Phoenix at L.A. Lakers
Time: 2:30 PM CT, NBA LP
Spread: LAL -11
Odds c/o Bovada
The Los Angeles Lakers have won two straight while ameliorating a defense that has been a problem the entire season. Prior to holding its past two opponents to just an average of 99.5 points, the Lakers gave up 108 points to the Orlando Magic in a loss and then came back to surrender 117 to the Denver Nuggets in another loss. It was better last outing when it held the Indiana Pacers to just 96 points, in a 104-96 victory to snap its two-game skid.
LeBron James has been just as culpable as any on the defensive end. His defense has sagged and lagged, but he is still doing his thing on the offensive end, naturally. As James ages, we will see different aspects of his game fall off, and the defense and rebounding are typically the first to go with aged legends. He is averaging eight rebounds a game, which is solid, but unspectacular by his standards…but James still accounts for 28.1 points per game and 6.7 assists, while posting a PER Of 27.1.
Kyle Kuzma has started alongside him at power forward, and Kuz is really looking like the stretch-4 the Lakers thought he could be when it surrendered Julius Randle and went a different direction with Kuzma. He is averaging 16.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field and 29 percent from three-point range.
The Lakers attempt 29.4 threes per game, but it connects on just 10.1 which is at a 34.5 percent clip. L.A.’s defense ranks in the bottom third of the NBA in allowing 112.1 points per game, while the Lakers barely manages to outscore that at 112.3. Still, at 12-9, there is enough reason for optimism on the grounds that James can get this gang going when it matters and still find its way into the postseason—where, as the proverbial saying goes, “Anything can happen.” James has appeared in the last eight NBA Finals, but this might be his first year to snap that streak with a team that simply does not compare to some of the star-studded casts he played with, in Miami, and even in Cleveland.
The Phoenix Suns are just 4-18 this season, possessing a bottom-third defense that allows 114.1 points per game while the Suns manage to score just 104.1 itself, ranking worst in the Association. The point differential is -10.0.
Phoenix has a few great top talents, but it cannot seem to find much rhythm or continuity on the defensive end. Devin Booker is averaging 24.5 points per game and 7.0 assists, but his efficiency has been questionable with a PER Of just 17.3 due to his 44 percent shooting and 31 percent three-point shooting. TJ Warren has rounded into one of the better undersized forwards in the league, but his tough defense has gone unnoticed on a team so poor in that respect. Warren also averages 17.6 points per game in just under 30 minutes a night.
The Suns have been quite pleased with No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton. Ayton looks seasoned and is a good rim protector. He is averaging 17.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.48 blocks/steals per game. The Suns ideally would like him to swat more shots, but his overall defense has been solid for a rookie. Outside of that top-3, the Suns start to fall off. Trevor Ariza is playing his role, but it is a role on a team that needs more than solid veterans in the starting line. Ariza averages under 10 points per game.
The biggest hole is at point guard where Phoenix starts young journeyman Isaiah Canaan. And Josh Jackson has fallen out of the starting lineup, seeing just 17 minutes a game to average seven points per contest. The Suns have some nice pieces intact at the top of the roster but need depth, a point guard, and a defensive identity, where it currently has none save its sieve identity in giving up so many while scoring so few itself.