Kobe Bryant might not be on the floor for his last meeting with Cleveland’s LeBron James and is in jeopardy of sitting out for the fifth time in seven games when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Cavaliers on Thursday. Bryant remains bothered by a painful right shoulder injury and the ailment renders him questionable to face James one last time before he retires.
Bryant has only 17 regular-season games remaining his career and he’s no longer able to physically handle the grind. “We all would love him to play 15-25 minutes and just go out and do the very best he can,” Lakers coach Byron Scott told reporters. “But you know that’s not him. If he plays, he wants to go out and play the best he can. I’m hopeful he’s healthy enough to play.” James had 25 points and 11 rebounds in Cleveland’s 120-111 road win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday and understands the anticipation of his final meeting with Bryant. “I’ve recorded it multiple times of what he’s meant for my career, what he’s meant for the Lakers organization, and the NBA,” James said after Wednesday’s victory. “It will be an opportunity to go again against one of the greats.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, FSN Ohio (Cleveland)
LINE HISTORY: The Cavaliers have opened as 10-point road favorites, while the total currently remains off the board.
Cavaliers – C T. Mozgov (questionable Tursday, illness), PG M. Williams (out Thursday, knee).
Lakers – SF K. Bryant (questionable Thursday, shoulder), SF A. Brown (out Thursday, foot), SG L. Williams (out Thursday, hamstring).
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Cavaliers (-8.9) – Lakers (+7.1) + home court (-3) = Lakers +13
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “We’ll have no shortage of viewers and bettors with hopes of seeing Kobe Bryant and LeBron James square off one last time. Despite the tenuous state Cleveland has been in recently and the current ‘surge’ of the Lakers, early action has come in on the favorite. Right now we’ve got about 70 percent of our wagers on the Cavaliers. It’s an important road trip for the Cavs and I expect them to emerge with a easy win.” – Scott Cooley of BookMaker.eu
DANCE TEAM WAR:
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (45-18, 28-32-3 ATS, 31-32 O/U): Power forward Kevin Love converted a pivotal four-point play late in the Sacramento contest for his 700th career 3-point basket and both he and the Cavaliers hope it will spark his game. Love, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Kings, was just 4-of-13 from the field and is 11-of-42 during his past four games. “The last half-dozen games I haven’t shot the ball particularly well, so that was a big break for us,” Love told reporters. “It was a big shot but I’ve done it in my career, shooting from the outside, so I’m not going to act like it’s the biggest thing in the world.”
ABOUT THE LAKERS (14-51, 31-34 ATS, 29-35-1 O/U): The young Los Angeles squad is feeling good about itself after back-to-back victories over the Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic by an average of 13 points. Scott is pleased with how the trio of guards Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell and forward Julius Randle are playing together and the three combined for 74 points — Russell with 27, Clarkson with 24 and Randle tied his career best of 23 — in the win over Orlando on Tuesday. “You could see them challenging each other on the court to get better and to defend people, run the offense better,” Scott said. “The dialogue has been very positive. I think they’re encouraging each other. They know they need to rely on each other.”
* James is 14-7 ATS in 21 career meetings against Bryant.
* Cavaliers are 3-12-2 ATS in their last 17 road versus a team with a losing home record.
* Lakers are 4-0 ATS in their last four home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
* Under is 5-0 in Lakers last five home games.
* Over is 5-0 in the last five meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: A whopping 71 percent of wagers are backing the Cavaliers in what people are hoping is the final LeBron-Kobe showdown. As for the total, 81 percent of wagers are on the over.