Taking Over

Kobe Bryant routinely takes over games and leads his Los Angeles Lakers to victories. The Western Conference is quickly learning to expect the same from Chris Paul.

Two top MVP candidates go head-to-head Friday when Bryant's Lakers visit Paul's New Orleans Hornets, with both teams eying home-court advantage in the highly competitive West.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Los Angeles -1.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 208.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles -1.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Lakers (45-19) hold a one-game lead over Houston and San Antonio for the conference's top seed, with the Hornets (43-20) just 1 1/2 games back.

While Bryant is one of the league's premier players, the Lakers star hasn't won an MVP award despite leading the NBA in scoring each of the last two seasons.

Paul, meanwhile, is in only his third season, but has forced his way into the MVP discussion by leading the surprising Hornets toward the top of the conference.

"I'd vote for him, and I'd have Kobe and LeBron (James) tied for second," said Byron Scott, Paul's coach. "But I'm biased."

Both Los Angeles and New Orleans have won four of their last five, with their stars leading the way. Bryant is averaging 32.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in his last five contests, while Paul is averaging 27.6 points and 14.0 assists in the same span.

Paul had 26 points and 17 assists Wednesday as New Orleans routed San Antonio, another contender for the West's top seed, 100-75. The Hornets made 58.7 percent of their shots.

"Chris Paul played awesome,'' Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. "(He) was just unbelievable. It felt like every shot he put up there went in or he made the right decision."

Paul had 19 points and an NBA season-high 21 assists in New Orleans' 118-104 road victory over the Lakers on Nov. 6.

When the Lakers visited the Hornets on Jan. 9, however, Los Angeles shot 54.9 percent and won 109-80, handing New Orleans its worst loss of the season.

This will be the Hornets' first chance to see center Pau Gasol in a Lakers uniform, and fortunately for New Orleans, it will have its best inside scorer back. All-Star David West returned against San Antonio after a three-game absence due to a sprained ankle, and scored 29 points.

Bryant is averaging 28.2 points - 3.4 fewer than he did in 2006-07 - but his supporting cast is much improved this season, and his all-around play combined with the Lakers' conference-best record has him at the forefront of the MVP race.

Los Angeles picked up its 14th win in 16 games Wednesday largely because of Bryant's brilliance. He scored 10 of his game-high 34 points in the final 8 1/2 minutes, lifting the Lakers to a 117-108 victory over Toronto.

After completing a 15-game stretch where they faced only five teams with winning records, Los Angeles embarks on a four-game road trip against teams that are a combined 168-86.

"It's time to have some fun and play some of the top teams in the NBA,'' forward Luke Walton said. "There's going to be hostile environments, every possession is going to be crucial. That's a lot of fun for a player."

Fortunately for Los Angeles, Lamar Odom is heating up as the team hits the road. The forward is averaging 17.5 points on 73.2 percent shooting over his last four games.

Odom isn't the only Laker shooting well. Guard Derek Fisher is averaging 52.0 percent from 3-point range in the same stretch, scoring 16.3 points per game.

Los Angeles has won three of four in New Orleans, including a 111-105 victory on March 23 when Bryant scored 50.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

More NBA Basketball Coverage from theSpread.com

 - NBA Basketball teams
 - NBA Basketball standings
 - NBA Basketball schedule
 - NBA Basketball scoreboard
 - NBA Basketball injuries
 - NBA Basketball matchups
 - NBA Basketball stats
 - NBA Basketball odds
 - NBA Basketball public betting chart
 - NBA Basketball news wire
 - NBA Basketball top stories
 - NBA Basketball trends
 - AccuScore NBA Basketball predictions
 - Expert NBA Basketball picks
 - Comments and discussion
 - Signup for theSpread.com daily newsletter
 - NBA Basketball Home

NBA Top Stories

Thumbnail Updated NBA Finals Odds After a busy week with the NBA Draft taking place, which team improved their odds to win the 2018 NBA Finals?
Thumbnail Will Fox be a top-5 pick? With the 2017 NBA Drafttakes place later tonight. Where can we expect one of the top prospects, De’Aaron Fox, to land tonight?
Thumbnail Fultz to go to the 76ers? The Boston Celticshave traded out of the No. 1 pick. The Philadelphia 76ersnow hold the top pick once again. Is it a slam dunk who they will take in the NBA...
Thumbnail 2018 NBA Finals Odds After dominating the 2017 NBA Playoffs, will anyone keep the Golden State Warriors from winning the NBA Finals again...
Thumbnail Stephen Curry Game 5 Props Will Stephen Curry bounce back from a poor showing in Game 4 when the Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight at 9PM...

NBA Headlines

  • EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Lakers have exercised their $1.3 million contract option on guard David Nwaba for the upcoming season.
    The Lakers announced the move Wednesday.
  • AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Pistons have traded swingman Darrun Hilliard to the Houston Rockets in exchange for cash considerations.
    Hilliard appeared in a career-high 39 games last ...
  • SAN ANTONIO (AP) An ex-financial adviser to retired San Antonio Spurs player Tim Duncan has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for defrauding the former NBA star of millions of dollars...
  • CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James will help tell a story he's still shaping.
    The Cavaliers superstar is teaming with Showtime on a documentary that will examine the modern NBA and the league's impa...
  • ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks have traded power forward Ryan Kelly to the Houston Rockets for cash considerations.
    Kelly averaged 1.6 points and 1.1 rebounds in 16 games in two stints with t...

NBA Team Pages