Kobe Bryant is on a mission and Los Angeles has huge size and talent advantages.
But can the Lakers be trusted as a mid-sized road favorite in their first-round Western Conference playoff series against New Orleans after losing to the Hornets by five as a similar favorite in their last visit?
The teams meet Thursday night at 5:00 (PT) in New Orleans for Game 6 with TNT televising.
The Lakers lead the series 3-2. Oddsmakers believe Los Angeles will close out the series installing the Lakers as 5 ½-point favorites. The ‘over/under’ is 184.
If the Lakers beat New Orleans, they wouldn’t play again until Monday taking on the winner of the Portland-Dallas series.
Everything was in place for the Lakers on Tuesday in an impressive 106-90 home victory in Game 5. The Lakers were 9 ½-point favorites and the combined 196 points went ‘over’ the 183-point total.
Bryant shook off a sprained left ankle to score 19 points, including two intimidating dunks, in less than 29 minutes to spark Los Angeles.
The Lakers took advantage of their size edge to crush the Hornets on the board, 42-25, while scoring 22 second-chance points to New Orleans’ two second-chance points.
Andrew Bynum had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 16 points and had eight boards and Lamar Odom contributed 13 points and pulled down seven boards to spearhead the Lakers’ inside dominance.
Finally the Lakers showed the urgency needed if they are going to win the championship for the third consecutive season. The key to this Game 6 is if the Lakers can maintain their intensity.
The Lakers were sharp in Game 3 beating the Hornets, 100-86, as five-point road favorites. However, the Hornets came back to capture Game 4 at home, 93-88, as six-point ‘dogs.
Chris Paul had a monster triple-double in that victory with 27 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds. The Lakers clamped down on Paul in Game 5, although he still produced 20 points on six-of-12 shooting from the floor and had 12 assists.
Obviously, the Hornets will be going all out being at home with their playoff lives at stake. The underdog has covered 17 of the past 23 times between these two teams.
Bryant was on crutches following Game 4 after suffering his ankle injury. He shot 62 percent from the floor in Game 5 on his bad ankle making eight of 13 shots from the field. Bryant shot just 42 percent from the floor during the first four games of the series.
If Bryant has regained his shooting touch, the Lakers should be in good shape to cover the number given their height advantage and bench superiority. Los Angeles’ reserves outscored New Orleans’ bench players by 17 points this past Tuesday. The Hornets’ reserves are averaging 12.5 points in their last four games.
The Hornets are 1-4 ATS in their last five games when playing on one day rest. There are other trends favoring the Lakers: Los Angeles is 12-5 ATS in its last 17 road contests when meeting a foe with a winning home mark. The Lakers have covered nine of their last 13 overall road matchups.
The Lakers also have covered in five of their last seven trips to New Orleans. The road team in this series has covered 15 of the past 21 times.
The two teams have gone ‘over’ in eight of their last 11 head-to-head meetings, including four of the last five in New Orleans. The ‘over’ has cashed in six of the Lakers’ last eight games. The ‘over’ has won six of the past seven times when the Hornets played with one day rest.
The ‘under,’ though, is 42-19 during the past 61 times the Lakers have played on one day of rest.