The Phoenix Suns (13-20; 18-14-1 ATS) take on the Los Angeles Lakers (26-7; 18-15 ATS) on New Year’s Day in the second meeting of the season between these two Pacific Division foes. Back in November, the Lakers beat the Suns 123-115 in Arizona, covering a 3.5-point spread. The Lakers have owned the Suns over the last few years, winning eight of their previous ten encounters including the last three at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Suns will be fired up to get payback but will have a tall task against the best team in the Western Conference.
Phoenix is coming to LA in full strength, as Deandre Ayton returned from an ankle injury on Monday night. The Lakers can also count on all their players besides DeMarcus Cousins who’s out for the season with a knee injury.
The Lakers opened as heavy 11-point favorites with a total of 226.5 points. They are 2-4 ATS in the last six outings as double-digit favorites, while the Suns are 3-5 ATS in their previous eight showings as double-digit underdogs.
What’s at Stake?
The Suns are one game behind the eight-seeded San Antonio Spurs at the moment. They are keen to finally reach the postseason after nine years of agony, so every game count for the Suns. On the other side, the Lakers sit atop the Western Conference, two and a half games ahead of the Denver Nuggets.
Phoenix has won two straight games, beating Sacramento 112-110 and Portland 122-116. The Suns snapped an eight-game skid and will close down a four-game journey in Los Angeles. On the other side, the Lakers have won two straight contests, too, outlasting Portland 128-120 on the road and Dallas 108-95 at home. Against the Mavs, the Lakers opened a five-game homestand.
The Lakers barely defeated the Suns in their first duel of the season. It was a tight clash down the stretch and the Suns had a two-point lead with 3:29 to go in the fourth quarter. Then, the Lakers hit three straight 3-pointers to decide the winner. Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Kyle Kuzma added 23 points including a couple of treys in the crunch time.
Both teams shot the ball well. The Suns made 42.1% of their 3-pointers, while the Lakers hit 53.7% of their field goals. Phoenix struggled defensively, and the Lakers handed out a whopping 39 assists. Likewise, the Lakers accounted for 70 points in the paint, allowing 46 in a return. The Suns were without Deandre Ayton due to a suspension, so the sophomore big man should help his team a lot in this one.
Ayton will have a tall task to slow down Anthony Davis who will be the key player for the Lakers. LeBron James has been struggling with a groin injury recently, and he hasn’t been at the highest level over the last few games. Still, LeBron is doing a great job at PG. He had 13 dimes against the Mavericks, while he’s averaging 10.8 assists per contest this season.
The Suns’ defense will be tested, and I’m not sure they have enough firepower to deal with the Lakers’ offense. Phoenix allows 111.3 points per 100 possessions (19th in the NBA) on 47.8% shooting from the field (28th) and 37.6% from beyond the arc (27th). On the other side, the Lakers’ D is one of the best in the league, surrendering 104.8 points per 100 possessions (4th) on 43.8% shooting from the field (6th).
If the Lakers put on a strong defensive performance, I don’t think the Suns would stand a chance in this clash. The Suns’ defense is pretty poor, as well as their defense in transition, while the Suns love to play at a fast pace. Also, I assume the Suns will struggle to protect the rim once again, although Deandre Ayton is back in action. Therefore, I’m backing the Lakers to win and cover. Still, I suggest you buy a few points and take the Lakers around seven points. The Lakers are 8-2 SU and ATS in their last ten meetings with the Suns and are 3-0 SU and ATS in the previous three encounters at Staples Center.
When it comes to the totals, I suggest you take the over even though the Lakers could completely shut down the Suns’ offense. I’m looking for a fast-tempo basketball, hoping the Suns will find a way to execute well on the offensive end. On the other side, the Lakers should score a bunch of points here, considering the Suns’ fragile D. The previous three meetings between the Lakers and Suns in LA went in the under even though the Lakers scored at least 112 points in each of those three encounters.