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Lakers face uphill climb

Odds Still Favor Under .500 Lakers Reaching Postseason

Not counting last year’s lockout-shortened year, the fewest wins that a team in the Western Conference has had in the past five seasons to clinch the final playoff spot has been 42 by Golden State in the 2006-07 season. That was so long ago that the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers were the top two teams in the East and the Phoenix Suns won 61 games in the West.

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Since that season, the low-water wins benchmark for the eighth seed in the deep West is as follows: 50 by Denver in 2007-08, 48 by Utah the next season, 50 by Oklahoma City in 2009-10 and 46 by Memphis in 2010-11. Last year, the Jazz grabbed the No. 8 spot with a 36-30 record, which extrapolates to around 45 wins in a normal 82-game schedule.

That brings us to the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. They begin play after the All-Star Break on Wednesday night with a 25-29 mark and 3.5 games out of the No. 8 spot currently held by Houston. So if the Lakers have to win a minimum of 45 games overall to get into the playoffs, that means a 20-8 mark, or .714 basketball, to close the year. Only three teams enter the second half playing at least at that .714 level this season: the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The book has a Lakers playoff prop with yes a -130 favorite and no at -110. They are 12/1 to win the West and down to 25/1 to win the NBA title, which is ninth in the NBA after L.A. started the season at No. 2 just behind Miami.

The Lakers certainly have a few things not in their favor. Pau Gasol is likely out another month with a torn plantar fascia and Dwight Howard still doesn’t look comfortable. Now the team also has to deal with the emotional toll of the death of beloved owner Jerry Buss on Monday.

L.A. has been a decent home team at 16-11 (12-15 ATS) with 14 games remaining at Staples Center. On the road, the Lakers are a terrible 9-18 (9-17-1 ATS) with 14 games left there as well. The Lakers have yet to win more than three-straight road games this season, something that must change to have any postseason hopes. The key stretch likely begins March 5 at Oklahoma City. That’s the first of 10 road games in L.A’s next 14, with two four-game road trips included. The good news is that the only likely playoff teams in that road stretch are the Thunder, Hawks, Pacers, Warriors and Bucks.

The Lakers close the regular season with four of their final five at home, including a potentially winner-take-all matchup with those Rockets in the April 17 finale. Houston, which leads the NBA in scoring, would have to finish 15-12 or worse not to win 45 games. The Rockets have 15 home games left, where they are 18-8 (17-9 ATS), and 12 on the road, where they are 11-18 (13-15-1 ATS). Houston has won two of three meetings with the Lakers and thus would hold the first tiebreaker should the Rockets win in L.A. to close the season and the teams finish tied for the No. 8 spot. The second tiebreaker if the season series finished 2-2 is record inside the conference and the Lakers currently are ahead there.

The Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks also could be in the mix for that No. 8 spot, so it’s not just Houston the Lakers must worry about.

Weekend Live Betting Schedule

As usual, the Thursday NBA on TNT doubleheader this week features Live Betting and it’s Heat at Bulls and Spurs at Clippers. When the 2012-13 NBA schedule was released, many pointed to that Miami-Chicago game as Derrick Rose’s potential return. Rose has started participating in 5-on-5 full practices this week but still doesn’t appear close to playing for the Bulls.

Chicago handed Miami one of its three home losses this season – the Heat haven’t lost there since – with a 96-89 upset win January 4 behind 27 points and 12 boards from Carlos Boozer. The Bulls outrebounded the NBA’s worst team on the boards 48-28 in the teams’ only meeting so far this season. Thursday will be the second of a back-to-back for Miami after playing in Atlanta.

San Antonio might have the NBA’s best record, but the Clippers have their number this season and L.A. will be plenty rested as Thursday is its first game since the break. The Clippers beat the Spurs 106-84 in L.A. on November 7 and 92-87 in San Antonio on November 19. The Spurs haven’t lost at home since.

On Friday, the Live games are Timberwolves at Thunder and Spurs at Warriors. Saturday it’s Heat at 76ers and Jazz at Clippers. Might Utah and L.A. have completed a Paul Millsap for Eric Bledsoe trade by Thursday’s deadline? On Sunday, the Live Betting tripleheader is Lakers at Mavericks, Grizzlies at Nets and Bulls at Thunder.

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Rogers: Monday's Tip Sheet
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