Betting News and Notes - Jan 3

Betting News and Notes - Jan 3

West Virginia (10-2, 4-2 ATS) at Notre Dame (10-2, 4-5 ATS)

A couple of 10-win teams begin their Big East Conference campaigns as Notre Dame hosts West Virginia.

The Fighting Irish carry an eight-game winning streak into this contest (3-3 ATS in lined games), but all of the victories came at home and none came against quality competition. During the run, Notre Dame has defeated Northern Florida, Brown, San Francisco, Northern Illinois, Kansas State, Colgate and Youngstown State, within only Kansas State (68-59) losing by fewer than 11 points.

West Virginia had its own eight-game winning streak halted in Saturday’s 88-82 overtime loss to Oklahoma as an eight-point home favorite. That defeat sent the Mountaineers tumbling back out of the Top 25.

These teams met once last year, with Notre Dame escaping with a 61-58 win, but the Mountaineers cashing as a 5½-point road underdog. The host is 6-2 SU in the last eight clashes, but the visitor has cashed in four straight, all as an underdog. In fact, the ‘dog is 8-2 in the last 10 battles in this rivalry.

West Virginia is 4-1 on the highway this year (3-1 ATS), while Notre Dame is 8-0 in South Bend, but just 2-3 against the number

The Mountaineers ended last year on a 2-5-1 ATS drought against Big East foes. Conversely, the Irish cashed in six of their last seven conference games last season.

The under is 6-0 in the last six series meetings. Also, the under is 4-2 in Notre Dame’s six home games this year. However, both teams topped the total in their final four Big East games a season ago.

ATS ADVANTAGE: WEST VIRGINIA and UNDER


(5) UCLA (12-1, 6-4-2 ATS) at (24) Stanford (11-1, 6-5-1 ATS)

A pair of Top 25 squads with legitimate Pac-10 championship hopes tip off the conference season against each other as UCLA heads up the California coast to battle Stanford.

Both teams carry lengthy winning streaks into this one. The Bruins closed out December with five straight victories following a 63-61 home loss to Texas on Dec. 2, while Stanford has reeled off seven consecutive wins since suffering its only defeat, a stunning 79-67 upset loss at Siena.

Most recently, the teams played on Saturday, with UCLA battering U.C. Davis 76-48 but coming up short as a 34½-point home chalk, while the Cardinal topped Fresno State 55-48 but failed as a 20-point home choice. The Bruins are 2-3-1 ATS in their last six lined games, while Stanford is in a 2-6 ATS slump.

The home team won and covered both meetings last year by near identical scores. The Cardinal pulled out a 75-68 upset as a 4½-point favorite, with UCLA getting revenge in a 75-61 rout as a 12-point chalk. The Bruins are 3-1 SU and ATS in the last four meetings after Stanford had won the previous six (5-1 ATS).
The winner has cashed in each of the last nine head-to-head matchups.

UCLA has won consecutive Pac-10 regular-season crowns, going 15-3 last year before losing to Cal 76-69 in overtime in the opening round of the conference tournament. Including that upset loss, Ben Howland’s team went 8-11 ATS in Pac-10 action in 2006-07 (4-6 ATS on the road).

The Cardinal placed sixth in the league last year at 10-8 (11-6-1 ATS), including 7-2 at home (5-3-1 ATS).

UCLA is perfect on the road at 4-0 (2-1 ATS in lined games) and an astonishing 26-12-1 ATS in its last 39 away from Pauley Pavilion.

Stanford is 8-0 SU at Maples Pavilion, but just 1-4 ATS in the last five on its home floor.

Stanford has stayed under the total in eight consecutive games, and the under is 2-9-1 in its 12 outings this season (6-1-1 at home). Meanwhile, going back to last year, UCLA is on a 12-5 “under” streak, including 7-4-1 “under” this year (3-1 on the highway). However, the over is 3-0 in the last three series battles.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UCLA and UNDER


Portland (18-13, 19-12 ATS) at Chicago (11-18, 10-19 ATS)

Two teams coming off road victories last night meet up in the Windy City, where the Bulls host the smoking-hot Trailblazers.

Chicago rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit in Charlotte on Wednesday night, outscoring the Bobcats 60-40 over the final two quarters en route to a 109-97 victory as a one-point road chalk. The Bulls are 3-1 SU and ATS in their last four, but they’re still mired in a 4-7 ATS funk.

