Suns vs. Lakers NBA Preview

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots. Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots. Steph Chambers/Getty Images/AFP

The Lakers need to win games before the playoffs approach. They’re running out of time. Can they upset the best team in the NBA, at home, against the Suns?

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Sunday, May 9, 2021 – 10:00 PM EST at Staples Center

The Lakers are reeling right now. But while LeBron James is out with an ankle injury, and Dennis Schroder also missing time, the Lakers have returned Anthony Davis. Los Angeles is hoping he can save this team through their final push for the playoffs.

It’s not going to be easy against the Suns.

At this point, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be a game time decision but it looks like everyone else will play for the Lakers against the Suns. At 37-30 on the season, they’re going to need to pile up wins to make the playoffs.

The Lakers have the 24th best points per 100 possessions in the league as they’re scoring 110.4 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers have an effective field goal percentage of 53.9 percent and turn the ball over 15.4 percent of the time, which is 28th in the league.

This team is average on the glass and gets to the foul line at a high rate of 19.7 percent, but without James holding the ball, that number has since dipped. The Lakers will be led by Anthony Davis, who is averaging 21.3 points per game and will likely need to average more points down the stretch.

Davis scored 36 points in the Lakers last game against the Blazers, with 12 rebounds and five assists and only three turnovers, but it wasn’t enough as Caruso and Caldwell-Pope were the only other big contributors in the point column.

Defensively, the Lakers are second in the league, allowing 107.9 points per 100 possessions. They’ve held opponents to 52.9 percent effective field goal percentage and force turnovers 15.3 percent of the time. The Lakers are better on the defensive glass and don’t send opponents to the foul line at a high rate.

The Suns, on the other hand, have 117.3 points per 100 possessions as a team and shoot an effective field goal percentage of 56.6 percent. On top of that, they’ve got a turnover percentage of 12.8 percent, which is really low, thanks to Chris Paul running the show.

This team doesn’t get to the line at a high rate and aren’t the best rebounders offensively but the high shooting percentage has been good enough. The Suns are led by Devin Booker who average 25.6 points per game. But this team has plenty of scoring options between Booker, Paul and DeAndre Ayton, who just scored 26 points in their win against the Knicks.

Phoenix has not just been good on offense. They’re dedicated on defense, which is why they’re 48-19 and don’t even have 20 losses on the season. They’re holding opponents to 111 points per 100 possessions and an effective field goal percentage of 53.6 percent. Teams are scoring just 107.4 points per game against the Suns while the Suns average 114.8 points per game on the season. That’s a huge margin for the Suns and another reason why they’re having a special season.

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Lakers vs. Clippers NBA Preview and Free Pick

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers. Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images/AFP (

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers. Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images/AFP (

 

Even without LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers have what it takes to beat the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA odds this Thursday.

 

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Thursday, May 06, 2021 – 10:00 PM EDT at Staples Center

The 2019-20 season saw the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers battle for supremacy atop the NBA odds board – with the Lakers coming out as champions. This year, both L.A. teams have been overtaken by the Brooklyn Nets, who are +240 favorites on Bovada’s futures market at press time. But the Lakers (+375) and Clippers (+550) are still on the podium, and there’s a good chance one of them will end up meeting Brooklyn in the NBA Finals.

That’s if they can stay healthy. LeBron James (ankle) is expected to miss Thursday’s Lakers-Clippers matchup on TNT, and it remains to be seen whether Serge Ibaka (back) will be ready in time for this game. That hasn’t stopped the Clippers (44-22 SU, 36-29-1 ATS) from opening as 7.5-point “home” favorites at SBK; at that price, the Lakers (37-28 SU, 29-35-1 ATS) should be the right NBA pick.

 

One Out Of Two Ain’t Bad

Old-school handicappers used to pay their bills by following teams with injured superstars, counting on the betting public to lose their composure and push the NBA odds too far in the other direction. Betting markets are a bit tighter these days, but the Lakers did go 7-7 SU and 8-6 ATS between February 16 and March 20, when James was in the lineup and Anthony Davis was not.

The sneaker is on the other foot now. Davis returned from his strained left calf on April 22, and is finally starting to look like his old self again; James has played just twice since coming back from his high-ankle sprain, and is likely to miss the next two games as well. He was absent Monday when the Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 93-89 as 4-point home dogs. So was Dennis Schroder (COVID-19 protocols), who’s also expected to miss Thursday’s contest. Given how much better Alex Caruso has performed at point guard compared to Schroder, that’s another positive for Laker bettors.

 

Gasol-Fueled

Adding to the injury woes in L.A., it looks like Talen Horton-Tucker (calf) might have to sit this one out, too – he’s listed as questionable at press time. But again, the Lakers have better options on the wing. Plus, they’ve finally decided to dust off Marc Gasol and put the veteran center back in the lineup; he was instrumental in their win over Denver, leading the team at plus-17 in his 17 minutes off the bench.

