The unfortunate death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others will make for a surreal experience at the Staples Center Friday night on ESPN.
The Los Angeles Lakers have not played since last Saturday in Philadelphia. The Lakers franchise and players face a monumental task of trying to memorialize Kobe Bryant in the proper way and still keep emotions in check to win a game.
Free NBA Basketball Preview, Odds and Pick for Portland vs. L.A. Lakers
No active player will have taken Kobe’s passing harder than LeBron. James' play will set the tone for his team and the emotion for Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma and others will be unfathomable.
Let’s not forget about the Lakers’ older players, all in their 30’s, who played against Bryant, like Dwight Howard, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Jared Dudley. For them, this contest will also have a special meaning.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Thursday, "We want to represent what Kobe was about." Vogel understands his team will have to play through the grief with the best record in the Western Conference at 36-10 (24-21-1 ATS). But professional athletes are well known for compartmentalizing and that is what the coach is counting on. Besides, Vogel and his staff have to figure out how to slow down Portland’s Damian Lillard, who is blazing H O T!
The NBA basketball odds have the Lakers at -12 for this ESPN encounter.
Trail Blazers +12 points -110
Lakers -12 points -110
Lillard was named the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 52.7 points over a three-game stretch. He followed that up Wednesday by scoring 36 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 11 assists, in a victory over Houston. That was the first triple-double of Lillard’s distinguished career. This kept the Blazers (21-27 SU, 18-28-2 ATS) three games behind Memphis for the No. 8 slot in the West.
"He’s (Lillard) been locked in," Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. "He’s been playing at an elite level. I think this is the best basketball that he’s played in his career, which is saying a lot." The 29-year old Weber State product is the first player in Portland history to score 30-plus points in six consecutive games.
Portland will have to take the brunt of the Lakers' emotion in the first six minutes and that won’t be easy for a team that is 9-16 SU and 10-14-1 ATS on the road.
However, the Blazers are 10-2 ATS in the last 12 meetings in Los Angeles, yet hard to overlook this. Rip City is 3-9 ATS in their last 12 road games and 4-10 ATS vs. winning teams. For NBA picks, can’t see the Lakers not wanting this one more.
Doug Upstone’s Free Pick – Lakers -12
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Doug Upstone is a top sports analyst for Doc's Sports and one of the sports industry's most respected handicappers. Find more from Doug and other top handicappers at DocSports.com