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Behind the lines

Defense rules in the Finals

June 12, 2008|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

With opponents geared to stop Kobe Bryant, the Lakers opened the NBA playoffs by averaging well above 100 points per game against Denver and Utah.

But defensive-minded San Antonio and Boston have made things difficult for the Lakers over the last two rounds and that explains why the under is 7-1 in Los Angeles' last eight playoff games.

Tonight, the over-under total for combined points is listed at 191 for Game 4 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center. A far cry from the bloated totals posted for the Lakers' playoff series against the Nuggets and Jazz when the lowest total for any game was 210 points.

Predicting combined total points for an NBA Finals' game can be difficult because everything depends on the matchup and timing.

For example, although the Celtics have the ability to score with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, they are more methodical than the Lakers, who prefer playing up-tempo games.

That's why Boston's deliberate style often leads to low-scoring games, especially at home.

But when the Lakers are on top of their game, points will be scored.

That's what happened in Game 2 at Boston's TD Banknorth Garden when the Celtics held on for a 108-102 victory. The 210 combined total points gave the win to the "over" since the total line for the game was 191.5.

Last adds: The under is 6-0 in the Celtics' last six road games, and the under is 10-1 in the Lakers' last 11 games played on Thursday.

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Gamblers riding Boston in the playoffs have to be pleased with the results of the first three games of the Finals. The Celtics are 3-0 against the point spread in their first appearance in the Finals since 1987.

Here are a couple of trends to consider for Game 4: In Boston's last 14 games against teams from the Western Conference, the Celtics are 12-2 against the spread. In the Lakers' last seven home games against a team with a winning road record, they are 1-6 against the spread; and in the Lakers' last six games against teams from the Eastern Conference, they are 0-6 against the spread.

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Sportsbetting.com's updated odds on the Most Valuable Player award for this year's Finals has the Lakers' Kobe Bryant as the favorite at 1-1, followed by Boston's Paul Pierce at 3-2 and Kevin Garnett at 2-1.

Golf

Here are updated odds from the Las Vegas Hilton's sportsbook on the U.S. Open, which begins today at Torrey Pines.

Tiger Woods is listed as the favorite at 2-1, followed by Phil Mickelson at 6-1. Then there's a big gap before former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk and British Open champion Padraig Harrington come in at 25-1.

In tournament matchups odds, Woods is at -240 against Mickelson (+200), Vijay Singh is at -110 against Furyk (-110), and Sergio Garcia is at -115 against Harrington (-105).

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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