A night after seeing its 13-game winning streak end at Utah, Portland bounced back in a big way at Minnesota last night, cruising to a 90-79 win as a five-point road favorite. The Blazers are 14-3 ATS in their last 17 games overall, including 4-1 ATS on the road.

Chicago swept the season series against Portland last year, winning 88-86 as a three-point road chalk and 110-89 as a 10-point home favorite. Going back to 2004, the Bulls are on runs against Portland of 5-1 SU and 5-2 ATS, including 3-0 SU and ATS at home. In fact, the host has cashed in each of the last four series meetings.

No team in the NBA has a bigger home-road split than the Blazers, who are 15-3 in their own building (6-11 ATS), but 4-10 on the highway (7-7 ATS).

The Bulls are just 6-8 at the United Center (5-9 ATS), including 1-3 SU and ATS in the last four.

Portland has cashed in four straight games against the Eastern Conference, while Chicago is just 1-6 ATS in its last seven against the West.

The Trailblazers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games when playing on back-to-back nights, but the Bulls are 2-6 ATS this season when they’ve gone without rest.

The over is 9-4 in Portland’s last 13 games against the Eastern Conference, 4-0 in Chicago’s last four against the Northwest Division and 5-1 in its last six at home.

ATS ADVANTAGE: PORTLAND and OVER


San Antonio (21-8, 17-12 ATS) at Denver (18-12, 14-16 ATS)


The Nuggets and Spurs return to work following a four-day layoff when they meet each other at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

San Antonio is in the midst of a slump, at least by its standards, going 4-5 SU and ATS in its last nine outings. The Spurs did finish off 2007 with a 111-87 rout of Memphis as a nine-point home favorite on Sunday, a victory that capped a 3-1 homestand.

Denver had a three-game SU winning streak and a 4-0 ATS roll halted in Sunday’s 105-95 loss to the Warriors as a 4½-point home chalk. George Karl’s team is still on a nice 9-5 run since Nov. 30, but just 7-7 ATS.

The Spurs routed the Nuggets 102-91 as a six-point home favorite back on Dec. 15. Since Denver took Game 1 of an opening-round playoff series last November, San Antonio has ripped off five straight wins in this rivalry, going 5-0 ATS. Going back to the 2005-06 season, San Antonio is 9-4 SU and ATS against the Nuggets (4-1 SU and ATS in Denver), with the winner covering the spread in all 13 games.

San Antonio’s big issue this year has been its spotty play on the road, going 5-6 SU and ATS, including three consecutive losses (1-2 ATS) coming into this contest. The straight-up winner is 9-2 ATS in those 11 road games.

The Nuggets are 12-5 at the Pepsi Center, but a subpar 8-9 ATS, including 1-6 ATS in the last seven at home, all as a favorite. Also, Denver has failed to cash in nine of its last 10 games against teams from the Southwest Division.

The Spurs are on positive ATS runs of 37-14-1 against the Northwest Division, 20-8-1 when playing on at least three days’ rest and 11-5-1 following a SU victory.

The last nine meetings between these teams have stayed under the total. Moreover, the under is 22-5-1 in the last 28 clashes overall, including 10-2 in the last 12 battles in Denver. Also, the under is on runs of 7-2 for the Spurs overall, 15-7 for the Spurs on the road and 20-8 for Denver against Southwest Division squads.

ATS ADVANTAGE: SAN ANTONIO and UNDER

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Kings' Artest out three to four weeks after right elbow surgery
ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK -- Ron Artest had surgery on his right elbow Wednesday and will miss three to four weeks, another blow to the injury-depleted Sacramento Kings.

After missing two games, Artest had an MRI in his hometown of New York, and it was decided to have the procedure to remove five bone chips right after.

Artest is averaging 19.1 points in 19 games, having missed the first seven games of the season while serving an NBA suspension.

The Kings are already without leading scorer Kevin Martin (strained right groin) and starting point guard Mike Bibby, who hasn't played this season following surgery on his left thumb. All are expected to return later this month.

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Marbury, Crawford back in uniform for Knicks
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NEW YORK -- Stephon Marbury was back in uniform for the New York Knicks on Wednesday after missing most of the past month following the death of his father.

Marbury missed 10 of 13 games since Donald Marbury died during the Knicks' loss to Phoenix on Dec. 2. Stephon Marbury tried to come back right after the funeral, but left after two games, and has played just once since.

