Granted, the close battle I'm talking about is at the bottom of the West where the Lakers, Jazz and Sacramento Kings are duking it out for the basement of the conference. That trio is just a game apart heading into Tuesday night's tips around the league, and the loser of this clash at Staples Center could wind up having the cellar in both the conference and Pacific Division all to themselves.
A couple of regional networks will broadcast the matchup starting at 10:30 PM (ET); the Lakers were sent out as 2 point favorites on the overnight numbers, and SBR's live NBA odds are showing 201.5 across the board for the total.
This is the third of four scheduled meetings between the Jazz and Lakers this season, and they've split the previous two with the home team coming out on top in each case. A dunk by Derrick Favors in the closing seconds of late-December's meeting Utah lifted the Jazz to a 105-103 triumph, which wasn't enough to cover the 4 point spread. Los Angeles followed up about a week later at home with a 110-99 decision as 3-point chalk.
Jazz Reach LA Off Upset Of Heat
Utah (17-33 straight up, 23-26-1 against the spread) just stopped a 4-game skid on Saturday at home with a 94-89 upset of the Miami Heat. The Jazz were getting 9.5 points from the oddsmakers at the closing bell to also end a 3-game losing skid against the spread, and took control of the matchup from the outset.
Marvin Williams scored a game-high 23 in the victory, and Tyrone Corbin's crew limited LeBron James to 13, his lowest since netting the same amount in a Heat win over Atlanta back in mid-November. Williams' 23 points tied a season-high, and extended his streak of 20+ games to three.
The Jazz will be looking for their first road victory since a dubya in Detroit Jan. 17. They're 6-19 away from home, but a healthier 11-13-1 vs. the spread in those matchups.
Utah point guard Trey Burke is questionable for Tuesday's contest due to a sore back. The rookie out of Michigan started Saturday's win vs. Miami and played 27 minutes, scoring 13 points in the process.
Lakers' Homestand Begins With Loss To Bulls
The season from hell continues for Mike D'Antoni and Los Angeles (18-33 SU, 27-22-2 ATS). The Lakers just came off the road where they won the final two tilts of a 3-city trip, and although those victories came against Cleveland and Philadelphia, LA was not able to continue the momentum Sunday in the first of a 6-game homestand vs. a fairly average Chicago Bulls bunch.
The win last Wednesday over the Cavaliers halted a season-worst 7-game losing streak, but failing to record a victory Tuesday vs. Utah could send the Lakers into the throes of their fourth skid of at least six games this campaign. Oklahoma City, Houston, Boston and Brooklyn follow the Jazz into Tinseltown, and that is trailed by a back-to-back situation in Indiana and Memphis a couple of weeks from now.
Injuries have certainly played a big part in Los Angeles' downturn, with Kobe Bryant yet to suit up and Pau Gasol not expected back on the floor until Feb. 19 at the earliest while he recovers from a groin pull. Now comes word that Steve Nash -- who has missed more than 40 games and just recently returned to action -- could be out Tuesday while dealing with a left knee injury sustained in Sunday's setback vs. Chicago.
The two LA covers this season give the Lakers three straight winning tickets in the series, and the 'over' has chased three of the last four meetings. I'll disregard both of those trends with free NBA picks on the Jazz and the total never reaching the mark.
My pick: Utah +2, Under 201.5