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Contenders Again

When the Los Angeles Lakers last won six straight, they went on to the NBA finals while Memphis had the best season in franchise history. The Lakers are contenders again, but the Grizzlies are playing like an expansion team again.

Undefeated in 2008, the Lakers look to set a season high with their sixth straight win when they host the lowly Grizzlies on Sunday night.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Los Angeles -12.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 220.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles -12.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Los Angeles (24-11) is back among the Western Conference's elite teams after finishing 42-40 last season.

The Lakers have a chance to win six in a row for the first time since an 11-game run from March 13-April 2, 2004. They went 56-26 that season before losing to Detroit in the NBA finals.

That season was also the most successful for Memphis (10-26) in its history, as it went 50-32 before losing to San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs. The Grizzlies franchise hadn't even come close to finishing near .500 in eight prior seasons after joining the league as an expansion team.

After three straight playoff appearances, Memphis went an NBA-worst 22-60 in 2006-07 and is again one of the league's worst teams. The Grizzlies have lost three straight, a skid that began with a 117-101 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday night, and don't seem to have much chance of avoiding another defeat to Los Angeles.

"It has been a roller coaster year for us, and a series of roller coaster games," Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said.

The Lakers have won 15 of 18 since coach Phil Jackson agreed to a two-year, $24 million contract extension on Nov. 29. Their next victory will tie Jackson with Bill Fitch, his coach at the University of North Dakota, for sixth place all-time at 944.

Los Angeles continues to get outstanding performances from Kobe Bryant - he had 37 points despite battling a viral upper respiratory infection in a 110-105 win over Milwaukee on Friday night - but Andrew Bynum's development is perhaps the biggest reason it is a top team again.

Bynum had 25 points and a career-high 17 rebounds against the Bucks. The third-year center has complemented Bryant by giving the Lakers a strong presence in the paint, averaging 13.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks while shooting 63.4 percent from the field.

"By far he's much stronger," Jackson said of Bynum. "We told him to go to the ball. Last year a lot of them got knocked out of his hands when he was bringing it down, but this year he is controlling it."

Friday's win improved Los Angeles to 14-5 at home. Memphis, meanwhile, will be closing a three-game stretch on the road, where it is 4-14.

The Grizzlies have allowed 116 points or more in each of their last three games, including a 116-104 loss to Golden State on Friday night.

Memphis lost despite getting a season-high 43 points from Pau Gasol. He was one point shy of his career best, and also added 11 rebounds.

Gasol is averaging 20.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in his last nine games against the Lakers.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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