He returned to practice late last week but was not in uniform for Sunday's loss to Chicago. Knicks coach Isiah Thomas expected to use him for about half of Wednesday's game against Sacramento.

''You may let him go just to blow it out, but if he starts hurting the team because of his conditioning then we'll take him out,'' Thomas said.

''He feels that he's ready to play emotionally, and physically he's had enough practices up underneath him that I think that he can definitely play 20-25 minutes. I don't know if he's ready to play a 40-minute game, but we'll see.''

Leading scorer Jamal Crawford also was back and in the starting lineup after missing a game because of a bruised right hand. Thomas also put Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph back in the lineup together after breaking them up for the previous two games.

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Heat continues to be short-handed

SHORT-HANDED

Apparently, it is going to be a while before the Heat is whole again.

Starters Shaquille O'Neal, Jason Williams and Dorell Wright likely will miss Wednesday's game against the Bucks because of injuries. None of the three players practiced Tuesday, and O'Neal said doctors have told him to sit out until his bruised left hip ''is 1,000 percent'' healthy.

O'Neal, who has missed the past two games, estimated he was about 60 percent.

''I've been doing treatments twice a day,'' O'Neal said. ``It's still sore. I feel it when I get ready to jump. I was ordered to stay out until it is right.''

O'Neal had taken cortisone shots to treat injuries in his hips and his surgically repaired left knee. But he said he did not get the injection in the left hip this time because it didn't respond well to a previous shot.

He initially injured his left hip Dec. 22 against Utah, when he dove for the ball. O'Neal aggravated it four days later against Philadelphia.

Williams has missed the past three games because of inflammation in his left knee. Wright, who sprained his left ankle Saturday, was in a walking boot Tuesday and is expected to miss about a week, coach Pat Riley said.

MIXED MESSAGES

The Heat and banished guard Smush Parker offered conflicting updates Tuesday on his status. Riley said Parker did not practice Tuesday and has not been working out with the assistant coaches or training staff.

However, Parker's agent said Tuesday there were expectations Parker would resume day-to-day activities at the start of this week. Tuesday was the first time the Heat practiced since its Dec. 29 loss at Washington.

Parker has not been with the team since his Nov. 27 altercation with a female valet attendant. Parker, who had been at his home in New York for the holidays, was summoned back to Miami by the team last week. He also has been included in trade talks.

miamiherald.com

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Roll's MRI reveals full tear of plantar fascia in left foot
ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA swingman Michael Roll underwent an MRI on his left foot on Wednesday that confirmed a full tear of the plantar fascia, according to a school release.

According to the release, Roll will be sidelined for three weeks.

Coach Ben Howland says Roll suffered the injury during practice Monday. Howland says Roll went to push off on his toe and felt a twinge.

Roll missed UCLA's first seven games because of a similar injury suffered Nov. 3. The first time he injured the foot, it was just a partial tear.

The fifth-ranked Bruins play Stanford (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) on Thursday.

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NBA Today - Thursday, January 3
ASSOCIATED PRESS

SCOREBOARD Thursday, Jan. 3

San Antonio at Denver (9 p.m. EST). Fabricio Oberto scored 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting and had 13 rebounds in the Spurs' 102-91 win over the Nuggets on Dec. 15.

STARS Wednesday

-LeBron James, Cavaliers, scored 32 of his 36 points in the second half of a 98-94 victory over Atlanta.

-Pau Gasol, Grizzlies, scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Memphis' 90-72 win over Indiana.

-John Salmons, Kings, scored a career-high 32 points in a 107-97 victory over New York.

-Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks, had 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a 121-99 win over Golden State.

CRUISING

Richard Hamilton scored 20 points, and added nine assists and seven rebounds to help Detroit earn its 10th consecutive victory by beating Washington 106-93 Wednesday night. It's the Pistons' longest winning streak since an 11-gamer in January 2006, and the average margin of victory during the current run is 16.8 points.

BIG GREEN MACHINE

Kevin Garnett scored 11 of his 26 points in the last 7 minutes on Wednesday night, adding nine rebounds to help Boston beat Houston 97-93 and earn its seventh consecutive victory. The Celtics improved to 27-3 to match the best 30-game start in the shot-clock era. Five other teams have lost just three of their first 30 games, including the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls who finished the season with an NBA-record 72 wins.

