LOS ANGELES LAKERS (20-25)
at PHOENIX SUNS (15-30)
Tip-off: Wednesday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -2.5, Total: 202.5
After a perfect homestand, the Lakers begin a seven-game road trip on Wednesday at struggling Phoenix. This game will be the first for Steve Nash against his former Suns team.
Los Angeles was 3-0 SU (2-1 ATS) on its just-completed homsteand, crushing the Jazz 102-84 on Friday, taking down the Thunder 105-96 on Sunday and then outlasting the Hornets 111-106 on Tuesday. Since a four-game win streak in mid-December, the Suns are a dreadful 4-15 SU (8-10-1 ATS). This includes a brutal 2-6 (SU and ATS) home mark during this slide. Although the Lakers are 11-5 SU in the past 16 meetings between these clubs, they lost both trips to Phoenix last season by double-digits, falling by 20 points and 12 points. L.A. is also in the midst of a seven-game SU road losing skid (1-6 ATS).
Can the Lakers start their long road trip off with a victory? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. For NBA Totals, the experts are a stellar 16-4 (80%) in the past five days with StatFox Gary going 8-1, StatFox Brian at 4-1 and StatFox Scott going 4-2 since Friday. For the season, Scott is a strong 66-47 (58%) in Totals, while Gary is a respectable 52% (59-54-4). For Best Bets, Scott is 6-4 ATS (60%) in the past six days to boost his season Best Bets mark to 53% ATS (65-58-1). Brian is at 51% ATS (69-67-3) and StatFox Dave is 7-6 ATS (54%) since Friday.
The Lakers defense has been abysmal this season, allowing 101.1 PPG (5th-worst in NBA), but they have surrendered 100 points just twice in the past nine games. During this span, opponents have just 97.2 PPG on 44.3% FG and 29.8% threes. But offensively, L.A. has posted 102.6 PPG (6th-best in the NBA) while grabbing 45.0 RPG (3rd in league). SG Kobe Bryant (28.4 PPG, 3rd in NBA) is shooting a career-best 46.9% FG and has not scored fewer than 14 points in any of his 45 games this season. But during his team's three-game surge, he has focused more in other areas, averaging 13.0 APG and 8.7 RPG to go along with 16.3 PPG on 59% FG. In the lone meeting with Phoenix on Nov. 16, Bryant had a game-high 31 points (10-of-24 FG, 10-of-11 FT) and dished out six assists. C Dwight Howard (16.7 PPG) leads the NBA with 11.8 RPG and his 2.5 BPG rank fifth in the league. He had been struggling with just 8.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 1.2 BPG during a five-game stretch before exploding for 24 points on 9-of-13 FG in Tuesday's win. He also had 18 points, 12 boards and four blocks in the Nov. 16 victory over the Suns. PG Steve Nash (11.5 PPG, 8.0 APG) returns to the building where he spent 10 seasons over two different stints with the team, winning MVP Awards in 2005 and 2006. Nash has shot a blistering 59% FG (6-of-10 threes) during L.A.'s win streak. PF Pau Gasol (12.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG) has started to play better offensively with 15.2 PPG and 7.2 RPG over his past six games, but is just 8-for-18 (44%) from the foul line in the past three contests. He was one of the five double-digit scorers in the Nov. 16 win over Phoenix, pitching in 16 points, 10 rebounds and a +12 rating. SF Metta World Peace (13.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG) scored 22 points in that game, making 5-of-10 threes and adding six rebounds. New starting SF Earl Clark is coming off a double-double with 20 points and 12 boards in Tuesday's victory.
Phoenix scores a mediocre 95.6 PPG (18th in NBA) and allows 99.8 PPG (22nd in NBA) on 46.7% FG (2nd-worst in league). The good thing about the Suns is that they have great balance with six players averaging at least 10 PPG. PG Goran Dragic (14.2 PPG, 6.3 APG) leads the team in scoring and notched a hefty 22 points with seven assists in the loss to L.A. earlier this season. PF Luis Scola (13.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG) had 18 points and eight boards in that defeat, but he's been cold in the past two games, making just 9-of-23 shots (39%). SG Jared Dudley (12.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG) has been erratic in the past four games, scoring 8, 3, 23 and 9 points (3-of-9 FG) in Sunday's loss. PG Shannon Brown (11.9 PPG) has also been slumping with just 6.3 PPG in his past three games, but he's averaged a mere 16.0 MPG during this stretch. C Martin Gortat (11.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG) did very little against the Lakers huge frontcourt on Nov. 16, scoring just six points in 28 minutes of action. But he did grab eight boards that game, and has 9.3 RPG in his past three contests. SF Michael Beasley (10.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG) has started to assert himself offensively with 18.5 PPG in the past two games.