Opening night in the NBA is a special one for home teams. They pull out all the stops and pray their team puts on an equally great show on the court.
The Lakers, unfortunately, did the exact opposite. Fans were excited about the return of Kobe Bryant and the promise of Julius Randle. Within two hours, hopes of grandeur in the form of a playoff berth were squashed like a snake on a highway.
Now, the Lakers have to help the Phoenix Suns open their season in the valley. Tired and emotionally drained from the hell of Tuesday night, the Lakers will be hard-pressed to put up a fight against the younger, hungrier and more talented Suns.
The Opponent - avert your eyes
In the past few days, their best point guard (Steve Nash) and best hope for the future (Julius Randle) have been ruled out for the season due to injury. For. the. season.
Last night, Julius Randle suffered a broken leg in the Lakers home opener on national TV against the Houston Rockets. The loss of Randle dwarfs the 92 point loss (okay it was 18 points but it felt like 92) to the much more talented Rockets.
Kobe Bryant was the Lakers best player, of courss, and he pumped in 19 points on 17 shots in 29 minutes. Kobe took most of his shots early in the game - at one point having more shot attempts than minutes on the floor. But as the game got away, Kobe took fewer heaves at the basket.
Other than Kobe, you've got a badly overmatched front line of Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill. Boozer and Hill combined for 24 points and 17 rebounds in the loss, but were a net negative against Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones.
Jeremy Lin was abysmal at point guard (a minus-17 point differential in 29 minutes) and Wesley Johnson was... well, Wesley Johnson.
This is a real, real bad Laker team. Without Randle this season, I think Suns fans should stop worrying about getting the Lakers' first round pick next year. This team just might rival the Sixers and Bucks for worst record in the NBA.
The only question for the Suns is the opening night lineup. With P.J. Tucker suspended (Super Extreme DUI punishment), I am guessing it will be the Morris brothers joining Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee.
Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris started most of the preseason and likely will do so tonight, with Gerald Green being the primary backup at small forward while T.J. Warren recovers from a thumb injury.
Anthony Tolliver will need to shoot his way into regular rotation time.
This space is reserved for regular season stats, but here's taste for you:
- In the preseason, the Suns ranked 4th in defensive efficiency and 11th in offensive efficiency (per John Schuhman of nba.com)
- The Suns had the preseason's second best three-point defense - a necessary defensive staple for success this season
- The Suns kept their top 4 three-point shooters and 6 of their top 7, while adding Anthony Tolliver (41%) and Isaiah Thomas (40% before hand injury).
The (potential) Lineups
The Key Matchup
With Swaggy P being out, the Lakers are really going to struggle to score points as a team. Worse yet, they are not good enough on offense or defense in the back court to slow down a team with a quick, strong set of guards.
Enter the Phoenix Suns. While Kobe with get Kobe points, the Suns Hydra should run all over the Laker counterparts in Lin, Jordan Clarkson (R) and Ronnie Price. I expect the Suns will even play Gerald Green a lot at small forward opposite Wesley Johnson just to crank up the transition points even more.
This could get ugly.
Out on a limb
Don't be surprised if you hear that Kobe Bryant will SIT OUT tonight's game against the Suns. After a devastating loss at home on Tuesday, Bryant just might not want to face the speedy Suns on the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers will couch it in terms of easing him back from his year-long injury last season, but really I can see Kobe having no interest in embarrassing himself in Phoenix.
The only way the Lakers win this game is if the Lakers front line of Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill dominate AND Kobe Bryant plays like Kobe Bryant AND Jeremy Lin plays like Lin-sanity. But with the Suns just going small, those guys won't have a chance. Add in that the Lakers just played a devastating game last night, losing at home by a huge margin, they should be too tired to contain the Suns in Phoenix tonight.
I think the Suns home opener will be a pleasant one for Suns fans.
Suns win, 120-85.