CROWNED

John Salmons scored a career-high 32 points and Sacramento beat New York 107-97 on Wednesday night to snap a four-game losing streak. Brad Miller had 26 points and 16 rebounds while Francisco Garcia added 22 points for the Kings, who led by as many as 24 in a game that was never close in the second half. Salmons added 11 rebounds and six assists. The Kings never trailed and easily handed the Knicks their fifth straight loss.

MAGIC ACT

Jason Kidd had 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and New Jersey overcame a 15-point deficit to defeat Orlando 96-95 Wednesday night. The Nets trailed most of the game, but finally came back in the fourth quarter. Malik Allen hit a couple of jumpers and Kidd fed Richard Jefferson for a reverse layup. The score trimmed Orlando's lead to 84-80 with 6 minutes left. Less than a minute later, Kidd hit a long 3 that drew the Nets even closer, and they finally took the lead on Allen's fast-break jumper 87-86 with 4:32 left. Kidd also set two career milestones, entering the game one assist shy of 9,000 and three rebounds short of Magic Johnson for fourth place on the career list for rebounds by a guard. He accomplished both feats in the first 3 1/2 minutes.

SECOND WIND

LeBron James scored 32 of his 36 in the second half, including 19 in the fourth quarter and 12 in the final 1:50 to lead Cleveland to a 98-94 win over Atlanta on Wednesday night. After taking only five shots and scoring four points in the first half, James dropped in 13 points in the third and then took over in the fourth, scoring 19 of Cleveland's 22 over the last 6:51 and making 6-of-6 free throws in the last 16 seconds.

OUT

Ron Artest had surgery on his right elbow Wednesday and will miss three to four weeks, another blow to the injury-depleted Sacramento. After missing two games, Artest had an MRI in his hometown of New York, and it was decided to have the procedure to remove five bone chips right after. Artest is averaging 19.1 points in 19 games, having missed the first seven games of the season while serving an NBA suspension. The Kings beat New York 107-97 on Wednesday night.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Andre Iguodala scored a season-best 30 points in Philadelphia's 110-107 loss to Utah. ... Dwyane Wade scored 27 points and had eight assists in Miami's 103-98 loss to Milwaukee. ... Jason Richardson scored 28 points in Charlotte's 109-97 loss to Chicago on Wednesday night.

SPEAKING

''There's a refusal to come together and play collectively. We do it in spurts, but then we sit back and we watch. Just somehow got to push through this and get them playing together as a group, because individually they do have talent.'' - Knicks coach Isiah Thomas after New York suffered their fifth straight loss 107-97 to Sacramento on Wednesday night. New York trailed by as many as 24, and lost by double digits for an NBA-high 15th time.

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Thursday's NBA matchup notes
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Portland at Chicago

The Bulls have won five of their last six against the Blazers, including three in a row. Luol Deng was 18-for-25 from the field and had a career-high 38 points in Chicago's 100-89 win over Portland on March 26 as the Bulls completed a season series-sweep.

San Antonio at Denver

The Spurs beat the Nuggets in five games in the first round of last season's playoffs and won 102-91 at home in the first meeting between the teams this season on Dec. 15.

Seattle at Phoenix

Phoenix beat the Sonics 106-99 in its season opener Nov. 1 at Seattle. The Suns have also won two straight home meetings with the Sonics.

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Thursday's NCAAB Top 25 matchup notes
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rice at No. 15 Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt leads the series with Rice 14-3, including 9-2 in Nashville. The Commodores beat the Owls 74-69 on the road last Jan. 2 in the first meeting since the 1995-96 season.

Oregon State at No. 21 Arizona

The Wildcats have won 25 straight in Tucson against Oregon State and haven't lost at home to the Beavers since 1983 - the year before Lute Olsen arrived at Arizona. Olsen is still the coach, but is taking a leave of absence this season for personal reasons.

Siena at No. 2 Memphis


Siena won its only matchup with Memphis 72-59 on Jan. 21, 1953.

No. 16 Villanova at DePaul

Villanova and DePaul split two meetings last season. The Wildcats won 75-67 in the opening round of the conference tournament which avenged a home loss to the Blue Demons on Jan. 6, 2007.

Providence at No. 11 Marquette

The Golden Eagles and the Friars split their season series in 2006-07, with Marquette winning at home 69-62 on Feb. 3. Both teams have four wins in the all-time series.

