Happy New Year! On the first day of 2020, two Pacific Division foes will meet on the hardwood under the bright lights of Hollywood. The Los Angeles Lakers (26-7) are set to host the Phoenix Suns (13-20) in their first meeting since Nov. 12, when Los Angeles prevailed, 123-115.
Here is a preview for Wednesday night’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
We’ll start with the Suns, who have broken out of their long eight-game losing streak and are now in search of their third win in a row. Phoenix is averaging 114.3 points per game, sixth in the NBA, on 46.1 percent shooting.
No team has been better at distributing the ball than the Suns, who are first in assists per game with 28.3. They’re also just outside of the top 10 in terms of fewest turnovers.
On the other side, Phoenix allows a pedestrian 115.1 points per game, letting opponents shoot at the fourth-highest rate of 47.8 percent from the field. They’re also the fourth-worst in opponents’ three-point field goal percentage at .376.
Overall, this is a Suns team that plays at a speedy pace, scores some points, but also allows its fair share of buckets.
The Lakers, in first place for much of the season, have rebounded from an uneven December with two straight wins of their own to close out 2019. Los Angeles is ninth with 112.4 points per game, scoring at the second-highest field goal rate of 48.2 percent.
The Lakers are not a great three-point shooting team, but they are top 10 in assists.
Los Angeles has been a tough team to score against all year, allowing 105.3 points per game, the fourth-fewest in the league. The Lakers have held opponents to 43.8 percent shooting overall and 34 percent from deep.
The Lakers are also second with 8.6 steals, proving that they are just as capable defensively as they are on offense.
Who To Watch
Phoenix has one of the best pure scorers in the league in Devin Booker. The shooting guard is averaging just under 25 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent from three. He’s coming off of a win against Portland in which he dropped 33 points.
Booker is joined by Ricky Rubio, who is second in the NBA in assists with 9.3, as well as Kelly Oubre Jr., who had 29 points and a career-high seven threes in his last game.
There’s also last year’s No. 1 overall pick, DeAndre Ayton, who returned from a sprained ankle to grab 12 rebounds in 20 minutes against the Trail Blazers.
The Lakers will have both of their stars on the court in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. James is in the MVP conversation once again, averaging 25.1 points and a league-high 10.8 assists.
Meanwhile, Davis leads the Lakers in points with 27.3 and rebounds with 9.3. In addition to these two superstars, look for role players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Dwight Howard to be factors on Wednesday night.
Caldwell-Pope is coming off 19 points in 25 minutes against the Mavericks on Sunday, while Howard scored 15 points.
Odds and Pick
The Lakers, to no surprise, are favorites Wednesday night at home. Oddsmakers at FanDuel have Los Angeles favored by 11.5 against the struggling Suns.
Los Angeles is a strong home team (11-4), but Phoenix is actually better on the road (7-8) than at home (6-12). While I think the Suns will be able to score with Booker and Ayton, I think Los Angeles will pull away thanks to its depth.
Look no further than the last time these teams played, when four players not named James or Davis reached double figures in scoring. The difference in depth, plus Los Angeles’ ability to force turnovers, will be the difference Wednesday night. I’m picking the Suns to cover the 11.5 points, but the Lakers to open up 2020 with their third straight win.