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Licking their wounds, Phoenix Suns head to Los Angeles to face the Lakers

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The Suns have yet to beat LA this season

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers

Time: 8:30 pm (Phoenix time)

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


Hey everybody! How the heck are ya? It’s time for another Holidays with Deadpoolio! Today we check in on No-Shave November, which is all about foregoing shaving and other hair maintenance for the month of November to raise awareness of and funds for cancer and its myriad issues. For me personally, though, the month is rapidly devolving into Look-Like-A-Homeless-Man November. I’m about a week away from eating cold beans straight from a can I pulled out of my bindle.

After they LARPed a sliders-adjusted NBA 2K game with the Houston Rockets last night, the Phoenix Suns (5-11) head to LA to face the Los Angeles Lakers (6-9) for the second time in five days and third meeting overall. The NBA really seems to have frontloaded the Suns’ schedule with other bad teams to head off a rash of late-season tank battles.

Lakers Update

The Lakers have lost four of their last five games, with the only win over that stretch coming in Phoenix on Monday.

Los Angeles is led in scoring by their Sixth Man — Jordan Clarkson — who averages 15.8 points off the LA pine. That is closely followed by rookie Kyle Kuzma (15.5), who moved into the starting lineup after Larry Nance Jr. was lost to a broken hand in early November. Brook Lopez (14.8) and Brandon Ingram (14.7) are the next highest scorers on the Lakers, with Lopez also leading the team in blocks. Lonzo Ball, the rookie point guard, has struggled in the early season, averaging 9.0 points and shooting 30.3 percent from the field, 23 percent from 3, and 50 percent from the charity stripe. He does average 6.9 assists and 6.6 rebounds, though. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, their starting shooting guard, is making a career-low 30.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. Corey Brewer averages just 2.6 points per game this season, so of course his two highest scoring games of the season have come against the Suns.

The Lakers average 103.7 points per game, which comes in at 21st in the league. That’s due in large part to their shooting woes. LA is 19th in the NBA for field goal percentage (44.9 percent), 28th in free throw percentage (71.7 percent), and dead last in 3-point percentage (28.8 percent). They also throw away scoring opportunities by committing the second-most turnovers in the NBA at 17.5 per game. Defensively, they fare much better. LA has held its opponents to 44.5 percent shooting from the field (10th) and 30.6 percent from 3 (1st) this season. Overall, they surrender 100.1 points per 100 possessions, which ranks fourth in the NBA behind only the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Portland Trail Blazers.

Team Leaders

Points: Jordan Clarkson (15.8)

Rebounds: Larry Nance Jr. (7.5)

Assists: Lonzo Ball (6.9)

Suns Update

The Suns played in the second game of a nationally televised doubleheader on TNT yesterday. In the first game, the Boston Celtics overcame a 17-point deficit in the 3rd quarter to beat the Golden State Warriors and extend its winning streak to 14 games. It was a good game.

Okay, fine. The Suns….

Devin Booker continues to lead the scoring charge for Phoenix, averaging a career-best 22.9 points per game on improved efficiency across the board despite being every opposing defense’s No. 1 priority. T.J. Warren has come along for the ride, averaging 18.4 points on 50.4-percent shooting from the field (and 10 percent from 3. 10!). Greg Monroe made his Suns debut yesterday and promptly put up 20 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes of action starting for the ill Tyson Chandler. Alex Len, who pulled down 13 boards last night, is the only reserve in the West averaging at least eight points and eight rebounds. Troy Daniels put in a season-high 23 points against Houston, as he continues to be a shoot-or-get-off-the-court player. Dragan Bender scored a career-high 15 points in the last meeting between Phoenix and LA.

The Suns are the team that can’t shoot straight. Their shooting percentages on the season (43.7 FG%, 33.2 3PT%, 74.5 FT%) are either equal to or worse than last season’s numbers. They are also dead last for assists (18.5) and rank in the bottom third for turnovers (16.3). On the plus side, opponents really seem to like playing Phoenix since they average 116.8 points a contest against the Suns. Could be good for networking, making all those friends….

Team Leaders

Points: Devin Booker (22.1)

Rebounds: Greg Monroe (11.0)

Assists: Devin Booker (4.3)

Injury Report

Tyson Chandler (Suns): respiratory illness (OUT)

Jared Dudley (Suns): right knee bone bruise (OUT)

Brandon Knight (Suns): torn left ACL (OUT)

Davon Reed (Suns): torn left meniscus (OUT)

Alan Williams (Suns): torn right meniscus (OUT)

Larry Nance Jr. (Lakers): fractured left hand (OUT)

Game Preview

The Lakers won the first matchup between these two teams 132-130 in a game wanting for defense and won the second matchup 100-93 in a game wanting for offense. Both games took place in Phoenix, so this will be the first trip by the Suns to take on the Lakers in LA. If they want to do what they couldn’t accomplish at home (get a win), they’re going to need to find a way to get points against this sneaky LA defense while also keeping the Lakers from finding their shooting eye. Can they do it? Yes! Can they fail to do it? Yes! This team is the Schrödinger’s cat of the NBA.

Key Matchup

Anyone Not Named Eric Bledsoe vs. Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball’s two best games in the NBA have come at the expense of Eric Bledsoe — a 29-point, 11-rebound, 9-assist performance against Phoenix on Oct. 20 and a 19-point, 13-assist, 12-rebound triple-double against Milwaukee on Nov. 11. If Ball could play against Bledsoe every night, he’d already have a plaque in Springfield. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t, and his numbers in non-Bledsoe tilts are decidedly less impressive (6.7 points, 6.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 25.0 FG%, and 16.7 3PT%). When he faced Phoenix on Monday, Ball had seven points, five assists, and five rebounds and did not see the floor in the 4th quarter. Is the Bledsoe Bump real? Tonight is another test of the hypothesis.

Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)

Think the Suns have played the Lakers a lot to start the season? You’re right. Since the 1988-89 season, the Suns have only had three instances where they faced the same opponent three times in the first 17 games of a season — these three games against the Lakers, and three games apiece against the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz in 2013-14.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com.