No. 5 UCLA at No. 20 Stanford

The Bruins were 15-3 in Pac-10 play last season, but one of the losses was at Stanford. UCLA avenged that loss with a 75-61 win against the Cardinal in its home finale on Feb. 24.

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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Chicago Bulls

- The Portland Trail Blazers and the Chicago Bulls will both be gunning for a victory on Thursday when they meet at United Center.

Brandon Roy netted 24 points to lead the Trail Blazers to a 90-79 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

The Blazers covered as 5-point road favorites as the teams played well under the 191.5-point total set by oddsmakers.

Luol Deng had 21 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and dished out five assists to lift the Bulls to a 109-97 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

The Bulls covered as 1-point road favorites as the teams played over the 190.5-point total posted by books.

Team records:
Portland: 19-13 SU, 20-12 ATS
Chicago: 12-18 SU, 11-19 ATS

Portland most recently:
When playing on Thursday are 3-7
Before playing Utah are 4-6
After playing Minnesota are 3-7
After a win are 9-1

Chicago most recently:
When playing on Thursday are 2-8
Before playing Sacramento are 5-5
After playing Charlotte are 4-6
After a win are 3-7

A few trends to consider:
Portland is 14-1 SU in its last 15 games
Portland is 13-2 ATS in its last 15 games
Portland is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games on the road
Portland is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Chicago's last 6 games at home
Chicago is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games when playing Portland
Chicago is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing at home against Portland
Chicago is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Portland

Next up:
Portland home to Utah, Saturday, January 5
Chicago home to Sacramento, Saturday, January 5

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San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets

- The San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets will both be trying to pick up a win on Thursday when they battle at Pepsi Center.

The Spurs defeated Memphis 111-87 as an 11.5-point favorite last time out. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (192).

Tim Duncan had 24 points and 17 rebounds for San Antonio, while Tony Parker added 24 points and nine rebounds in the win.

The Nuggets lost to Golden State 105-95 as a 3.5-point favorite last time out. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (227.5).

Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while J.R. Smith chipped in with 15 points.

Team records:
San Antonio: 21-8 SU, 17-12 ATS
Denver: 18-12 SU, 14-16 ATS

San Antonio most recently:
When playing on Thursday are 7-3
Before playing New York are 6-4
After playing Memphis are 8-2
After a win are 6-4

Denver most recently:
When playing on Thursday are 5-5
Before playing Minnesota are 4-6
After playing Golden State are 5-5
After a loss are 6-4

A few trends to consider:
San Antonio is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Denver
San Antonio is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing Denver
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of San Antonio's last 5 games when playing Denver
San Antonio is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games when playing on the road against Denver
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Denver's last 5 games when playing San Antonio
The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Denver's last 12 games when playing at home against San Antonio
Denver is 11-4 SU in its last 15 games at home
Denver is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games

Next up:
San Antonio home to New York, Friday, January 4
Denver at Minnesota, Friday, January 4

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Seattle SuperSonics vs. Phoenix Suns

- The Seattle SuperSonics and the Phoenix Suns will both be gunning for a victory on Thursday when they meet at US Airways Center.

Nick Collison picked up 15 points and 11 rebounds in Seattle's 98-90 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.

The Sixers managed to cover the 1.5-point spread on the road in that contest, while the combined score fell UNDER the posted total (190.5).

The Suns defeated Sacramento 117-102 as an 8-point favorite on Sunday. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (210.5).

Amare Stoudemire scored 31 points and grabbed 17 rebounds for Phoenix, while Shawn Marion added 25 points in the win.

Current streak:
Phoenix has won 3 straight games.

Team records:
Seattle: 9-22 SU, 15-16 ATS
Phoenix: 22-9 SU, 14-16-1 ATS

Seattle most recently:
When playing on Thursday are 2-8
Before playing Washington are 5-5
After playing Philadelphia are 4-6
After a loss are 5-5

Phoenix most recently:
When playing on Thursday are 6-4
Before playing New Orleans are 5-5
After playing Sacramento are 8-2
After a win are 6-4

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Seattle's last 5 games when playing Phoenix
Seattle is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Phoenix
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Seattle's last 5 games when playing on the road against Phoenix
Seattle is 7-2 ATS in its last 9 games when playing on the road against Phoenix
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Phoenix's last 5 games when playing Seattle
Phoenix is 9-2 SU in its last 11 games at home
Phoenix is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Phoenix's last 5 games when playing at home against Seattle

Next up:
Seattle at Washington, Sunday, January 6
Phoenix home to New Orleans, Saturday, January 5

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Mihm is out for three to four weeks

The Lakers center will be treated for an inflamed right Achilles.

