Matchup: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers
Time: 7:30 PM Arizona Time
The Suns got rolled over by the juggernaut that is the Sacramento Kings on Saturday, and face the grueling prospect of back to back games today.
The bright spot? They're taking on the lowly Lakers, proud owners of the second worst record in the NBA!
The not bright spot? They beat the 76ers handily on Friday, something the Suns failed miserably to do not that long ago.
For those thinking they can tune in for a Kobe sighting, hoping to revel in his decline, there might not be any luck there, either. Kobe sat out the Philadelphia game with a sore shoulder, and its unclear if he'll play against the Suns.
Also bad news is that, if he does play, he probably won't be the hot mess he was early in the season. Over his last 10 games, Kobe is averaging 20 points, on 40% shooting, 33% from behind the arc, and is adding 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Those are far from stellar numbers, but they're right at that level of efficiency where, given the quality of his teammates, he probably isn't actively hurting the team on the court.
Speaking of his teammates, some of his younger ones are actually starting to look somewhat respectable. Larry Nance Jr. established a strong rhythm in the second half of December, averaging 9 boards and 10 points on a hyper-efficient 69% shooting over the last 5 games. Jordan Clarkson put together back to back strong games against Boston (24 points) and the 76ers (19 points) in the team's last two games. And, while in a bit of a slump efficiency-wise, D'Angelo Russell has looked like an increasingly strong prospect as the season has gone on.
The Suns meanwhile...well, you all know the long term negative trends.
The young guns have been hot as of late. T.J. Warren has led the group, averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals over the three games before the Sacramento game. During that stretch he was super efficient, shooting nearly 60% overall and a whopping 64% from the three point line, though he came back to Earth a bit against the Kings. Devin Booker hasn't looked quite that good, but he did average 10 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists over the last that same stretch. His attempt rate from beyond the arc has really dropped off, and he'll need to start taking that shot again against the Lakers, who still feature Roy Hibbert as a defensive anchor in the paint.
Positional Battles that will Matter: T.J. Warren vs. Kobe/Anthony Brown and Alex Len/Tyson Chandler vs. Roy Hibbert
The Warren vs. Kobe/Brown matchup matters just because, if it's Kobe, that matchup is very likely to feature the two leading scorers. If its Brown, the Suns should have the advantage.
The battle of the centers could really be the game changer, however. Roy Hibbert has been...well, what's less than a shadow of oneself? An odor of himself? Yeah, that sounds about right. The Lakers have had only the slightest whiff of vintage Roy Hibbert this season, particularly on offense. If the Len/Chandler combo is able to put together a solid offensive outing, it should help to bury this Lakers team.