Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers
Time: 8:30 pm (Phoenix time)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
February 6th. Holidays with Deadpoolio. Blah blah blah. You get it by now. Today is Pay-a-Compliment Day, so to all you masochists still reading this site and following the team on a daily basis, I say…who hurt you?
The Phoenix Suns (18-36) head to Tinseltown in search of something resembling a win against the Los Angeles Lakers (21-31).
The Lakers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-104 on Sunday and have won six of their last eight games. LA is 10-7 in 2018, which is tied with the Thunder, Charlotte Hornets, and New Orleans Pelicans for the eighth-best record in the new year.
Los Angeles doesn’t lean on any one player to generate offense. Surprise rookie Kyle Kuzma leads the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game but has reached double figures just once in his last five outings. Brandon Ingram is right behind him at 15.6 points per contest, followed by Jordan Clarkson (14.7 points) and Julius Randle (14 points), who also leads LA with 7.3 rebounds per game. Brook Lopez, the Lakers’ one-year rental center, is averaging a career low for scoring (12 points) as the failed evolution of him into a stretch big continues, and his 3.8 rebounds per game are the second-lowest of his career, ahead of only the 3.6 he averaged in 2011-12 when he played just five games. Much-hyped rookie Lonzo Ball will not play tonight as he works his way back from a knee injury.
The Lakers are the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting team, coming in at 32.9 percent, which is a full percentage point behind the next worst — the Phoenix Suns. They also own the league’s worst free throw percentage at 68.8 percent. However, they play at the league’s fastest pace and rank in the top half of the league for assists, steals, and blocks, which helps cure some of their offensive ills.
Points: Kyle Kuzma (15.7)
Rebounds: Julius Randle (7.3)
Assists: Lonzo Ball (7.1)
The Suns gift-wrapped their last game for the Hornets, allowing a 48-18 run in the 2nd half after leading by 21 points. Phoenix has won just two of its last 12 games.
With Devin Booker to miss the game due to a litany of injuries he’s accumulated, who will run the offense? Isaiah Canaan is already out with that gruesome ankle fracture, leaving only Tyler Ulis and 10-day signee Josh Gray as point guard options. Ulis has been up and down over his last four games, but he makes the most sense. If Jay Triano wants to use the opportunity to experiment, though, he could run Josh Jackson at the point. Jackson has shown some ability as a playmaker when his exuberance doesn’t get the best of him. Or Triano could choose to eschew a primary point guard altogether and count on players like Jared Dudley or Dragan Bender to make the right plays within the offense. After all, their opponent tonight started Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the backcourt against the Thunder. What’s stopping Phoenix from plotting a similar course?
Points: Devin Booker (24.1)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (9.5)
Assists: Devin Booker (4.9)
Devin Booker (Suns): left hip pointer (OUT)
Isaiah Canaan (Suns): fractured left ankle (OUT)
Brandon Knight (Suns): torn left ACL (OUT)
Alan Williams (Suns): torn right meniscus (OUT)
Lonzo Ball (Lakers): sprained left MCL (OUT)
This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams, with the Lakers holding a 2-1 advantage to this point. Oddly, the visiting team has won each meeting, which could bode well for a Suns victory. Not boding well: the absence of Devin Booker. With him out, a greater load will be placed on the shoulders of others, most notably T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson, to keep up their production. The Lakers possess a balanced scoring attack and several players who can heat up on any given night, as five different Lakers have scored 30 or more points in a game this season. This means the Phoenix defense will have to be sound throughout instead of loading up against a particular threat. Ultimately, the game will come down to this, though: Can Phoenix get enough contributions from others to offset the loss of Booker?
The Phoenix Backcourt vs. Jordan Clarkson
Jordan Clarkson has been on a tear off the Lakers’ pine, averaging 21.1 points over his last eight games while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. His two highest scoring games of the season have come over this same stretch, so Phoenix will need to be prepared. Clarkson can play both point guard and shooting guard, meaning anyone from Tyler Ulis to Troy Daniels to Josh Jackson could spend time guarding him. Whoever finds himself matched up with Clarkson will need to crowd him at the 3-point line, as he has shot 53.8 percent from behind the arc over his last two games. Beyond that, just keeping him out of the paint should help prevent him from having a big game.
Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)
Josh Jackson’s four consecutive games with 20 or more points is the longest such streak by a Suns rookie since Devin Booker also had a four-game streak. The last Suns rookie to exceed that mark was Walter Davis, with streaks of 13, 10, and seven games back in 1977-78.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com.