The Lakers continue their quest for a third consecutive NBA title this afternoon when the host the New Orleans Hornets in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series.
Chris Paul

NBA odds makers have set the LA Lakers as-10 point favorites with the total at 182 ½.

The Los Angeles Lakers swept the season series from the Hornets going 3-1 ATS in the process and are a 5/2 favorite to break out the brooms in this series. This best-of-seven would have been tough enough for the Hornets, even with a healthy David West. Now that he's out for the rest of the year, New Orleans could face a quick exit at the hands of the defending champs.

If you backed LA this season then you know this team had more ups and downs than a busy elevator. The Lakers were arguably the streakiest team in the NBA going 17-1(12-5 ATS) out of the All-Star break only to lose five straight and then rebounding to win their final two regular season games.

They should win this series and maybe even sweep it. But then again we’re talking about the Lakers the most schizophrenic team in the league.

New Orleans Hornets (46-36 SU & 39-41-2 ATS)

The New Orleans Hornets enter the series with question marks surrounding Chris Paul, who recently had his knee drained of fluid and was held scoreless for the first time in his career. However New Orleans’ best hope of advancing rests on the performance of Paul whose scoring average of 15.8 this season is the lowest of his career. With West sidelined, Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry will need to raise their respective games to another level for New Orleans to have a shot.

The Hornets ranked 27th in the league in scoring (94.9) but averaged just over 85 points per game in their final three outings. Defense is New Orleans calling card. They were fifth during the regular (94.0) and can frustrate opponents with their grinding half-court style of play.

Kobe BryantLos Angeles Lakers (57-25 SU & 39-42-1 ATS)

It’s fair to say that the Lakers owned the Hornets during their regular season match-ups, sweeping all four games. They averaged 101.8 points per game and had a 10.8 point average margin of victory.

While Paul provides a matchup problem for the Lakers at point guard, LA has a decided advantage everywhere else. This is particularly true up front, where Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom together averaged 51.8 points and 25.6 rebounds per game against the Hornets this year while Gasol averaged a double-double for the season (18.8 ppg. 10.2 RPG.). Kobe Bryant (25.3 ppg) just needs to be himself in the series and make sure the ball finds its way inside

LA has great balance on offense and defense. They were ninth in scoring (101.5) and eighth in defense (95.4).

Much Too Early

The series tips off on Sunday afternoon at 12:30 PT and while that’s not early for most people it’s still sleepy time for some of us including the Lakers. As evidenced by their record, Kobe Bryant and company don’t do their best work early in the day. Three times they've played at Staples Center at 12:30 and three times they’ve lost.

The two teams were a combined 36 games to the ‘under’ this season. The Hornets went 51-31 including 26-15 to low side on the road while LA was 49-33-1 and 24-17 at home to the ‘under’.

Be forewarned. The Lakers were one of the worst ATS bets in the league at home going 16-25 vs. the number at home.

Futures Fever

LA is listed at or near -2100 to win the opening round series while New Orleans is priced at +1250. The Lakers are -140 to win the Western Conference and +185 to “3-peat” as NBA champions.

The Lakers will host Game 2 at Staples, then the series shifts to New Orleans for Games 3 and 4.

Game 2: Wednesday April 20, 10:30 PM. ET, TNT
Game 3: Friday April 22, 9:30 PM. ET, ESPN
Game 4: Sunday April 24, 9:30 PM. ET, TNT
*Tuesday April 26, TBD, TBD
*Thursday April 28, TBD, TBD
*Saturday April 30, TBD, TNT

Harvey’s Take: It’s the Lakers in a Game 1 rout.