In July 2014, LeBron James announced he was reversing his Decision, leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. After going to four straight finals in South Florida, critics thought he was crazy to leave a good thing, let alone the weather, behind. You can’t go home again and all that.
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The King didn’t go 0-3 to start his first season as a prodigal son. The Cavs lost to the New York Knicks in the Quicken Loans Arena on opening night but topped the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. James and company needed overtime to get it done, however, then lost their next two against Portland and Utah. Not too different from his first games as a Laker.
Finally, they started a four-game winning streak against Denver only to stutter again with a commensurate losing run. With the hounds baying at the 5-8 beginning, the squad found its bearings, ripping off eight wins in 15 days.
Overall, it was an inconsistent season. A six-game losing streak loomed but would soon be followed by an 18-2 run in the New Year.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying the Lakers can match that success in LeBron’s first season at the Staples Center. I don’t think a ninth straight Finals appearance is in the cards. I wouldn’t put it past the man to prove me wrong but I wouldn’t bet on it either. According to Alex Kay of Forbes, the Lakers were +2000 to win the NBA title before James signed but the odds shrank to +350 when he inked. No one cared who else Magic Johnson did or didn’t sign afterwards.
What I am saying is 0-3 is just bedding in, getting the lay of the La La Land, as it were. It’s going to take some time for the Lakers to play a tune fans can dance to, but they aren’t going to keep losing either.
Tonight’s game looks like a ground floor opportunity to start profiting from a Laker resurgence. With Phoenix 1-2, it’s an opportunity for LA to claim their first win in the LBJ era even though the Suns’ lone victory came at home.
The total trends are more telling, however. Phoenix is 1-6 Against The Spread in their last seven home games against losing opposition. Igor Kokoskov’s team is 6-1 ATS in their last seven anywhere against a sub .400 squad, 4-1 in their last five against any losing team. That’s confused seas in the desert if you’re betting the line. When you combine those numbers with the following:
- the Over is 7-2 in recent meetings between the Suns and Lakers,
- it’s 7-1-1 in the last nine in Phoenix,
- the Over is 3-0-1 in the Lakers last four road games and
- 3-0-1 following games in which they surrendered 100+ pts,
you must take a long, hard look at the over.
It’s 236.5 in this game. Phoenix posted 124 in their home opener. They knocked up 103 against Golden State, the team where Lakers coach Luke Walton cut his teeth. The Lakers threw in 119 and 115 in their two defeats in regulation. LeBron contributed 26 and 24 in those games and just 32 in the overtime affair with San Antonio. He’s been consistent but hasn’t made a statement yet.
Tonight, against a team that hasn’t held an opponent below 100, seems like a good time.
Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.