Ibaka, meanwhile, is one of the reasons the Clippers look a lot more like a title contender this year than last. But he hasn’t played since mid-March, and it’s starting to show; the Clippers are 2-3 SU and 0-5 ATS in their past five, including a 110-104 loss to those same Nuggets (+5.5 away) last Saturday. It only makes sense to kick them while they’re down. Bet accordingly, and enjoy the game.

NBA Pick: Lakers +7.5 (–102) at SBK

Trail Blazers vs. Celtics NBA Preview

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics celebrates. Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images/AFP

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics celebrates. Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images/AFP

The Celtics are coming off a 32-point comeback against the Spurs. Will they have enough in themselves to pick up another win against the Blazers?

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Boston Celtics

Sunday, May 2, 2021 – 7:30pm EST at TD Garden

If you bet on the Celtics in their game against the Spurs to finish April, you have quite the finish to your month of April.Jayson Tatum led the Celtics from 32 down to win against the Spurs in overtime, where Tatum scored 60 points in the game. The Celtics are now 34-30 and will get another home game. It’s their fourth home game in a row and they’ve gone 2-1 in those games.

The Celtics are scoring 114.4 points per 100 possessions and have an effective field goal percentage of 54.5 percent. They’re turning the ball over 14.2 percent of the time and effectively rebounding the ball on the offensive end at 27.6 percent of the time.

The Celtics are obviously led by Tatum, who is now averaging 26.4 points per game this season. Tatum also has 7.5 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game. Jaylen Brown has chipped in with 24.8 points per game and 5.9 rebounds.

Defensively, Boston has been average, just like their offense. They’re holding opponents to 112.4 points per possession and a 54.2 percent effective field goal percentage. The Celtics will force 14.4 percent of turnovers but struggle a bit on the defensive glass, allowing over 25 percent of offensive rebounds.

They’ll take on a Portland squad that is hungry. The Blazers have now won three straight games against the Pacers, Grizzlies, and Nets all on the road. The road trip continues against Boston here.

The Blazers are scoring 118 points per 100 possessions and have an effective field goal percentage of 54. They’re really been able to limit turnovers at 11.4 percent of the season and bring down 26.6 percent of offensive rebound opportunities.

Damian Lillard has led the team in scoring with 28.3 points per game with CJ McCollum right behind him with 22.9 points per game. They addition of Norman Powell from the Raptors has been very nice as he’s added 16.8 points per game and has become the third scoring option for this team.

Enes Kanter has been the best rebounder on this team and will go up against the Celtics’ Tristian Thompson. Portland has been awful defensively, which is why they don’t have a higher win percentage. They’re allowing 117 points per 100 possessions and teams are shooting an effective field goal percentage of 55.4 percent. They’re not forcing a high amount of turnovers and have struggled rebounding on defense, being in the bottom 10 in every category I just listed.

Portland scores 115.1 points a night and allows 115.5 per game. They’re also shooting just 44.8 percent from the field and bring down 44.5 rebounds per game. Boston, on the other hand, is scoring 112.6 points per game but have shown better defense, holding opponents to 111.5 points. The Celtics are also shooting at a higher percentage from the field at 46.6 percent but don’t get to the line as often as the Blazers do.

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Raptors vs. Nuggets NBA Preview

Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors slips as he brings the ball up court. Rich Schultz/Getty Images/AFP

Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors slips as he brings the ball up court. Rich Schultz/Getty Images/AFP

The new-look Toronto Raptors should have the edge against the NBA odds this Thursday when they visit the weary Denver Nuggets.

 

Toronto Raptors vs. Denver Nuggets

Thursday, April 29, 2021 – 09:00 PM EDT at Ball Arena

 

No team in the NBA has had it rougher this year than the Toronto Raptors. It was bad enough when both Marc Gasol (Lakers) and Serge Ibaka (Clippers) left for Los Angeles in free agency; then the Raptors learned they’d have to play all their home games in Tampa. But after a slow start and injuries to several players, it looked like Toronto finally had all their ducks in a row – until Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby all landed on the COVID-19 list.

So here the Raptors are at 26-36 SU and 27-35 ATS, a far cry from where they were two years ago when they hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy. However, thanks to lowered expectations and the arrival of two new bigs, the former champs look like the right NBA pick for Thursday’s game against the Denver Nuggets (41-21 SU, 29-33 ATS), who will be playing on zero days of rest after holding off the New Orleans Pelicans 114-112 as 3.5-point home favorites in a rather bruising affair. They’ve opened as 4-point faves at FanDuel versus the visiting Raptors.

 

Khem And The Freddies

VanVleet, Siakam and Anunoby are still the backbone of Toronto’s roster, with VanVleet posting the highest VORP (Value Over Replacement Player, as per Basketball Reference) at plus-1.8. Unfortunately for VanVleet, the coronavirus appears to have caused him the most harm of the three, but Siakam and Anunoby have largely returned to form, and the Raptors have both Kyle Lowry and promising rookie Malachi Flynn available to take the pressure off their emergent leader.

