Game: Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers
Time: 10:00 p.m.
Odds: Suns -1, Lakers +1
With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers are outside of the Western Conference play-in tournament race, and each loss feels doubly devastating given how closely the other teams are bunched up.
The Lakers are in 11th place in the West heading into tonight’s game with Phoenix. They are 1.5 games behind 10th-place Utah (35-36). The Lakers are 35-37 and are one of nine teams separated by just 3.5 games. Phoenix (38-33) is in fourth place in the West. The Lakers and New Orleans are tied for 11th. In between are the Clippers, Warriors, Thunder, Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Jazz. That will make for an interesting final stretch of the season.
Tonight will be the third game of the Lakers’ five-game homestand. The next five games for the Lakers are on the road, so every Los Angeles home game is crucial. The Lakers split the first two games, falling to the Dallas Mavericks on a last-second three-pointer before bouncing back to defeat the Orlando Magic 111-105 on Sunday.
In the game against Orlando, it was “Hillbilly Kobe” who came through for the Lakers. Austin Reaves scored 13 of his career-high 35 points in the fourth quarter, to lead the Lakers to victory. The second-year undrafted player from an obscure Arkansas town heard “MVP, MVP” chants while standing at the free-throw line. Over the past three games, Reaves has averaged 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists. It has been good timing since the Lakers have been without LeBron James.
The Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies were the other two teams the Suns hoped to challenge for second place in the Western Conference. Phoenix is now attempting to hold off the fifth-place Los Angeles Clippers after that prospect was all but eliminated by four losses in the previous five games.
As they get ready for the middle game of a three-game road trip, the Suns have a one-game lead over the Clippers. Phoenix let a 15-point lead slip away on Sunday, falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder 124-120. Phoenix C Deandre Ayton missed the game against Oklahoma City due to a hip injury, and Kevin Durant is still out for the Suns (ankle). Ayton is listed as out for tonight too.
With 46 points on 18-of-28 shooting against the Thunder, Devin Booker carried the load. Booker has topped 40 points seven times this season and in nine games in March, he is averaging 34.1 points and shooting 57.4 percent from the field.
After sitting out 25 straight games with a left foot injury, backup guard Landry Shamet scored 10 points in 20 minutes against Oklahoma City. Shamet made 3-of-4 three-point attempts.
Phoenix has won the last six games against LA and is 2-0 this year against the Lakers. James did not participate in any of the games this year. On November 22, despite Anthony Davis having a monster game with 37 points and 21 rebounds, the Suns posted a 115-105 home victory. When Davis and Booker joined James on the sidelines on December 19, Phoenix also cruised to a 130-104 home victory.
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