Kobe vs. LeBron!
Kobe vs. LeBron!
By the KING of Las Vegas WAYNE ALLYN ROOT
It only happens a couple of times every year. But, when it does, the city of Las Vegas gets very excited about the showdown between Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James of the Miami Heat.
Those teams match up tonight in Game One of TNT's doubleheader. You regular readers probably know that Vegas is Kobe Country because he's a superstar player on what is basically the local NBA team. In pro sports, Vegas might as well be a suburb of Los Angles. And, Kobe has the kind of swagger that Vegas loves anyway. If you walk around Vegas sportsbooks in the heart of the NBA season or during the playoffs, you see more Kobe jerseys than anyone else.
Of course...WAYNE ALLYN ROOT is THE KING OF LAS VEGAS! But, I have no illusions about where I'd rank compare to Kobe Bryant if he lived in Las Vegas year round. This is Kobe Country.
But, it's also true that LeBron James has a big following locally. Many people hate him. Some people love him (though that number dwindled after he played so poorly in the NBA finals last year). Everyone still watches because they know something amazing can happen whenever he touches the ball. And, everyone still watches the Heat because they've become the team people love to hate.
This might as well be a steel cage match in big time wrestling. The Lakers are the good guys here in Vegas, with Kobe as the man wearing the championship belt. Miami is the team in black that gets booed out of respect and fear.
In Miami, they feel differently of course. And, that's where tonight's game is going to be played.
But, in Las Vegas is where the game is going to be BET! That's what we're worried about picking the winner. Here are my thoughts on the game from a handicapping perspective:
The Lakers are playing very strong defense this year under new coach Mike Brown. They were good defensively under Phil Jackson too. But, this year's team has been even better so far. I'm interested to see how they handle the challenge of dealing with Miami. And, I'll be thinking about the Under because this could turn out to be a low scoring, defensive battle. Note that the Lakers are 5-10 to the Under this year because oddsmakers didn't properly anticipate Brown's impact on totals.
The Lakers haven't impressed on the road this year, and have only played four true road games. It's important to remember that their won-lost record may be inflated as a result. True road games this year have resulted in losses at Sacramento, Denver, and Portland...and there was an overtime win at Utah. The schedule also shows a "road" game against the LA Clippers, but the teams share the same arena. The Lakers lost that game too! So, the Lakers 10-5 record this year has a lot of wins at home, but only a 1-4 record in neutral or road games.
Miami is trying to run this year when healthy (though, running so much has kept them from being healthy!). That's a style that could really overpower this current Lakers roster. Los Angeles is most comfortable right now in slowdown games that allow Kobe to take over in halfcourt play. They just don't have the athletes to go up and down the floor for 48 full minutes given their bench, and the loss of Lamar Odom. The key tonight in my view will involve who can control the tempo of the game. We're probably looking at Miami and Over, or Lakers and Under in terms of how the game will play out. Whoever controls the flow controls both of those elements.
Both the Lakers and Heat have big games coming up in the next two days. This is night one of a back-to-back for Los Angeles, who then visits Orlando on Friday (playing the same schedule San Antonio just did). Miami has Friday off, but then plays surprise power Philadelphia on Saturday. This could really be a "send a message" weekend for LeBron James, particularly if Dwayne Wade isn't able to play because of his injury.
I can't tell you here in my web article who I'll be playing tonight and this weekend in the baskets. But, I can tell you that I have something very big on the Thursday card. Maybe it's in the NBA. Maybe it's in a busy college slate that features many of the Western conferences I specialize in. You'll have to make a few clicks to get the best plays on the board!
Now is a great time to talk about full season packages. If you'd like more information on what's available, call my call my handicapping office at 1-877-766-8946. I have great rates through March Madness if you're ready to start down that road. We can include Championship Weekend and the Super Bowl from the NFL for a minor additional charge.
Lakers-Heat is a game Vegas has been waiting for since the NBA season started. This heavyweight bout goes TONIGHT...and THE KING OF LAS VEGAS is ready to win. That means YOU should go to W.A.R. alongside WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!
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