As for that mess Gasol and Ibaka left behind in the paint, the Raptors finally have a solution. After getting poor results from both Aron Baynes (minus-0.8 VORP) and Alex Len (now with Washington), Toronto signed former Orlando Magic center Khem Birch following his buyout; the Raps are 5-2 SU and ATS since Birch was added to the starting lineup. Freddie Gillespie has also played solid defense in 10 games since coming up from the G-League, earning himself a two-year contract in the process. Their arrival cushions the blow somewhat from the loss of Chris Boucher (tied with VanVleet at plus-1.8 VORP) to a sprained left MCL on April 21.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, are 7-1 SU and 3-5 ATS since Jamal Murray (plus-1.6 VORP) was knocked out for the year with a torn left ACL. They’re dangerously thin in the backcourt with Monte Morris (plus-0.3 VORP) and Will Barton (0.0 VORP) both out with strained hamstrings, and not expected to return for while; that leaves Facundo Campazzo (plus-0.1 VORP) and PJ Dozier (minus-0.1 VORP) to keep it together while Denver lean even more heavily on their impressive frontcourt. Toronto can beat the NBA odds Thursday night by using their balance and their extra day of rest to rake advantage. Bet accordingly, and enjoy the game.

NBA Pick: Raptors +4 (–110) at FanDuel

Clippers vs. Suns NBA Preview

Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

 

With Utah unable to beat a miserable Minnesota team recently, they have kept alive the Phoenix Suns chances of snagging the West Conference’s top seed. Yet lurking behind the Suns are the Los Angeles Clippers who are two games in the loss column behind Phoenix going into tonight. It’s too bad we couldn’t have a full house in downtown Phoenix this evening, but the action figures to be as hot as the desert sun.

 

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 – 10:00 PM EDT at PHX Arena

This is the third confrontation between these division rivals and Los Angeles has won and covered both. The initial two meetings featured technical fouls, flagrant fouls, ejections and s high volume of trash talking.

“There are going to be games like this where it is going to be chippy,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “They are fighting for something, we are fighting for something, so it is going to happen and I am OK with it.”

The NBA odds at Unibet have Phoenix as 3.5-point home favorites with a total of 222.5.

 

Clippers Hoping to Have All Hands on Deck Wednesday

Among the aspects that make beating the online sportsbooks a real challenge is when the obvious doesn’t happen. The Clippers had not enjoyed much success at New Orleans of late (1-4 ATS) and had won four straight and 11 of 12 and were only two-point road favorites in Nawlins, easy money right? WRONG! The Clips were outscored by 13 in the first quarter and never threatened the Pelicans.

After averaging almost 30 PPG over an eight-game stretch, Paul George scored only nine and injured his ankle. Though most would expect him to play versus Phoenix, when it comes to George and Kawki Leonard, one never knows night to night.

No early word on Leonard, however, the speculation is he could play against Phoenix since he made the trip to the bayou. Having Leonard and George creates matchup advantages for the Clips against the Suns.

DeMarcus Cousins is making a bid to be on the Clippers postseason roster, after having 16 points and 11 rebounds Monday and he could be a factor for L.A. with similar production in this massive matchup.

 

Suns Defense Has to Tighten Up and Possibly Juggle Minutes

After being among the top defensive teams all season, Phoenix has allowed six of the last seven opponents to connect on 48 percent or more of their attempts. It is not a coincidence the Suns are 4-3 (2-4-1 ATS) in this period. We are the first to acknowledge the last five contests were on the road and against some very good competition in the Eastern Conference.

However, with the Clippers tonight and Utah in town Friday, recapturing the effort and cohesiveness that made them a Top 5 defense in field goal percentage and efficiency needs to return. Coach Monty Williams’ crew has fallen into a Top 10 unit.

Maybe fatigue or playing an extremely tough schedule is taking its toll. The next two battles are important to send the right message, but honestly, the Suns should only focus on maintaining their current position in the conference standings.

After Friday, only seven games remain and Chris Paul should sit four of those and have limited minutes in the other three. Being the catalyst, Paul’s value increases in the postseason so having him as fresh as possible is imperative. And Williams would be wise to rest others and go all out to beat the Clippers and Jazz and trust you have enough to handle the weaker foes on the upcoming schedule.

 

The Point Spread Winner

Like many of the Suns’ recent tilts, this should be outstanding viewing on ESPN and a 48 minutes nail-biter for those making NBA picks.

This will come down to offensive efficiency in finding the best shots and making them. Each squad is in the Top 7 in offensive field goal percentage. Both hit a high percentage of threes, yet create ball movement and penetration for an ample number of two-point attempts, they regularly convert.

That places a burden on the defense and that will be especially so in the final five minutes which becomes about forcing rushed and well-guarded attempts that go awry.

Against the sportsbooks, we will trust the Suns to extract double revenge. While we are not crazy about the half-point at -3.5 and knowing Los Angeles is 16-5 ATS off a road loss by 10 points or more, we also find Phoenix is 9-1 ATS as a home favorite of six points or less, winning by over 10 PPG this season. That works!


NBA Picks: Suns -3.5 points (-110) at Unibet