Lakers face rising Suns for first time

Dec 18, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) against Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during a preseason game at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have won two games in a row, as they will look to win their final two games before the All-Star break to relax at home (well other than LeBron James) as they prepare for the second half. To win those final two games, they’ll first have to beat the Phoenix Suns who are quickly nearing the Lakers in the standings. The Lakers are currently 24-11 and are in second place in the Western Conference while the Suns have won eight of their last 10 games to come in at 22-11 which is good enough for fourth place in the conference.

The Suns’ most obvious area of improvement comes in the form of new point guard Chris Paul who continues his ways of elevating a team through the standings through his sheer positive impact and leadership after taking a lowly Thunder team to the playoffs last year. Paul has seamlessly combined with current Suns-lifer Devin Booker (who took Anthony Davis’ spot as an All-Star this season). Booker is currently averaging 25.5 points per game on the season (13th in the NBA), but has been on fire as of late with 31.0 points per game in his last five games. The best performance in that span came on Sunday, when Booker had 43 points on 15/26 shooting from the field. The Lakers will look to control his scoring as they have done with Damian Lillard (23 points on Friday) and Stephen Curry (16 points on Sunday) lately.

Injury news

Anthony Davis will remain out until at least after the All-Star break, while new Laker Damian Jones will be questionable (back sprain) after his debut on Sunday against the Warriors. No other is suspected to miss the game, although Jared Dudley and Kyle Kuzma sustained new injuries in the Warriors game while LeBron James is put back on the list as “probable” with his left angle sprain that he has been dealing with nearly all year.

Dario Saric will be questionable for the Suns, with no other players expected to be out.

Betting central

Lakers -1.5; Over/under 214.5; Lakers moneyline -121 (Suns moneyline +102)

I’m now 4-2 on my picks in the last two games, bringing my (poor) season record to 14-20-2 (44% win or push percentage).

The over/under total is very small, which is not surprising when you consider that the Lakers and Suns have the second and fourth best Defensive Ratings in the NBA on the season. Combine that with the two teams being first and second, respectively, in their last five games and the total of 214.5 is probably spot on. Even though I think 214.5 is spot on, I’ll take the under on it given the two teams’ defenses as well as the fact that I always make myself take either the over/under or spread and I have NO CLUE who is going to win this game.

For my other two bets I will first bet on Devin Booker continuing his hot streak with an over on 27.5 points with some nice +115 odds. I’ll then take the Suns moneyline for the first quarter, as the Lakers have had a history of slow starts all season including the Trail Blazers game on Friday (outscored Trail Blazers 78-64 for the final three quarters).

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook at 1:15 p.m. PST

Where to watch

The game will be nationally televised on TNT, but will also be televised on Spectrum SportsNet. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. PST.

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