NBA Odds, Prediction, Preview for Suns vs. Lakers Game 3: How to Value Chris Paul’s Health (Thursday, May 27)
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul.
- The Lakers and Suns make the short trip west for Thursday's NBA playoff matchup.
- Anthony Davis and LeBron James led Los Angeles to the win in their Game 2 meeting, squaring the series up at a game apiece.
- Matthew Trebby breaks down the game below and explains why he's expecting plenty of points in this Game 3 showdown.
Suns vs. Lakers Odds
|Moneyline||+245 / -300|
|Time||Thursday, 10 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday afternoon and via FanDuel|
Through two games, it’s clear that the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers are very evenly matched.
Phoenix caught the short end of the stick in being paired with the reigning champions in the first round, but it’s definitely up for the challenge. The Lakers are still looking for a rhythm offensively, but showed some signs of life in Game 2, which will be worrisome for the Suns as the series heads to Los Angeles.
Let’s break down what we’ve seen from each team in this series so far to see if we can find betting value.
Paul's Absence Hurt Suns in Game 2 Setback
There was one massive difference between the first two games of this series for the Suns: Chris Paul.
After Paul got hurt in Game 1, the Suns were able to hold off Los Angeles and take a lead in the series. The future Hall of Famer played just 23 minutes in Game 2, though, and was clearly compromised. While Cameron Payne performed admirably and actually had a positive +/- on the night, Phoenix couldn’t hold off the Lakers, more specifically Anthony Davis.
The Lakers usually don’t shoot much from beyond the arc, and Phoenix’s mid-range game is fantastic between Paul, Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges. All three thrive in that area. However, it's still a little odd to see Booker attempting just three 3-point shots per game. He ate at the free throw line in Game 2, though, going 17 for 17 from the charity stripe.
It would be nice for the Suns if there was a two-day gap between games 2 and 3 so Paul could heal up a bit. He clearly wasn’t 100 percent, and is the most important player for Phoenix.
The Suns are not going to win this series with that version of Paul. They’re not the same team with Payne running the show. Phoenix’s defensive numbers were already decreasing over the final month of the regular season, and losing Paul does nothing to help that.
Lakers' Offense Takes Positive Turn in Triumph
The Lakers’ defense was never in question. Even when both Davis and LeBron James were out for long stretches during the regular season, Los Angeles was playing well on that end of the court.
It was the offense that was well below average. Everything runs through Davis and James, so a drop in production is inevitable without even one of them? Obviously, both of them being out was a disaster.
Los Angeles’ 118.5 Offensive Rating, according to NBA Advanced Stats, in Game 2 offers a lot of optimism for Lakers fans, especially after an ugly Game 1 performance.
In the opener, the Lakers defended pretty well, holding the Suns to 99 points while the game was played at a snail’s pace. The offense wasn’t there, though, with Davis and James taking a combined 29 shots and the Lakers shooting 7 of 26 from beyond the arc.
The difference in Game 2 can’t be seen in attempts, since the Los Angeles duo took just 31, but Davis shot a staggering 21 free throws and converted 18 of them.
Phoenix doesn’t have a great matchup for Davis when the Lakers have either Andre Drummond or Marc Gasol next to him. Davis presents a big-time problem that was exposed in Los Angeles' Game 2 victory.
The Lakers didn’t have a lights-out shooting game in the second game either, going just 10 of 33 from beyond the arc. Take out Davis and James, and Los Angeles was just 4 for 18 from deep.
This is a tough one, because we really don’t know how healthy Paul is. If he is 100%, this is an easy Suns bet for me, although the spread obviously wouldn’t be this high.
I will instead turn my focus to the total. Paul is the most important player in this series in terms of dictating the pace. He slows things down and ensures the Suns get the best shot possible on every possession. While Payne has proven himself capable, I’m not convinced he can hold the boat together in an atmosphere like the one he's about to face in Game 3.
Assuming Paul remains compromised, the over has value here. Neither team has shot particularly well from beyond the arc, which means some positive regression is likely. FanDuel has the number at 210, which is one point lower than where Game 2 finished, and I’d play this up to 211.5 points.
Pick: Total Over 210 (play to 211.5)