POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 15, 2011
The Los Angeles Lakers' talent, experience and popularity make them the oddsmakers' favorite to capture a third straight NBA 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 Sunday 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.
The Bulls, with the league's best record at 62-20, have 4-1 championship odds.
"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."