Bring on The Suns

The Phoenix Suns have won the Pacific Division title in each of the last three seasons, due in part to their success against the Los Angeles Lakers.

With the Lakers in the midst of their longest winning streak in nearly four years, though, the Suns' dominance suddenly appears to be in jeopardy.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Phoenix –1.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 225.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 69% of bets for this game have been placed on Phoenix –1.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

After gaining sole possession of the division lead for the first time this season, the Lakers look to extend their overall winning streak to eight games and beat the Suns for the third straight time as the division rivals square off in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Phoenix dominated its series with Los Angeles while winning all three Pacific titles between 2004-05 and 2006-07, beating the Lakers in 10 of 12 regular-season meetings during that stretch and eliminating them in the first round of consecutive postseasons in 2006 and 2007.

The tables have turned this season, however, as the Lakers (26-11) have won the first two meetings with the Suns and are seeking their first three-game win streak against them since winning five straight in the series Jan. 5-Dec. 21, 2003 - before Shaquille O'Neal's departure from Los Angeles and Steve Nash's arrival in Phoenix.

Overall, Los Angeles has won seven straight and 11 of 12 to take a one-half game lead over Phoenix (26-12). The Lakers' win streak is their longest in a single season since an 11-game run March 13-April 2, 2004.

Los Angeles extended its current streak with a 123-121 overtime victory at Seattle on Monday. In the Lakers' first full game without center Andrew Bynum, who is expected to miss two months with a knee injury, Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 48 points, including the game-winning basket in overtime.

He took 44 shots - 12 more than his previous season high and three fewer than his career high.

"Tonight was one of those nights where I kind of had to read the mood of the team," Bryant said. "Us kind of being a little deflated with (Bynum) going down, being a back-to-back, coming in on the road, it was one of those things where I just kind of wanted to be a lot more assertive."

While Bryant's performance helped preserve the team's win streak, it was clear the Lakers missed Bynum, who was averaging 13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots while shooting 63.6 percent from the field.

"We're obviously going to have to put in a lot more work and practice, and refocus on defense now that we don't have Andrew down there," Lakers forward Luke Walton said. "We missed him a lot."

The Suns hope Bynum's absence will help them change their luck this season against the Lakers. They've lost the first two games in the series by an average margin of 14 points, and are just 1-5 against teams in the Western Conference that currently have at least 25 victories.

Although they are near the top of the West overall, the Suns have lost two of their last three games and six of nine on the road.

Phoenix, averaging a league-best 109.8 points, struggled offensively in a 97-90 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night. It was the Suns' second-lowest scoring performance of the season - four points more than they scored in a loss at Utah last Thursday.

"Our offense let us down and we couldn't stop (Clippers guard Sam Cassell)," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Give them credit, they defended well. Our offense, for whatever reason, just wasn't clicking at all, and we just didn't play well."

Nash is averaging 21.5 points and 8.5 assists against the Lakers this season.

Bryant has scored 27.0 points per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field in the two victories over the Suns.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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