It’s statement time for the Los Angeles Lakers.
LeBron James and the Lakers have been reeling since the NBA All-Star break. They’re just 1-6 in their last seven contests heading into Friday night’s game against the Washington Wizards.
The Lakers, still without injured star Anthony Davis, are holding on to the ninth spot in the Western Conference, which will get them in the NBA’s Play-In Tournament.
Sunday, in a showdown on ESPN at 6 p.m. local time, the Lakers get a shot at the top team in the NBA this season: The Phoenix Suns, at the Footprint Center.
The Suns were 53-13 heading into action Friday and have already clinched a playoff spot. The Lakers lead the all-time regular-season series 146-111, and have won eight of 13 playoff series with the Suns.
Phoenix beat the Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs last year.
What do the oddsmakers say?
Both Caesars and BetMGM had identical lines on the game. The sportsbooks peg the Suns as 8.5-point favorites and list the over/under figure at 228.5.
Caesars and BetMGM each have the Suns as the favorite to win the NBA title in June. Phoenix rates +400 at BetMGM and +450 at Caesars.
The Lakers still get some respect; after all, they do have LeBron James. At BetMGM and Caesars, the Lakers are +5,000 to win the title.
Suns star Devin Booker is +12,500 to win the NBA Most Valuable Player award. James is +2,500.
Suns coach Monty Williams is the overwhelming favorite to win the Coach of the Year award. He’s tops on the BetMGM board at -350 to nab that honor.
What’s been up with the Phoenix Suns?
Phoenix has an 8.5-game lead on the Memphis Grizzlies for the top spot in the Western Conference. They have been without superstar guard Chris Paul since the All-Star break, due to his broken thumb.
Paul should return just before the playoffs. Booker, the seventh-year pro from Kentucky, leads the team with 25.6 points a game.
And with Deandre Ayton putting in 16.8 points, the Suns average 113.7 points a game. They have never won the NBA title, but this could be their year.
What’s the word on the Los Angeles Lakers?
One word: Disarray.
Davis is expected to be evaluated in another week after suffering a foot sprain. James missed Wednesday’s game against the Rockets, where Russell Westbrook scored 30 points in an overtime loss.
Westbrook has been the focus of the fans’ unhappiness and he has cried out in the press about unfair treatment. Los Angeles was 28-37 going into Friday night.
The Lakers average 110.9 points a game.
The numbers to know
The Lakers are 27-38 against the spread this season. The Suns are just 35-31 against the spread and the oddsmakers seemingly haven’t been sure how to handle them. Phoenix is 16-19 at home against the spread and 19-12 on the road.
The Suns have been favored in nine of their last 10 games, five times by double digits. They are just 3-7 against the spread in that stretch, while an even 5-5 on the over/under total.
Los Angeles has been the listed favorite five of their last 10 games. They have not covered the spread in six of their last seven games, mirroring their losing streak.
Their only victory in the last seven games (straight-up and against the spread) came against the Warriors. Like the Suns, they have split on the over/under total in their last 10.
Fast five: Last five regular-season meetings
Suns 108, Lakers 90 – It was a close game at halftime, but the Suns surged in the third quarter as Booker had 24 points and nine rebounds. The Lakers were without Davis. James had 34 points.
Suns 115, Lakers 105 – The second game of the season for both teams is remembered for some heated words on the bench between Davis and teammate Dwight Howard.
Paul got his 20,000th career point, making him the only player in NBA history with 20,000 points and 10,000 assists.
(2020-2021 regular season)
Lakers 123, Suns 110 – The Lakers led wire-to-wire despite James sitting out with an injury. Davis had 42 points and the Lakers overcame 21 from Booker.
Suns 111, Lakers 94 – James sat this one out with an ankle sprain. The Suns led by 15 at halftime and Paul had a triple-double.
Suns 114, Lakers 104 – Booker was ejected for arguing a call in the third quarter, but the Suns still rolled as Dario Saric had 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
The play: Advice on what to bet
LeBron James scored 50 in a win over Washington Friday night. He can’t possibly maintain that pace, can he?
Not having Chris Paul may be catching up to the Suns. They are 5-4 since the All-Star break.
I lead toward taking the Lakers and the points. I’m always leery of any over/under but I believe this one will fall under.