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San Antonio Reignites Old Rivalry

San Antonio  will look to knock-off long-time playoff rival Los Angeles in the opening round.

San Antonio will look to knock-off long-time playoff rival Los Angeles in the opening round.

The San Antonio Spurs will reignite a playoff rivalry Sunday afternoon as the team hosts the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The second-seeded Spurs will look to eliminate the undermanned Lakers – a No. 7 seed – and advance to the semifinal stage. Most expect exactly that.

The Spurs are currently 5/2 to win the Western Conference, behind only Oklahoma City (6/5) and 10/1 to win the NBA championship. The Lakers meanwhile are 20/1 to win the conference and 40/1 to win a 17th title.

However, things might not be as easy for San Antonio as most believe.

Historically Speaking

The Spurs and Lakers have met in the playoffs no fewer than 11 times since the Spurs joined the Western Conference in 1980.

During that time, the Lakers have recorded a 34-18 overall record against the South Texas side, winning eight of 11 series along the way. The Hollywood side collected three NBA titles in the process (1982, 2001, 2002).

San Antonio is no stranger to titles either, and picked up a pair (1999, 2003) after defeating the Lakers in the playoffs.

Los Angeles has won the last two playoff series between the sides, in 2004 and 2008. But the side that will take to the court on Sunday is a very different one to those high-seeded sides.

During this historic rivalry, the lower seeded team has won just twice. In 2001 a second-seeded Laker side handed top-seeded San Antonio a 4-0 defeat, while the 2002 Los Angeles side entered as a No. 3 seed and beat the once again top-seeded Spurs 4-1. The Lakers can at least look back at this for a little motivation.

San Antonio has never beaten the Lakers in the postseason when starting out as a No. 2 seed. Previously, the Lakers have never started below fifth-place when facing the Spurs.

One thing bettors really should take into account is the fact that a series between the Lakers and Spurs has never gone the distance. In fact, only four have even gone to six games, while five have ended in a sweep.

Searching for an Edge

Of course, this season the NBA landscape looks remarkably different to that of past years. The Lakers had to fight tooth and nail just to secure a (final day) place in the postseason, while the Spurs are another year older, that much longer in the tooth. And then there are injuries.

For the first time since the 1996 the Lakers will start a playoff game without Kobe Bryant. That’s good news for the Spurs right? Well, possibly, but remember, the Lakers handed the Spurs a 91-86 defeat on Sunday without Bryant. The Spurs could counter saying that Manu Ginobli was absent, but that tit-for-tat doesn’t hold water in the NBA. If it did, the Lakers would point out that in two close losses to the Spurs this season, they were without Steve Nash in one game and Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the other. So wipe that from the board.

As it currently stands, the Lakers will be without Kobe Bryant (Achilles) and Jordan Hill (hip) while Steve Nash (hamstring) is doubtful. Boris Diaw (spine) continues to be absent for the Spurs while Manu Ginobli (hamstring) is listed as probable.

Statistically speaking, the Spurs have an edge over the Lakers. Both teams have scored an even number of points in the head-to-head this season, but the Spurs have had more assists, blocks, steals, and better shooting percentages from behind the arc and the charity stripe, whilst committing fewer turnovers. The Lakers have superior rebounding and general shooting percentage.

Betting Trends

When we get down to the nitty gritty and take a look at the spread, San Antonio certainly appears to have an advantage.

The Spurs are 39-41-2 ATS this season, with a 19-20-2 ATS tally at home and a 20-21-0 ATS record on the road.

The Lakers are 34-47-1 ATS overall this season, with a 19-21-1 ATS record at home and a 15-26-0 ATS record on the road. The Spurs apparently own an outright advantage.

However, the Spurs are just 1-2-0 ATS against the Lakers this season, with the Hollywood side covering the spread the last two times out, both when playing as an underdog. When the Spurs did cover on Nov. 13, they did do by just one-point.

In terms of the total, San Antonio (36-45-1) has favored the under this season while Los Angeles (44-37-1) has favored the over. However, all three meetings between the sides have seen the total go under, a trend bettors should consider.

Sunday’s Game 1 sees the Spurs open as favorites with the spread at 8.5 and the total at 189.5.


San Antonio vs. LA Lakers (Playoff History)

1982: LA Lakers 4-0 San Antonio *

1983: LA Lakers 4-2 San Antonio

1986: LA Lakers 3-0 San Antonio

1988: LA Lakers 3-0 San Antonio

1995: San Antonio 4-2 LA Lakers

1999: San Antonio 4-0 LA Lakers *

2001: LA Lakers 4-0 San Antonio *

2002: LA Lakers 4-1 San Antonio *

2003: San Antonio 4-2 LA Lakers *

2004: LA Lakers 4-2 San Antonio

2008: LA Lakers 4-1 San Antonio

* Denotes winning team went on to be crowned NBA champions.



GAME 1: LA Lakers at San Antonio (Sun, Apr. 21, 3:00 PM ET)

GAME 2: LA Lakers at San Antonio (Wed, Apr. 24, 9:30 PM ET)

GAME 3: San Antonio at LA Lakers (Fri, Apr. 26, 10:30 PM ET)

GAME 4: San Antonio at LA Lakers (Sun, Apr. 28, 7:00 PM ET)

GAME 5: LA Lakers at San Antonio (Tue, Apr. 30, TBD)*

GAME 6: San Antonio at LA Lakers (Thu, May 2, TBD)*

GAME 7: LA Lakers at San Antonio (Sat, May 4, TBD)*

*If necessary.

Winning team to play winner of Denver-Golden State series in Western Conference semifinals.

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