New Star For Kobe

It's been nearly 10 years since Kobe Bryant has been as ineffective in consecutive games as he's been in his last two. Fortunately for the Los Angeles Lakers, there's now another All-Star to back up Bryant.

Newly acquired Pau Gasol may have to pick up the slack for the beat-up Bryant as Los Angeles continues its season-high nine-game road trip against the Orlando Magic on Friday.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Orlando –1.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 214 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles +1.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Lakers (31-17) dropped the first contest of their 14-day journey on Jan. 31 in Detroit, and then won three straight, beating Toronto, Washington and New Jersey. But the victory over the Nets came with a price - Bryant dislocated the pinky finger on his right hand and was limited to six points, the lowest total of his career when he's played at least 30 minutes.

Gasol helped make up for Bryant's struggles against New Jersey. In his first game in a Lakers uniform since being acquired from Memphis, the Spaniard had 24 points and 12 rebounds.

With his pinkie swollen on Wednesday, Bryant logged 37 minutes in Atlanta, but again was ineffective as he went 4-of-16 from the field and scored 11 points. Gasol struggled as well, shooting 5-of-14 for 12 points, as the Hawks broke the Lakers' three-game winning streak with a 98-95 victory.

"It is what it is," said Bryant, who said the finger was "very swollen."

"I'll try to muscle through it over the next couple days."

Bryant's two-game point total is his lowest while playing at least 20 minutes in each game since he scored 13 total points from April 3-5, 1998.

He's averaged 31.8 points in his last four trips to Orlando, with the Lakers winning the last two meetings.

Orlando (32-19) has seen what had been a dwindling lead in the Southeast Division expand again over the last 10 days. The Magic have won five of six while second-place Washington has dropped five straight, pushing the lead from 2 1/2 games to 6 1/2.

After a 107-98 loss to Dallas kicked off its five-game homestand on Monday, Orlando responded well on Wednesday, defeating New Jersey 100-84 behind Dwight Howard's league-leading 44th double-double.

"We're going to take these seven games we've got coming up - five games before the All-Star break and two after it - as playoff games," said Howard, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Gasol should have his hands full inside with Howard, the East's All-Star starter at center who's averaging 21.8 points and a league-best 14.6 rebounds. When the two have met head-to-head, Howard has averaged 13.0 points and 7.6 rebounds, while Gasol has scored 16.4 points and grabbed 8.2 boards per game.

Orlando's Rashard Lewis, who has made more 3-pointers than anyone besides Charlotte's Jason Richardson, has been held under 20 points in 11 consecutive games but continues to help open things up for Hedo Turkoglu. The Turkish forward has put together perhaps the best stretch of his career over his past nine games, averaging 23.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.3 assists.

Turkoglu had his first career triple-double - 13 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists - in Orlando's loss to Dallas.

It's been Lewis, though, who has tormented the Lakers recently. He's averaging 23.5 points and shooting 44.0 percent from 3-point range in his last 11 games against Los Angeles.

Lewis had a team-high 18 points in Orlando's 104-97 win over the Lakers at Staples Center on Dec. 2.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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