2012 NBA Picks: Los Angeles Lakers @ San Antonio Spurs Odds and Predictions – Free NBA Picks 4/11/2012: Two Western Conference juggernauts will go head to head Wednesday night, when the Los Angeles Lakers (36-22) go on the road to face the San Antonio Spurs (40-15). A lot is at stake for both sides, as the Lakers try to hold off the pesky Clippers for the Pacific Division lead and the Spurs try to track down Oklahoma City for the conference’s best record. The game is also a chance for both veteran clubs to make a statement to the rest of the NBA that they will be a factor in the upcoming postseason. With a stout 23-4 record at home, it is no surprise that San Antonio is a 10-point favorite.

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How bad does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich want to win Wednesday night? Well, he essentially forfeited an 11-game winning streak in the Spurs’ last game in order to rest Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Yes, Popovich is thinking long-term by resting his veteran stars, but it is no coincidence that he chose to rest all three right before a big showdown with Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Lakers enter the matchup with an injured Kobe Bryant. The NBA’s leading scorer is battling a shin issue, which has held him out of the team’s last two games. Given his competitive nature, it would be a shock if Bryant wasn’t on the court. However, the Spurs are definitely the team at full strength in this one.

There is no question that the rivalry between these two franchises is one of the best in the league. In the last 13 years, either Los Angeles or San Antonio has represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals 11 times. During the stretch, the two teams have combined for nine championships. Wednesday’s meeting will be the first of three games between the two teams in the next 10 days. With a strong possibility that the two sides could also meet in the second-round of the playoffs, expect an intense atmosphere in all three matchups.

Both the Lakers and Spurs are older teams, and they know that it takes success in the half court to win in the postseason. Both sides will look to play through the post on offense to create high percentage shots and grind things out on the defensive end. Rebounding will be crucial, as well, and this is one area where Los Angeles has to excel. With big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the frontcourt, the Lakers are second in the NBA in rebounding this season. Limiting San Antonio to one shot and getting a few second-chance opportunities of their own will go a long way to helping the Lakers’ chances.

Bynum in particular could be a wild card. He has played like a superstar at times this season, but a recent rash of bad decisions and technical fouls has called his focus into question. If he shows up ready to play, he could dominate the aging Duncan and smaller DeJuan Blair in the San Antonio frontcourt. If he delivers a half-hearted effort, the Lakers will waste arguably their biggest advantage in this matchup.

For San Antonio, the X-factor could be their firepower off the bench. With younger players like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green stepping up this season and veteran Stephen Jackson gelling nicely since coming aboard, the Spurs have several options that can come off the bench and knock down perimeter shots. Los Angeles has almost no depth or perimeter firepower, and the Lakers could struggle to match the energy of San Antonio’s role players. In a tight game, a few hustles plays here and there could make the difference.

In the end, the deck seems to be stacked in favor of the Spurs. San Antonio’s three-best players are well rested, while Bryant won’t be at 100 percent for Los Angeles and Bynum may or may not have his head in the game. Throw in the fact that the Spurs have been unbelievable at home this year and the Lakers are a pedestrian 13-16 on the road, and Wednesday’s meeting looks less and less winnable for Los Angeles.

Prediction: San Antonio Spurs (-9.5) Cover the Spread

Current Odds: Favorite - San Antonio -9.5 Total - OVER/UNDER 201.5

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