Preview: L.A. Lakers At San Antonio
When: 9:30 PM ET, Friday, April 20, 2012
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Kobe Bryant is expected to return to the lineup when the Los Angeles Lakers visit the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. Bryant has missed seven straight games with a left shin injury and sat out both matchups between the Lakers and Spurs, who took turns slapping each other around in the past 10 days. The Spurs lead Oklahoma City by a half-game for top seed in the West, while the Lakers are one ahead of the Clippers atop the Pacific.
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Los Angeles has gone 5-2 without Bryant, including a 98-84 drubbing of the Spurs in San Antonio on April 11. The Lakers have leaned on their inside duo of center Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in Bryant’s absence. Bynum has averaged 23.1 points and 14.1 rebounds in the last seven games, including a monster performance at San Antonio when he yanked down a career-high 30 rebounds. Gasol registered five double-doubles during that span, averaging 21.1 points and 10.1 boards.
San Antonio has ripped off a five-game winning streak since the home loss to the Lakers. The Spurs got some big payback with a 120-91 romp in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. That was the middle game of a back-to-back-to-back through the state of California in which the Spurs posted a hefty victory margin of 22.3 points per game. Easily the league’s deepest team, San Antonio’s bench has averaged 62.3 points in its last three victories.
1. The Spurs have the best home record (25-5) in the West, but the Lakers have won their last two visits to San Antonio.
2. Bryant’s seven-game absence is his longest since sitting out 14 games in 2005.
3. The Spurs are averaging 114.2 points during their five-game winning streak.
PREDICTION: Spurs 107, Lakers 105.
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