Suns vs. Lakers Odds
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
It wasn’t so long ago the Suns and Lakers were playing one another in the NBA playoffs. The 2021 Lakers held a 2-1 series lead before injuries got to the defending champs, and the Suns won the series and went on to the Finals.
Less than two years later, these teams have changed drastically.
The Lakers haven’t been back to the playoffs since and are battling just to fight for a chance at the play-in, on the fringe of the race as LeBron James continues to miss time. The Suns fell short of a repeat Finals run as last year’s 1-seed, then blew up the roster this year in a blockbuster trade for Kevin Durant. The Lakers made a big deadline deal of their own, swapping Russell Westbrook for role players who have helped transformed the team.
The Suns won the first two meetings this season by 10 and 26, but James missed both games while Anthony Davis, Chris Paul and Devin Booker each missed one of the two as well. James is out again here, and Deandre Ayton is day-to-day with a hip injury.
The Suns have lost four of five and appear to have settled into the 4-vs-5-seed game, but they’ll still want home court there and probably wouldn’t mind pushing the Lakers further from the playoff picture. The Lakers are fighting and clawing for every win at this point.
Which team will get a pivotal win in the tight West playoff race?
The Suns are Western Conference favorites but have yet to actually look the part on the court. They got only three games out of Durant so far and are just trying to get to the playoffs whole and figure it out there.
Phoenix has a +1.8 net rating on the season, not far above average but good enough in this crowded West. Defense, not offense, has kept Phoenix afloat. The Suns work hard in defense and don’t give up easy shots, and they rank eighth in Defensive Rating on the year with one major flaw, ranking dead last in free throws allowed.
As for the Suns offense? Basically league average for the season, and especially bad at getting to the line or converting 2s. Scoring hasn’t been easy for Phoenix this season, and it won’t get any easier against a suddenly terrific Lakers defense.
Since the Durant trade, the Suns are just 8-7 — and only 5-7 without Durant in the lineup. The team’s Net Rating is up overall thanks to going +39 in those three Durant wins, but the team is struggling.
One guy who’s not struggling is Devin Booker. Booker is averaging 32.4 PPG over his last 11 games with at least 24 points in all but one of them. He’s scored at least 30 in seven of those and at least 35 in five. He’s certainly a potential target for a points over or alternate over in a big game in Los Angeles.
The Suns are 23-12 at home but just 15-21 on the road. This won’t be easy.
The Lakers sit at -0.4 Net Rating on the season and continue to scrap for every win. They’re putting up plenty of points most nights but that’s due to the No. 2 Pace, not the No. 23 Offensive Rating.
Los Angeles ranks bottom five in 3s made and 3-point percentage, and the Lakers are relatively inefficient on 2s. The one saving grace is their ability to get to the line with 26.3 free throw attempts per game, best in the league.
Instead, it’s the defense that’s carried the team as far as it’s come. The Lakers almost never send opponents to the line — a skill wasted on the Suns, who don’t get there much anyway — but defend hard and have gotten even better since adding in Jarred Vanderbilt and some of the other pieces they picked up in the Westbrook deal.
Since Vanderbilt’s debut on February 9, the Lakers’ defense has leapt to 109.9 Defensive Rating, best in the NBA and miles ahead of the now 113.9 DRTG for the season, which ranks 12th. The team identity has shifted as well, with the Pace down to 10th. Austin Reaves also returned to his usual role from a length absence that same date, and he’s been outstanding on both ends for LA, averaging 15.4 points and 4.3 assists during that span.
At the center of it all is Davis. He’s been brilliant, especially in defense, and he’s averaging 24.1 points and 13.7 rebounds a game during this stretch. The rebounding is up from 11.9 RPG the rest of the season. Look at Davis’s over 13.5 rebounds, especially if Ayton sits. Davis has at least 15 boards in eight of his last 15 since the trade, more than half of them after doing so just 9-of-31 (29%) the rest of the season.
It’s cliche to say any NBA team “just wants it more,” but it’s important to note how much more important this game is to the Lakers than the Suns.
There is no tomorrow for Los Angeles. There’s no certain date when James will be back, and guarantee the team will still be in the playoff picture when he does return. The Lakers have a winning record at home, while the Suns are 12-21 on the road not including those three Durant games.
Phoenix’s offense hasn’t been great this season, and the absence of Durant and potentially Ayton won’t help. The Lakers have the league’s best defense over the past month-plus. LA also leads the league in free throws attempted while the Suns rank dead last in free throws allowed, so that could lead to a ton of easy points for the Lakers, especially in a big home game with a potentially kind whistle.
The Suns are favored in this game, but I can’t get there. I make the Lakers slight favorites, so I’ll just play the moneyline at +100 and count on them to pull out every stop in another must-win game against an opponent that’s reeling and very beatable right now.
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