Lakers Favored to Win Third Straight NBA Championship; Knicks Are Ninth

The Los Angeles Lakers’ talent, experience and popularity makes them the oddsmakers’ favorite to capture a third straight National Basketball Association championship.

The Lakers are a 5-2 pick to win the NBA finals, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which advises Nevada’s sports books on betting lines. The Miami Heat are the second favorite at 3-1, while the New York Knicks -- back in the playoffs for the first time in seven years -- have 40-1 championship odds, the ninth best among 16 playoff teams.

The Lakers were the last franchise to win three titles in a row, from 2000 through 2002. Their 16 championships trail the Boston Celtics by one for the most in league history and they’re led by Kobe Bryant, a 13-time All-Star who’s seeking to match Michael Jordan with his sixth ring.

“They’ve been there and done it,” Sports Consultants oddsmaker Andrew Patterson said of the Lakers in a telephone interview yesterday from Las Vegas. “They’re two-time world champions and Kobe has been unbelievable. With their West Coast appeal, you know where the money is going to come in.”

The Lakers open their first-round series on April 17 in Los Angeles against the New Orleans Hornets after losing five of their final seven games to end the regular season.

It was the Lakers’ fourth losing streak of three or more games this season, when they finished fourth in the league with a 57-25 record.

“They can turn it off and turn it back on,” Patterson said of the Lakers, who won all four games against the Hornets during the regular season.

Heat vs 76ers

The Miami Heat, who entered the season as the oddsmakers’ favorite after teaming Dwyane Wade with free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh, had the NBA’s third-best record at 58-24. They’ll be in action when the playoffs start tomorrow, hosting the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.

“We know the challenge in front of us,” Bosh told reporters after Miami’s season finale. “We have the type of team that does whatever it takes to win.”

The Las Vegas Hilton’s Race and Sports Book has listed the Lakers and Heat as 5-2 co-favorites to win the title even though neither is the top seed in its conference.

The Lakers are second in the Western Conference behind the San Antonio Spurs (61-21), while Miami is second in the East behind the Chicago Bulls (62-20), who had the best overall record in the NBA.

“I’m not sold on the Bulls,” Patterson said. “They remind me a lot of those Pistons teams from a number of years ago where they play hard every night but didn’t necessarily see the results in the playoffs.”

Bulls’ Odds

The Bulls have 4-1 championship odds, followed by the Spurs at 5-1 and the Celtics at 7-1.

“Everybody is saying we can’t do it, that we just got together, that you need two or three years of chemistry before you can be a championship team,” said forward Carlos Boozer, who signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Bulls in the offseason. “We realize the history of the league and all that, but it’s not going to stop us from trying.”

The defending Eastern Conference-champion Celtics meet the Knicks in the opening round after losing 11 of 21 games to end the regular season.

Boston is the third seed in the Eastern Conference and swept all four regular-season meetings against the sixth-seeded Knicks, who haven’t won a playoff game in a decade.

“Don’t let them fool you, they gear up mentally for the playoffs and the long run,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said yesterday on ESPN radio in New York. “We’ll get their best.”

Team                     Championship
                             Odds
====================================
Los Angeles Lakers           5-2
Miami Heat                   3-1
Chicago Bulls                4-1
San Antonio Spurs            5-1
Boston Celtics               7-1
Oklahoma City Thunder       12-1
Orlando Magic               15-1
Dallas Mavericks            18-1
New York Knicks             40-1
Denver Nuggets              50-1
Portland Trail Blazers      60-1
Atlanta Hawks              100-1
New Orleans Hornets        100-1
Philadelphia 76ers         150-1
Memphis Grizzlies          150-1
Indiana Pacers             200-1
====================================
Courtesy of Las Vegas Sports Consultants

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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