Once again because the NCAA Tournament dominates the Thursday night basketball landscape, there is no NBA on TNT doubleheader this Thursday. But there is one tonight. This game is important for both teams. The Lakers enter with a one-game lead over Dallas for the No. 2 seed and potential home-court advantage in the conference semifinals – their game next Thursday could be the decider. Phoenix, meanwhile, is 2.5 games out of the No. 8 spot in the West so the urgency is now to put together a nice run.
How the Teams Enter
Phoenix has followed what was a devastating four-game losing streak with back-to-back wins. Steve Nash had one of his best games of the season on Sunday night, also at Staples Center, as the Suns beat the Clippers 108-99. Nash had 23 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds. It was his highest-scoring game since late January. Phoenix played without backup point guard Aaron Brooks, who served a one-game suspension for hitting an official with the ball on Friday night. So he will be back tonight.
The Lakers have won four straight and 12 of 13 since the All-Star Break (9-4 ATS; the only loss coming at Miami). On Sunday night vs. Portland, the Lakers won, 84-80, behind 16 points and 11 boards from Lamar Odom, who started for a suspended Andrew Bynum. Tonight’s matchup is the fourth game of a seven-game homestand.
Suns at Lakers Betting Story Lines
The Lakers again won’t have Bynum tonight as he serves the final game of his two-game suspension. While Odom was good in Bynum’s place, the Lakers clearly missed the young center against the Blazers. Portland outrebounded Los Angeles 45-35 and outscored the Lakers 21-10 in second-chance points. Really Bynum’s absence affects Pau Gasol more – he had to play 45 minutes against Portland. Los Angeles hasn't given up 100 points in a regulation game since the break and its last 10 opponents have averaged 86.7. But the Lakers have reached triple digits just twice in that span. And Kobe Bryant is making only 37 percent of his shots over the past five games after playing through an ankle sprain.
Phoenix has lost two of three to the Lakers this season but defeated the Lakers the last time they met at Staples Center. Phoenix was 22 for 40 (55 percent) from three-point range in that game. But that was way back in November. Bynum played in only one meeting thus far with Phoenix, getting 14 points and seven rebounds in an L.A. win in the desert. With him out, the Suns’ Marcin Gortat could continue his recent surge. Gortat is averaging a career-high in minutes (28.1), along with personal highs for points (11.9), rebounds (8.6) and blocks (1.2) since coming over from Orlando.
Suns at Lakers Betting Odds and Key Trends
Los Angeles is a 6.5-point favorite with the total at 200.5, according to NBA odds. The Lakers are 25-8 at home and 13-20 ATS. Phoenix is 16-18 on the road and 18-14-2 ATS.
Seven of the last eight meetings have gone over 199 points.
The Lakers are 16-7 against the Suns all-time at Staples Center during the regular season and 7-3 in their last 10 regular season home games against Phoenix.
The ‘under’ is 6-0 in Phoenix’s last six overall and 5-2 in L.A.’s last seven home games.
Phoenix is 4-0-1 ATS in its past five road games.
Head-to-head, the underdog is 4-1-1 ATS in the last six overall and the road team 4-0-1 ATS in the last five overall.
NBA Picks: Suns at Lakers Predictions
Gortat is turning into a very good center – think the Magic would undo that trade right now? Thus I think he has a big game over a tired Gasol. Plus with Kobe not quite 100 percent – he’s technically questionable with that ankle but will play – Phoenix should be able to hang close. L.A. wins the game but the desperate Suns cover. And take the ‘over’.