Can Kobe go out a winner against Jazz?
One club’s still fighting for the last Western Conference playoff spot. The other is unabashedly committed to celebrating one of basketball’s greatest artists ever.
Tonight’s Staples Center scene presents a study in contrasts, not to mention a guaranteed emotional roller coaster. In the final contest of Kobe Bryant’s career, the Lakers host the Jazz at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Oddsmakers, however, don't feel so nostalgic. Online sports book BetDSI lists Los Angeles as a 4-point underdog. The over/under projection sits at 195 points.
While Bryant undoubtedly represents the main attraction, this finale could hold incredible significance for Utah (40-41). If Sacramento upsets Houston earlier in the evening, Quin Snyder’s squad merely needs a victory to land the No. 8 slot out West. Any other scenario, though, and Utah finds itself on the outside looking in for the fourth consecutive campaign.
The Lakers (16-65) long ago abandoned all hope of 2015-16 respectability. A true rebuild will unfold next year – but not until the Black Mamba receives his surefire spectacle of a send-off. The perennial All-Star and champion also expects to see 30-plus minutes for the first time since April 3.
Does he have another vintage performance left in the tank? Last Sunday at Houston came fairly close, with Bryant pouring in 35 points and going 11-for-11 at the charity stripe. Utah has allowed at least 101 in two of the past three tilts, too.
Call us crazy, but we can’t imagine No. 24 allowing a reprisal of March's 123-75 embarrassment at the hands of the Jazz. He’ll go down firing, as it should be. And, at least once, his purple-and-yellow-clad teammates are ready with support.
WEDNESDAY NBA FREE PICK: LAKERS +4