The Lakers are coming off one of their more disappointing losses of the year and that’s saying something) after blowing a 17-point lead in the second half to the Wizards.

Meanwhile, the Warriors dispatched that same Wizards team a night later to give Golden State a 3.5 game lead over the Lakers for the sixth seed. The loss and the fallout after the D’Antoni post game press conference overshadow reasons for optimism in Laker land. While most would point to the return of Pau and Kobe, the resurgence of Dwight Howard might be more important than anything.

Howard is starting to resemble the player who garnered 3 consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards. Do they get off to slow starts? Of course. Do they lose focus when they have big leads? You bet. But when they are locked in, especially Kobe, they’ve been much more effective on that end.

The Warriors have generally sputtered over the last month and a half. They had an impressive, albeit overdue, victory over the Rockets, and a few other bright spots (I.e. home win over Spurs), but in general have been the weakest of the Lakers/Rockets/Warriors trio jockeying for 6-7-8 seeding in the west. They’ve struggled to score of late with teams getting more physical with Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson’s shooting being more off than on this year.

Add it all up and you have a toss up game (not a surprise considering the spread is Warriors -1) where there is no real compelling side play. However, there is indeed some value on the total. Note that the Warriors have gone under the total in 8 of their last 10 games, while the Lakers have gone under in 5 of their last 7. It’s also important to note that Kobe still isn’t healthy, but that won’t stop the Lakers from forcing the ball to him as the game tightens up.

Pau will take some time to get back to speed so we shouldn’t expect him to play well and Jamison’s shooting (a bright spot of late) could be compromised because of a recent wrist injury. On the other end, the Lakers should be especially focused after giving up 62 points in a disastrous second half on Friday.

Play: Under 204.5

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