Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns Preview and Pick

L.A. Lakers -4.5 (8-1) at Phoenix Suns +4.5 (8-4) O/U 207 10:30 PM ET Thursday November 20, 2008 on TNT
By Jason Green at Predictem.com

Tonight the L.A. Lakers travel to the desert to take on the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are 3-2 at home this year and the Lakers are 4-0 on the road. This game features two old buddies, in Kobe Bryant and Shaq and the Big Fella always seems to be pumped up when playing teams that he formerly played for. Currently the Lakers are in 1st place in the Pacific division, but the Suns are only 1.5 games back in second.

Basketball bookies have the Lakers as 4.5-point favorites with a total around 207. The Lakers are posted at -165 as away favorites and the Sun are posted at +145 as home dogs.

The Lakers come into this game after beating the Chicago Bulls 116-109 on Tuesday night. The high scorer for the Lakers in that game was not Kobe, shock, but Pau Gasol, who had a huge game going fro 34 points on 14/21 shooting and also grabbing 6 boards. For the game the Lakers shot 46/98 for a FG% of 46.9%. On defense the Lakers allowed the Bulls to shoot 40/93 from the floor for a FG% of 43%.

The Suns come into this game after losing on Monday night to the Utah Jazz 109-97. The high scorer for the Suns in that game was Amare Stoudemire going for 30 points on 10/17 shooting. The Diesel was out of gas in that game only going for 9 points on 3/11 shooting. For the game the Suns shot 36/74 from the floor for a FG% of 48.6%. On defense the Suns allowed the Jazz to shoot 40/85 from the floor for a FG% of 47.1%. The reason the Suns lost was they were absolutely dominated on the glass, as the Jazz out-rebounded the Suns 47-26.

Both teams are lighting up the scoreboard, as the Lakers rank 3rd in the NBA in scoring (103.5 ppg) and the Suns rank 6th (100.5 ppg). The Suns are shooting lights out with a team FG% of almost 50%. Both teams are pretty even in terms of FT% even though the Suns have Shaq, who is not known for his prowess from the charity stripe, to say the least. Both teams are shooting almost 40% from 3-point land.

The Lakers are also winning with their D, as they rank 2nd in the NBA (89.1 ppg) while the Suns have not bought into, new head coach, Terry Porter’s defensive system yet and they rank 19th (97.8 ppg). The Lakers are also better on the glass, as they have a rebounding differential of +6.9 rpg and the Suns are only at +0.2 rpg.

This season the Lakers are 6-3 against the spread and the Suns are 6-6. In terms of Over/under games the Lakers are 6-7 and the Suns are 8-5.

Neither team is reporting any significant injuries.

There is a little more interest in this game since it was recently reported that Shaq said he would be interested in coming back to La La land after his current contract expires so he could end his career with the Lakers. That is all fine and good, but the Lakers are just fine without him and the world does not need any more Shaq movies or albums.

The Lakers create huge match up problems with their frontline of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Gasol is averaging a double-double and Bynum is close to it. Gasol is the key, as he can score from outside and down low, so if opposing bigs come out Bynum can dominate the paint and if they pack the lane Gasol can step out and hit the outside J.

Shaq and Stoudemire have to have a solid defensive game for the Suns to win. If they get killed on the glass like they did last game the Lakers will school them.

The Lakers can run or they can play a good half-court game with the Zen Master’s triangle offense.

Both teams can score, but the Lakers are a better defensive team. Also, they have one of the deeper benches in the league, so they do not miss a beat when the starters need a rest.

The Suns have to control the glass and not let the Lakers get too many second chances.

An interesting match up in this game is between the PG’s of Steve Nash and D-Fish. If Fish can play some D and keep Nash from penetrating and hitting the long ball the Lakers will be in good shape.

The less that Kobe scores and shoots mean that the other Lakers are scoring, which is a good thing. The Lakers have the best record in the NBA and Kobe is only averaging 24.3 ppg and 19.3 field-goal attempts, which are his lowest totals since Shaq’s last season in Tinseltown.

Shaq against Kobe is a great sub-plot, but the game will come down to other players and how they step up.

Jason’s Pick: I like the Suns getting the points at home.