January 3, 2008

The story of the Lakers and their big men -- one comes back, and one goes away for a while.

Chris Mihm will be out three to four weeks because of a sore right Achilles' heel, leaving the Lakers with Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum at center. In a pinch, Ronny Turiaf can also play the position.

Mihm will undergo weekly sonar-wave treatment on the Achilles' heel, which is being affected by bursitis and inflammation, he said. Mihm has had his right ankle surgically repaired twice.

"It's been something I've been trying to avoid," Mihm said of the layoff. "We've pretty much exhausted every avenue to try and be able to speed the recovery on my Achilles while still playing. With Kwame being out the last four or five weeks, I wanted to stay active. Now with Kwame back and healthy, timing-wise it was a good opportunity here to try and do this. . . . "

Mihm is averaging 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 19 games. He had an 11-point, seven-rebound effort Dec. 4 against Minnesota but had played only three games since then.

"We're hopeful," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "It looked like he was struggling a little bit to play, so they felt there was something medically they could do to help him out."

Mihm signed a two-year, $5-million contract in July to stay with the Lakers. The second year of the contract is a player option.

The Lakers weren't thrilled with the one-game suspension the league handed Lamar Odom.

Turns out Odom wasn't that pleased, either.

Odom was given a flagrant foul after appearing to slam his body into Boston guard Ray Allen near the end of Sunday's 110-91 Lakers loss. Two days later, the league issued a suspension, which will cost Odom $120,441 in lost salary.

He will miss Friday's game against Philadelphia.

"It wasn't my ruling or my judgment, but if that's what the league says, that's what goes," he said. "I didn't think it was that excessive. I wasn't trying to hurt him. I was just trying to make a play on the ball. If I would have cheap-shotted him, he would have known I would have cheap-shotted him."

Just the same, Odom's teammates joked with him during Wednesday's practice. Trevor Ariza even got into a three-point stance, Odom said.

"I was a pee-wee legend," Odom said. "I told these guys that at 12-13 years old, I was a monster on the football field, but my football days are behind me. I just watch now."

Odom is averaging 14.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game. He will probably be replaced Friday by Turiaf, Jackson said.

The Lakers returned to practice Wednesday after Jackson gave them a two-day break. . . . Sasha Vujacic could not finish practice because of back spasms. His status is unclear for Friday's game.

latimes.com

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Trailblazers look to continue good form in 2008

While the Portland Trailblazers’ winning streak was snapped on New Year’s Eve at 13 games, they are still the hottest team in the league as they head to Chicago on Thursday night to face the struggling Chicago Bulls.

Portland at Chicago

The Bulls welcome the Trailblazers to United Center looking like a team in disarray, as they attempt to get used to life without head coach Scott Skiles who was fired on Christmas Eve. The Bulls are 2-2 under Jim Boylan ahead of Wednesday’s game at Charlotte, and more importantly, the Bulls’ offense is starting to come alive after an awful start to the season. As of Tuesday, the Bulls had scored at least 100 points in three straight games, powered by the efforts of Ben Gordon.

The Trailblazers were the story of December, losing only their first and last games of the month. Brandon Roy is quietly being mentioned as an MVP candidate in some circles, as he has powered the Trailblazers to second place in the Northwest Division. The Bulls have won four of their last five meetings with the Trailblazers.

San Antonio at Denver

The Spurs travel to Pepsi Center to face the Nuggets on Thursday night, and both teams are leading their respective divisions. The Spurs ended 2007 by blowing out Memphis at home, and look like they are healthy again after nagging injuries to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The Nuggets will look to protect their 12-5 record at home, led by the high-scoring combination of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony.

Seattle at Phoenix

The Suns host the Supersonics at U.S. Airways Center on Thursday night, as Phoenix enters 2008 with a three-game winning streak. Amare Stoudamire was especially spectacular, putting up double-doubles in each of those victories. Steve Nash also notched at least ten assists during the three-game streak. The Supersonics lost three of four before the calendar flip. This is the beginning of a four-game road trip for the young Seattle club, but they should have Kevin Durant back from an injured finger. The Suns have taken three of their last five meetings with the Supersonics.

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