LeBron, Lakers Favored vs. CP3, Suns; 1st Time in 30 Years 7 Seed Favored over 2 Seed

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 20, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, below, shoots and makes a three-point shot as Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry defends with one minute left in an NBA basketball Western Conference Play-In game Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The Los Angeles Lakers barely squeaked by their play-in matchup against the Golden State Warriors, but that isn't deterring oddsmakers from favoring them over the Phoenix Suns in Round 1.

FanDuel Sportsbook has the Lakers listed at -150 favorites over the Suns (bet $150 to win $100), marking the first time in 30 years that a No. 7 or No. 8 seed has been favored in a playoff series.

Some sportsbooks lean even heavier in the defending champs' direction, with William Hill's opening odds putting the Lakers as a heavy -300 favorite.

If these were the healthy, world-beating Lakers of year ago, the odds being heavily skewed in their favor may make sense.

However, we clearly saw Wednesday night that these Lakers are nowhere close to championship form. They overcame perhaps the most abysmal half of basketball of the LeBron James-Anthony Davis era to earn a 103-100 victory over the Warriors.

James, Davis and Dennis Schroder were 2-of-22 from the field at one point before LeBron and AD course-corrected in the second half. It was a game the Lakers would have lost against a team like the Suns, who are far more complete than the Warriors' one-man Stephen Curry show.

Phoenix finished the regular season with a 51-21 record and boast one of the sport's most complete rosters. Chris Paul, 36, will find his name on MVP ballots after yet another ageless season, and Monty Williams is the Coach of the Year favorite for turning around a team that won 19 games just two seasons ago.

While this series is a unique situation whereby the Lakers were ravaged by injuries, the Suns are a legitimate NBA Finals contender—and certainly not a team that should be facing +240 odds at unseating the Lakers. 

James is clearly not close to 100 percent recovered from a high ankle sprain that cost him nearly two months of action. Watching him get bodied and blocked by Andrew Wiggins and Juan Toscano-Anderson against the Warriors was evidence that he's playing in a diminished state. He'll face an even stiffer young defender in Mikal Bridges for most of the Phoenix series.

Davis hasn't been in peak form at any point during the 2020-21 season. He's been hobbled by a heel injury and seemingly lost the jump-shooting efficiency that helped carry the Lakers in the 2020 playoffs.

This is a far closer series than oddsmakers would have you believe. 

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