What: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns
When: 8:30 PM ***LATE START***
Where: Phoenix, AZ
Listen: 98.7 FM
Remember when the Lakers were 10-11, had a 30+% chance to make the playoffs and everyone thought the “Baby Lakers” would put La La Land back in the center of the basketball world?
Unfortunately, three months later the Lakers have hurtled past the Suns down the mountain like a goat dropping out of an eagle’s talons all the way into the 2nd overall worst record in the league.
Meanwhile, the Suns are resurgent and fun to watch, riding their own young players to a style of play that has the Suns faithful cheering louder and more often than any in recent memory.
Tonight, the two teams face off in Phoenix for the second game of the TNT double-header.
You have probably heard about the whole Buss family power struggle over control of the Lakers. Frankly, nothing bores me more than billionaires fighting over which dumb one can pretend to run a successful franchise better. So that’s all I have to say about that.
On the court, golden child coach Luke Walton started the year off with a huge bang but now finds himself being better at coaching to lose than Suns coach Earl Watson.
The Lakers are riding an 8-game losing streak which includes a pre-All-Star drubbing at the hands of the Suns.
Since the break, the Lakers have focused more on playing their young guys
- Rookie SF Brandon Ingram has played 36.6 minutes per game, posting 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists (all top-5 among rookies)
- Rookie center Ivica Zubac has played 19 minutes per game, with 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and rookie-leading 1.8 blocks per game
- Second-year guard D’Angelo Russell is posting 20.8/5.5 in 32 minutes per game
- Second-year forward Larry Nance Jr. posting 4.7/5.0 in 20 minutes per game
- Third-year forward Julius Randle is posting 12.2/13.2/5.3 in 31 minutes
- Third-year guard Jordan Clarkson is posting 17.5 points in 29 minutes per game off the bench
Corey Brewer and Nick Young are the only established veterans to play in every game since the break, as off season signings Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov hardly play and Lou Williams was traded.
The Lakers’ current rotation has three players 21 or under, and six players 24 or under.
Since the break, the Lakers are 29th on offense, 25th in defense and have the league’s worst point differential - losing on average by 12.9 points per 100 possessions (roughly per game).
The Lakers are awful.
On the other hand, the Suns are suddenly very competitive - with the league’s 11th ranked offense and 19th ranked defense to have the 18th best point differential (-1.0 per 100).
One layer down, the Suns are 17th in assist rate (up from 30th), 4th in Effective Field Goal % and 5th in True Shooting Percentage (both were 25th or lower before the break) while jumping to #1 in pace at 104.3 possessions per game.
The Suns current rotation has FIVE players 21 or under, and seven players 24 or under (Len and Warren).
The Suns are younger and better than the Baby Lakers.
Eric Bledsoe is the big difference maker and the best player on either team playing tonight.
This is hard to say without cringing because I don’t want to jinx it.
But I will anyway.
The Suns are fun.
The Lakers are not.
The Suns will most likely win this game going away.