three of the matchups by double-digits and not allowing New Orleans to reach triple-digits in any game while going 3-1 ATS.
The team’s last meeting occurred on March 27 when the Lakers romped, 102-84, as nine-point home favorites behind 30 points from Kobe Bryant and 23 from Pau Gasol, who also grabbed 16 rebounds. The combined 186 points just dipped ‘under’ the 188 ½-point total.
This continued the Lakers’ trend of beating the Hornets. Los Angeles is 9-2 versus New Orleans during the past three seasons.
Bynum is expected to play in the series opener having had five days to get his knee in shape. The Lakers also should have Matt Barnes available. He missed the Lakers’ final two regular-season contests with knee soreness.
Reserve guard Steve Blake is out for Los Angeles due to chicken pox. The Lakers, though, still should posses the better reserves thanks to sixth man Lamar Odom. The Hornets have no one to match up against the athletic 6-foot-10 Odom, who averaged 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
The Hornets rank fifth defensively allowing 94 points per contest, but are 27th on offense averaging 94.9 points. The Lakers rank eighth defensively yielding 95.4 points a game and are ninth on offense at 101.5 points. Bryant was the league’s fifth-leading scorer at 25.3 points a game.
It’s not just Bryant and Odom who give the Hornets matchup problems. Gasol averaged 22.3 points and 12.8 rebounds versus the Hornets.
The Hornets’ only really decent front-court player with West out is Emeka Okafor, who is playing in the postseason for the first time. Okafor is a good rebounder and shot-blocker, but is not a big scorer.
Carl Landry has done a nice job replacing West, leading the Hornets in scoring the past 10 games at 14.9 points per contest and shooting 51.8 percent from the field.
Paul, though, is the key to any hope the Hornets having of being competitive. He’ll look to pick-and-roll the Lakers to death while taking advantage of a matchup against Derek Fisher.
The Lakers were just 16-25 ATS at home this season. However, they have covered 14 of the last 20 times they’ve met teams with a winning record.
The Hornets, who are 46-36, finished five games under .500 on the road. They were 19-21-1 ATS away from home.
Totals players may want to note that the ‘under’ has cashed in 22 of the Hornets’ last 32 games when taking points on the road.
Game 2 is set for Staples Center on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. PT with TNT broadcasting.