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Lakers vs. Suns Odds & Picks: Can Lakers Hang With Suns Without LeBron?

Lakers vs. Suns Odds & Picks: Can Lakers Hang With Suns Without LeBron? article feature image

Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker.

  • The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, with plenty of concerns surrounding the reigning NBA champions.
  • The Lakers, who have been without Anthony Davis, suffered another huge loss Saturday when LeBron James went down with an injury and is expected to miss several weeks.
  • Matt Moore details why he's backing the sizzling Suns in this affair below.

Lakers vs. Suns Odds

Lakers Odds+9.5
Suns Odds-9.5
Moneyline+350 / -455
Time10 p.m. ET
Odds as of Sunday morning and via DraftKings.

The Phoenix Suns take on the Los Angeles Lakers, highlighting Sunday's intriguing 10-game NBA card.

This will be the Lakers' first game without LeBron James, who went down with an injury in the second quarter of Saturday's 99-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at the Staples Center. Los Angeles enters this game as a 9.5-point underdog against Phoenix.

Let's take a look at this matchup and see what might be in store.

Los Angeles Lakers

Their pets' heads are falling off. No Anthony Davis and now no James, whose high ankle sprain is expected to sideline him for weeks. Oh, and Marc Gasol's been absent due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The Lakers have played without the services of both Davis and James just twice in the past two seasons, going 1-1 straight up and 2-0 against the spread. The two games came against the Oklahoma City Thunder last season — a pretty good team — and against the Sacramento Kings this year, who are the Kings.

Needless to say, the Suns are not the Kings.

Without James on the floor this season, the Lakers average just a 103 offensive rating and 106 defensive rating. Against the Suns, it's likely to be even worse.

Dennis Schröder, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell will have to carry Los Angeles againstPhoenix, and if that sentence doesn't bode about as terribly as it can, I'm not sure what you're selling.

Phoenix Suns

Meanwhile, the Suns are rolling, winners of seven of their last 10; 11 of their last 15; and 16 of their last 20 games.

They have no injuries to report.

Phoenix has the league's eighth-best offense and third-best defense, and its SRS (which measures point differential vs. strength of schedule) is third best in the league behind the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz.

It's not a juggernaut, but a sub-juggernaut, maybe. The Suns are also 18-8 vs. the conference and 4-2 inside their division.

Phoenix has done well in spots against weak competition, too. If we project the Lakers without their two stars as a sub-.500 team, the Suns are 13-7 straight up and 12-8 ATS vs. teams who were under .500 when they played them. Their average line in those games was -5.8 points.

If we take just games against sub-.500 opponents favored by more than 5.5, they are still 6-4 against the spread.

We can go the other way as well. When favored against teams over .500 (presumably missing key personnel), the Suns are 9-2 straight up and ATS, including 3-0 SU and ATS when favored by more than five points.

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Lakers-Suns Pick

So if I have to lean in a direction, I'm going to Phoenix -8.5 from where it opened at -3 before James' injury.

The Suns are a great team and the Lakers are more built around their stars than they were last year. Their replacement parts like Talen Horton-Tucker are maybe more exciting offensively, but hurt the team's core identity as a defensive team.

However… look, this is a classic letdown spot. You're facing the Lakers! But there's no AD… and no LeBron. Since joining the "Lakeshow," Los Angeles is 15-16 ATS overall when James doesn't play, including that terrible first year when everything fell apart by midseason.

This is not a try-hard spot for the Suns, but their effort is always pretty high. This is a tough spot for the Lakers, but NBA players who have extra motivation ("We need to pick it up while LeBron's out") are tougher than you expect.

The Suns are 13-7 SU vs. teams who were under .500 when Phoenix played them but against teams who are under .500 now, the Suns are just 15-9. That's two more losses than anyone in the top eight in the West against such teams. That's a concern.

Matchup wise? Sure, the Suns should feast. Chris Paul will torture Harrell in pick and roll, and the Suns' smallball lineup should smash. However,  at -8.5 on the spread, you need to be absolutely confident in a blowout.

I've watched the NBA too long to trust what should be the surest thing on the board in this contest.

Pick: Lean Suns -8.5 (mostly considering staying away)

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Nick Sterling
Feb 27, 2024 UTC