NBA on ESPN Betting: Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs

2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, aka "The Claw," is putting in work for the 18-5 Spurs.
2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, aka “The Claw,” is putting in work for the 18-5 Spurs.

Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs
Time: 8:30 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: SAS -14.5
Total: 194

Betting odds c/o Bovada

The L.A. Lakers are basically now the “Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour.” That does not have other teams, nor NBA oddsmakers, taking the Lake Show very seriously at all. The 3-19 Lakers will be 14.5 point dogs tonight to the San Antonio Spurs, and even that vast spread may be a little complimentary to the Lakers.

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The game will be the second half of an NBA double-header on TNT tonight at 8:30 PM CST.

We may have never expected Kobe to fall off, but all legends do, in the end. His PER is just 10.0 as a result of his 30.9 percent field goal percentage.

The biggest detractor may be that the younger talent is watching Kobe lead the team in field goal attempts with 17.5 per game while a hot shooting Jordan Clarkson attempts four less per game. Clarkson is in his second-season after making the NBA all rookie first team last year, and his 15.2 points per game are second to only Bryant. He’s knocking down 47 percent from the floor and 41 percent behind the arc, but he is really the only Laker putting up anything resembling impressive numbers.

Julius Randle is now finally getting a full rookie season in, though, and he has been promising. The former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging 12.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, on track perhaps to achieve the double-double average he said he would have prior to this season.

Though slightly undersized, he is very much cut in the mold of former NBA star Anthony Mason and his ball handling talents could make him a dynamic point-forward at some point in his career. Right now, though, the Lakers are very much about the broken show of Kobe Bryant. Maybe that is fine. It is not often a 20-year NBA superstar announces his last season, and though he is struggling badly fans are still filing in to get a final look at what may be one of the best five players ever to suit up. Maybe even second only to Michael Jordan. Whatsoever the case, the San Antonio Spurs are hardly excited about the prospect as a business oriented club that will come out and look to pummel the Lakers on its homecourt where it has yet to lose this season.

The Spurs are 11-0 at home this season and 18-5 on the year, by all accounts a great start, but it has been very much overshadowed by the 23-0 Golden State Warriors. The Spurs trail Golden State by five games in the standings, and that is even while posting the second-best differential in the NBA (+11.2).

Spurs swingman Kawhi Leonard is continuing his great play and in another system would undoubtedly be more in the mold of a true “superstar.” The former SDSU talent is posting 20.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists while posting 2.95 steals/blocks per game. The Spurs also may have the best frontcourt in the league with LaMarcus Aldridge and veteran Tim Duncan being the other two components of it.

Duncan is averaging less than 10 points per game, but is still good for 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. And it is not as though his leadership is not worth his weight in gold, at that.

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Tony Parker, too, has fallen off, but this is a Spurs team with a very effective system designed to maximize the talents of a team, not individual statistical performances. Even Aldridge has seen his scoring average dip to a humble 15.4 points per game, but he joined San Antonio in search of a ring, not an MVP award.

The Spurs have eight players averaging more than six points per game and the team is just under 100 per night. In typical Spurs’ fashion, the team averages just 13.7 turnovers per game while posting a team assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.8. It is a reflection of superb ball movement, and Gregg Popovich is continuing to solidify his place as an all-time NBA great coach. Some even say he is the most astute developer of talent in the NBA, and it could never be more apparent than in the way he is able to maximize the likes of Boris Diaw and Patty Mills, both of whom would hardly be effective on any other club.

The Spurs may not be hosting the Tim Duncan farewell party quite yet, but it stands to reason that if San Antonio takes the title this year that the Wake Forest legend could choose to go out on top. Just because the Spurs have not announced any retirements does not mean that its former “Big 3” will all be back next season. It is always on a season-by-season basis, and Popovich made that clear in postgame interviews following the Spurs’ exit from the postseason last year.

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