The Phoenix Suns have cooled off since losing Eric Bledsoe to injury, and with the competition in the NBA’s Western Conference a good deal more ferocious than in the East, their unexpected bid for a playoff berth is coming under serious threat.
The Suns have now dropped to eighth in the standings after winning just one of their last five games. On Sunday, they need to hold off the Denver Nuggets who – along with the Memphis Grizzlies – are just two games behind and breathing down their necks.
It’s not that Phoenix has fallen off a cliff. Their quartet of recent losses have come by an average of just two points, and they have a stretch of four games coming up against some of the worst of the East.
But they’ve not got anything additional from Goran Dragic to fill the void left by Bledsoe. The Slovenian, an outside All Star bet, is averaging 19.5 points – 10 above his career mark – but he’s been unable to raise that since his backcourt colleague has gone out.
The other issue is the Suns defence, which has given up 107.2 per game over its last five. That could pose a problem with Denver averaging 115.0 since 2014 began. The Nuggets are 1.95 for the win and if Phoenix can’t find ways to shut their guests down, then it looks worth a punt on taking over the total points line of 219.5 at 1.90.
The Toronto Raptors are now sitting pretty in third place in the East after seven wins from their last 10 and it’s no wonder they’re -9.5 on the handicap to cruise past the Los Angeles Lakers.
Canada’s finest are 6-0 at home over the past month, outscoring opponents by 15.4. The Lakers have won just two of their last ten with Friday’s victory in Boston a rare bright spot.
But their interior defence has been terrible and that could point to a big night for Jonas Valanciunas despite totalling just nine points in his previous two games.
Best bet: Take Denver for the win over Phoenix at 1.95