Rodney Dangerfield joked about it, Aretha Franklin sang about it and on Sunday night Kobe Bryant will be playing for it.
We’re talking respect and it’s something the sportsbooks aren`t giving Bryant as he and the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to take on the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills today.
“I`m sending out the Pistons at –8 ½ points with a 194 ½-point total,” says oddsmaker Keith Glantz. “Kobe`s big games are really no big deal unless he consistently, over a period of time, retains that scoring capability.”
It’s wrong to say the books are giving him no respect; after all, the Pistons were 12 ½ point faves on a 185-point total when they met the Kobe-less Lakers at the Palace last season. But shouldn’t a man who is averaging 45.5 points in the past 11 games, including an unreal 81 points just one week ago, be worth more than four points on a spread and 9 ½ points on a total?
“Not really,” says Covers Expert Pat Miller. “It is Detroit they`re playing. They’re a pretty public team themselves and if anybody can limit Bryant’s effectiveness, it’s the Pistons.”
Miller may have a point.
To stop Bryant, the Pistons chase him around the court with 6-foot-8 forward Tayshaun Prince. If Bryant manages to get around Prince then he will have to contend with big men Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, who are both extremely athletic and intimidating in help defense.
In six meetings over the last three seasons (including the 2004 NBA Finals) the Pistons have held Bryant to just 22 points per game. Last February, in the teams’ only meeting since Shaquille O’Neal was traded to Miami, Bryant scored just 20 as the Pistons cakewalked over the Lakers 111-90 as 3 ½-point favorites.
But this is different. Bryant is playing on a different planet right now.
People say he slipped up Friday against the Golden State Warriors but they’d be wrong. He was “held” to just 30 points but 25 of them came in the fourth quarter and overtime, leading Los Angeles to a 106-105 OT victory.
Unfortunately the margin of victory wasn’t enough for the Lakers to cover the 8 ½-point spread, but given Bryant’s recent play and the fact they were playing a below-.500 Warriors squad, the spread was inflated.
That won’t be the case today.
Oddsmakers list Detroit as a 8-point home favorite.
The total for today’s game is set at 196 ½ points.
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