Suns vs. Lakers Odds, Game 6 Preview, Prediction: Chris Paul & Co. Look to Eliminate LeBron (June 3)
Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Paul.
- Los Angeles returns to the Staples Center looking to stave off elimination by the Suns in Game 6 on Thursday night.
- It's win or go home for LeBron James who may be tasked with shouldering the entire load should Anthony Davis be unable to play again.
- Phillip Kall explains below why he thinks Chris Paul is capable of closing out the series and advancing to the second round.
Suns vs. Lakers Game 6 Odds
|Moneyline||+106 / -130|
|Time||Thursday, 10:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday and via DraftKings|
After Anthony Davis’s injury, all eyes turned to LeBron James expecting a vintage playoff performance. Expectations would not align with reality though as the Suns thrashed the Lakers in a 30-point victory. Phoenix built their lead with a 21-2 run to start the second quarter and never looked back.
Even more pressure will be on LeBron and the Lakers now as the situation is win or go home. With Anthony Davis likely to miss again with a groin injury, LA will need its role players to step up. No one filled the void left by Davis in their first attempt, but playing at home with everything on the line could spell a different story.
For Phoenix, they will need to show they are not letting their dominant performance go to their head. If they play believing “No AD, no problem” the script will flip, and they will have all the pressure to defend home court in Game 7.
Let’s look deeper to see who has the edge in this closeout matchup.
Booker & Payne Have Been Bright Suns
Phoenix’s big run may have come in the second quarter, but it was the efforts of Devin Booker and Cameron Payne that set the tone early. In the first quarter, Booker and Payne combined to score 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting.
This kind of success is typical for Booker at home, but his road performances have been another story. In his three home playoff games, Booker averages 31.7 points per game and shoots 50.0% from the floor. On the road, these numbers are way down to 18.0 points per game and 33.3% shooting. Game 6 would be the perfect opportunity to buck this trend and show Booker’s name belongs in the conversation with the young elite.
While Booker has been hot and cold, Payne has not. Since the injury to Chris Paul in Game 1, Payne is up to 25.8 minutes and 15.8 points per game. Payne’s punch off the bench has helped fill in for Paul while he recovers and made it easier to find spots to get Booker some rest. Even when Paul is 100%, Payne’s quality play may have been enough to show he can provide instant offense when called upon.
Defensively, the Suns have absolutely smothered the Lakers since Davis’s groin injury. In each of the three halves since the injury, the Suns have held LA under 40% shooting from the floor. If they continue showing up with this smothering intensity, a road upset could be in their grasp.
LeBron Must Be More Aggressive For Lakers
After gaining control of the series 2-1, the Lakers have been unable to recreate the offensive success that led to their wins. One hope is that Davis will come back in Game 6, but even if available he will likely be limited or forced out early. This puts the burden heavily on the shoulders of LeBron James. We have seen LeBron carry lesser teams in the playoffs, but that was several years ago.
To carry the load we will need to see a much more aggressive LeBron than we have so far. In these playoffs, LeBron is down to 3.4 free throw attempts per game and up to 7.6 3-point attempts per game. The free throw attempts are less than half of his number from last playoffs and 3-point attempts nearly an additional two. Adjusting to an offense based around LeBron getting to the rim could also catch the Suns off guard and give LA an early edge.
For an offense based around LeBron to work, the rest of the Lakers will need to shoot much better. In their five playoff games, only LeBron and Marc Gasol have shot better than 33.3%. If they can even creep back towards their 35.4% 3-point percentage from the regular season, it will be enough to punish the defense for overcommitting to LeBron.
Defensively, the Lakers have been able to carry over their regular-season success to the postseason. Per NBA.com, the Lakers have the fourth-best Defensive Rating at 106.2. However, you can argue that the Lakers’ defense has been the most impressive because, unlike the top three teams, they are playing against a top-ten regular-season offense. It may have slipped up in Game 5, but the Lakers’ defense should bounce back and be able to at least keep things close even if the offense struggles.
Both teams have major question marks heading into this matchup. For the Suns, can their young core close out the series on the road? For the Lakers, does LeBron still have what it takes to carry a team against the West’s second seed?
The Suns’ answer to the problem of youth is simply the presence of Chris Paul. Paul helped transform the offense from one that lacked discipline to one that plays smarter and not harder. We have seen teams led by Paul come up short in these spots several times. However, due to the injury to Anthony Davis, the Suns should have the talent edge. It will be up to Paul to make sure they continue playing dialed in as they did Tuesday.
For the Lakers, the question of whether LeBron can carry the load is a much more difficult one. While I believe LeBron has it in him to beat Father Time on a given night, he still needs some contribution from his teammates. So far they have shown they can play stout defense but are completely unreliable offensively.
To win they would either have to all of a sudden find their stroke against the fifth-best 3-point defensive team, or LeBron would need to break the scoreboard himself. Unfortunately, he is only shooting 58.8% from the free-throw line in the postseason, so Phoenix could force the issue and just foul him when he nears the basket.
It does feel uncomfortable to put in words, but I am going to pick Chris Paul to take down LeBron James in a make-or-break playoff game. It was a breath of fresh air to see I am not alone either, as 91% of the money is on the Phoenix moneyline per our Action Network website.
Pick: Suns Moneyline +118