Lakers vs. Suns Odds, Pick & Preview: Back Devin Booker, Suns in High-Scoring Matchup (March 13)
Meg Oliphant/Getty Images. Pictured: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns shoots defended by Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers.
- The Phoenix Suns welcomes the Los Angeles Lakers to the desert for Sunday's NBA showdown.
- LeBron James has been playing MVP-caliber basketball of late, but will that be enough against Phoenix?
- Austin Wang breaks down the game below and delivers his top betting picks.
Lakers vs. Suns Odds
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
The Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns meet Sunday in a rematch of last season's Western Conference first-round playoff series.
A lot has changed since last spring when the Suns eliminated the Lakers from the postseason as these teams are clearly headed in different directions. Phoenix holds the best record in the league at 53-14, while Los Angeles is in danger of missing the postseason all together with a 29-37 record.
The Lakers would need to win the play-in tournament, as the ninth seed in the conference playoff race.
Despite these teams being at the opposite ends of the spectrum, both come into this game missing stars in Chris Paul and Anthony Davis. While the Suns have fared a lot better in the absence of Paul, they hope to bounce back from a 112-117 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.
The Lakers look to keep momentum going from their 122-109 victory over the Washington Wizards in a game where LeBron James scored 50 points. Nevertheless, oddsmakers have installed the hometown Phoenix as an 8.5-point favorite over Los Angeles with the total set at 228.5 points.
So, where's the betting value in this matchup? Let's analyze both sides and find out.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers simply aren't a good basketball team. However, if there's one thing we've learned over the past 19 seasons it's that we can never count out James.
He's coming off back-to-back home games where he's scored 50 points and currently leads the NBA at 29.7 points per game, putting him on pace to be the oldest scoring champion in league history at 37 years of age. That would eclipse Michael Jordan, who won it at age 34 in his final season with the Bulls.
Despite the brilliance of James in his two 50-point scoring outbursts against the Warriors and Wizards, it's quite telling about the state of Los Angeles that those are the only two times they've won in their last eight outings. The Lakers are just 27th in Net Rating (-5.6) during this span. Going back even further, the Lakers are just 3-9 in their last 12 games.
For the season, the Lakers are just 24th in Offensive Rating (109.6) and 17th in Defensive Rating (112.2), and their metrics over the past two weeks haven't changed much. They've essentially been a bottom-tier offense and defense this year, and that has been with and without the presence of Davis. His absence should loom large in this matchup against DeAndre Ayton.
The Lakers are 29th in opponent frequency of field goals at the rim (36.0%) and 23rd in opponent field-goal percentage at the rim (66.2%), so the Suns should get whatever they want on the offensive side.
Unlike the teams who won the championship in the bubble, they don't defend very well nor do they rebound to generate extra possessions or close them out. The Lakers are just 24th in Offensive Rebound Rate (24.2%) and 21st in Defensive Rebound Rate (27.0%), so they could struggle with this Suns' front line in Ayton, Javale McGee and Bismack Biyombo.
Although Russell Westbrook has received a majority of criticism given his play, his fit with James has always been questionable and, as a whole, this is a poor roster with a total lack of identity. Los Angeles has been playing small with James at center recently, so we can expect a faster-paced game where the team tries to spread out their bigs.
Nonetheless, outside of big games from James and role players like Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony getting hot, this team is simply in a bad spot in against most quality NBA teams and even without Chris Paul in the lineup, the Suns are the cream of the crop.
The Phoenix Suns have been the best team in the league and it appeared nothing would slow them down until Chris Paul suffered a right thumb injury that would keep him out of the lineup for at least a month.
Still, the cupboard is far from bare for this Suns team stacked with talent at every position and has one of the league's premier scorers in Devin Booker, who leads the team in scoring, averaging 25.5 points on 45.5% shooting to go along with 4.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds.
While the Suns are just 5-4 without Paul since the All-Star break, they're still 8th in Net Rating (4.6) in this time frame with a huge quality road win over the Miami Heat last Wednesday. It's worth it to note Booker did miss four of those games and the Suns went 3-1 in that span, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks as road underdogs.
The biggest drop-off for the Suns has been their offense, which is scoring just 112.8 points per 100 possessions since the break and 16th among NBA teams. However, they're fourth in Defensive Rating (108.2), so this team is still elite at getting stops. The Suns have essentially gone from a team with Paul that was virtually unbeatable to a team who will dominate bad teams and struggle to beat elite teams despite playing them tough.
Fortunately for the Suns, the Lakers are a bad team and have a ton of matchup advantages. The Lakers don't have any answers for Booker, who has averaged 23 points on 48.6% shooting in two games against the Lakers this season. Los Angeles also has no answers for them in the in the paint with their front line with Ayton, McGee and Biyombo.
The Suns will miss Cam Johnson, who will is going to be sidelined his fifth consecutive game with a quadriceps contusion. With Bridges and Crowder, the Suns have more than enough wings to make up for his absence and we're also likely see more minutes for Landry Shamet and Torrey Craig.
Overall, this is a game the Suns should win, but it's clear this isn't a full-strength Suns team without Paul and that drastically impacts its ceiling.
It speaks volumes about the state of the Lakers that they need James to score 50 points in order for them to win these days. They're just 2-6 in their last eight games and 3-9 in their last 12 outings. One of those victories was a double-digit comeback against the Utah Jazz; the other required James to put up 50-point outburst.
The Suns have the wings to throw at James to make him work in Bridges and Crowder, while having a big in Ayton to protect the rim. You can still expect James to get his, but this is still an elite Phoenix defense. Given the struggles of the Lakers on both sides, I think this number is short.
My model makes the Suns at -10 even without Paul ,so I'll lay the points. I also think there's value on the total over 228.5, as my model makes this game at 230 points. The Lakers have been an over team recently, going over in four out of their last five games.
With Los Angeles playing a small-ball lineup and both teams ranking in the top 10 in pace, this feels like a high-scoring game with the Suns coming out on top.
Picks: Suns -8.5 | Total Over 228.5 Points