Lakers vs. Suns Preview + Free Pick Feb 20th, 2008
By: Sportsbook.com Staff
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NBA: Action heating up in Phoenix
Shaquille O’Neal’s first game in Phoenix is exciting enough. Having that matchup come against Kobe & the Lakers is off the charts. Betting action figures to be heavy on this game, so follow the Betting Trends page all day for continuous updates.
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It’s not every day that rivals fighting for a division title or the best record in the conference meet. Throw in trades by each team to enhance there position in the standings and you’ve got the makings of a donnybrook of activity. Fans of the Phoenix Suns are anxious to see if O’Neal can lead them to NBA finals and they are likely to get their first glimpse tonight.
The much anticipated debut of the Big Fella has the Valley of the Sun abuzz. O’Neal’s first practice left him gassed, not only because how long he had been out, but because of the intensity and running.
“No wonder they only practice an hour, man they (the Suns) run a lot.” O’Neal said.
He better get used to it, along with the fact that, with just 29 games remaining, there will not be many nights off playing in the Western Conference.
How effective Shaq can really be after missing so much time with bad hip comes into question, but the chance to go up against Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant has to add inspiration and desire.
How all these pieces fit together and how quickly, will be critical for Coach Mike D’Antoni. Phoenix owns the second best record in the West, trailing New Orleans by just a game, but any prolonged losing streak of three or more games and they could be trying to hang on to seventh or eight seed in no time.
The Suns, 20-6 at home with 10-15-1 ATS record, are often overvalued as the defense allows 104 points a game.
The Lakers swung a deal to land Pau Gasol to help fill in for center Andrew Bynum, which suggests they will be only stronger when the improving big man returns.
Los Angeles not only survived, they thrived on their longest road trip of the year with 7-2 straight up and ATS record. The Lakers have the second-best cover rate among road teams at 18-9-1 ATS, winning by 5.2 PPG.
Kobe Bryant is playing with a torn ligament in his right pinky finger and is trying to avoid surgery. If surgery was necessary, he could miss up to six weeks but he knows the Lakers have legit opportunity to make Finals.
“My current thinking is to give my finger some treatment and rest for a few days and hope I can still continue to compete at a high level after that rest,” Bryant said in a statement. “I would prefer to delay any surgical procedure until after our Lakers season, and this summer’s Olympic Games. But this is an injury that myself and the Lakers’ medical staff will just have to continue to monitor on a day-to-day basis.”
On the presumption that Shaq is ready to play, Phoenix should be a small favorite. The Suns and the crowd will be fired up. Steve Nash and company are 3-0 this season with three or more days off, however are 0-5-1 ATS in last six games. The Lakers are 6-2 ATS in last eight outings with zero rest.
ESPN will broadcast anticipated contest starting at 9pm ET with the Lakers 7-5 ATS at US Airways Arena, despite just two outright wins.
Sportsbook.com – StatFox Take – Phoenix by 1
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