Why the Los Angeles Lakers Opened as Favorites in Game 2 Despite Losing Game 1 as Underdogs to Phoenix Suns

Why the Los Angeles Lakers Opened as Favorites in Game 2 Despite Losing Game 1 as Underdogs to Phoenix Suns article feature image
Credit:

Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Mikal Bridges guards LeBron James.

The Phoenix Suns may not have shocked the world with their Game 1 win over the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, but they definitely caused everyone to sit up and take notice.

Phoenix outplayed the Lakers resoundingly, especially on the defensive end, holding them to just 97 points per 100 possessions, which is basically hot garbage water.

The Suns were favored by two in Game 1 and covered with ease. So Phoenix won Game 1, covered Game 1, and is still at home in Game 2?

The Lakers opened as 1- to 2-point favorites in Game 2 at various books.

Huh?

I reached out to bookmakers for an explanation as to why the Suns went from favorites in Game 1 to dogs in Game 2:

“Chris Paul’s injury is the key mover here,” Jay Croucher, Head of Trading, PointsBet USA, said. “Paul never looked right after getting hurt, and a diminished Paul means a significantly diminished Phoenix, especially after the Lakers have more time to game-plan for sagging off of Paul (as they started to in Game 1) if he’s still compromised.

“Incentive also plays a key part,” Coucher continued. “The Lakers being in desperation mode and what that means for rotation minutes and strategy [more of a chance they move away from the Davis at power forward minutes, which they’ve struggled in] has a material impact on the line. There is also the aspect of no one believing in this young Phoenix team, especially with Paul hurt.”

“The weight of money in Game 1 was on the Lakers, the weight of series money has been on the Lakers, and early Game 2 action has also been on the Lakers. Weight of money doesn’t move the line, but there is still an informed skepticism around Phoenix as a playoff team, and the expectation that the Lakers will get better as the series goes on, given their lineup options.”

As far as Paul goes, he absolutely could not use his right arm after he returned Sunday. The continued numbness obviously brings concerns about a nerve injury. This video actually does a pretty good job of going through the implications of the likely injury, a stinger:

If that video is accurate and it is a stinger, then it’s unlikely Paul misses time going forward.

Re: CP3: Paul’s right shoulder is clearly bugging him &, while it does appear to be a stinger/nerve issue, it’s worth mentioning he suffered a Grade III AC joint sprain on this same shoulder during the 2013-14 season.

— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) May 23, 2021

Regarding NBA stingers:

I have 30+ with an average time lost less than one game.

— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) May 23, 2021

Then there’s this update from Gina Mizell, who covers the Suns:

Monty Williams said that Chris Paul remains "sore" (not as bad as yesterday but still feeling it) but that he was just doing some dribbling work and that they feel like "he's in a good place" for tomorrow's Game 2. Added he and medical staff would not put him in harm's way #Suns

— Gina Mizell (@ginamizell) May 24, 2021

So we’ve got Chris Paul likely to play while sore but not as bad even a day after with another day to go. So what else could it be?

Deandre Ayton left the bench during the “altercation” between Cam Payne, Alex Caruso and Montrezl Harrell.

Ayton will not play game 2 @AnthonyIrwinLA @forumbluegold @hannah_kulik pic.twitter.com/5yfNKAElxj

— CompaJR (@juansjr7) May 23, 2021

Even then, Ayton isn’t likely to move the spread by more than a half-point. The line moved back towards the Suns after moving as high as Lakers -2. We’re tracking steam, and reverse line moves on the Suns from impactful bettors. Via the Action Network app:

The majority of the bets and money are on the Lakers, yet the line moved back towards the Suns.

This line remains confusing. Even with the idea that Paul’s injury moves this, does it move it three full points? Action Network’s Raheem Palmer has this game projected with the Suns as slight favorites.

The question comes back to Croucher’s final point: Do you trust this Suns team, at home, coming back in a letdown spot off a sensational performance in Game 1?

Or is it maybe simpler: If you remove the narrative constructs like skepticism, experience, motivation, and factor in that Paul is likely to play… is this line sharp?

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