When: 8:30 p.m. AZ
Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Watch: NBA TV, Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
Suns - Deandre Ayton (ankle) - Game time decision (Feb. 10).
Aron Baynes (hip) - Game time decision (Feb. 10).
Dario Saric (ankle) - Expected to be out until at least February 12.
Frank Kaminsky (kneecap) - Expected to be out until at least March 1.
Lakers - DeMarcus Cousins (ACL) - Out indefinitely.
Tonight promises to be another hard fought contest between two teams separated by a mere 19 games in the standings.
But seriously, the Suns have been mostly competitive against the Lakers, who lead the Western Conference and have the second best record in the NBA, this season.
Mostly is used there because it excludes the first half of the last contest.
On January 1st the Suns rung in the new year by digging a 74-41 hole at halftime in Los Angeles against the Lakers. To their credit, the Suns didn’t quit and were able to close within eight points (105-97) with a little over four minutes to go.
For their effort, the Suns earned the moral victory of making the Lakers bring their starters back in to close out the game after they thought they were getting an early night. At least the Suns kept fighting.
Devin Booker led the Suns with 32 points and Kelly Oubre pitched in 26. LeBron James recorded a triple double with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. His running mate, Anthony Davis, had 26 points and 11 rebounds.
In the first meeting between the teams in Phoenix back on November 12th (remember when the Suns were 6-3) the Suns actually led the Lakers 113-111 with just over three minutes left before falling 123-115.
Booker (21), Ricky Rubio (21) and Aron Baynes (20) all scored 20+ in the loss. Davis led the Lakers with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Kyle Kuzma chipped in 23 points off the bench.
With that history lesson out of the way, we jump forward to tonight’s
bloodbath chance for the Suns to steal a game from one of this season’s Goliaths.
The Suns have been inconsistent recently, but there have been glimpses of play that make an upset tonight seem at least somewhat possible.
In the last month the Suns edged out the Boston Celtics (123-119) and blew out the Dallas Mavericks (133-104) and Houston Rockets (127-91). When things are clicking the Suns have been dynamic, posting a 48 point third quarter against the Mavericks and a 46 point first quarter against the Rockets.
Unfortunately, the losses have still outnumbered the wins. The Suns are 3-8 in their last 11 games and have lost five of the last six. The Suns have also struggled to string good games together, with their last (and only) three game winning streak of the season ending back on November 4th. That’s over three months ago.
After embarrassing the Rockets (127-91) on Friday night behind a career high 39 points from Kelly Oubre, the Suns couldn’t sweep a back-to-back at home and fell 117-108 to the Denver Nuggets.
The Suns might have pulled the game out if they decided to actually guard Jamal Murray, who had 36 points on 14-17 shooting... and way too many uncontested shots. DeAndre Ayton had a monster game, 28 points and 19 rebounds, in the loss.
Ayton, who is averaging 22.2 points and 13.6 rebounds over his last five games, is a game time decision as he deals with a minor ankle injury.
The Booker All-Star snub revenge tour hasn’t gone according to plan, with Devin scoring a season low 11 points last Monday in a loss to the Nets and struggling with 5-16 shooting in Saturday night’s loss to the Nuggets. Booker did pour in 33 points in the Suns dismantling of the Rockets on Friday night.
Most advanced stats, counting stats and even the eye test would tell you that the Suns have had five productive players this season - Booker, Ayton, Oubre, Rubio and Mikal Bridges.
That’s about it.
Despite that, and including the fact that the Suns reserves have missed (and continue to miss) a slew of games, GM James Jones decided the team didn’t need an infusion of healthy talent at the trade deadline. He instead opted for building the “continuity” of a 21-32 team.
I think most fans were glad he didn’t mess with fostering the cohesion this group is building...
The Lakers, after missing the playoffs for six straight seasons, are back to being the Lakers.
LeBron is still playing at an elite level at the age of 35, averaging 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and a league high 10.8 assists per game. With Trae Young in second place at 9.1 assists per game, LeBron has nearly sowed away the assist title, which would be the first of his career and just another accolade for the future hall of famer.
Davis is easily the best player LeBron has played with since prime Dwyane Wade, and is averaging 26.5 points and 9.2 rebounds a game while playing his typica tenacious defense.
This duo leads a team that is solid on both ends of the court, ranking fourth in the league in both offensive and defensive rating. The Suns are 17th and 18th, respectively. Numbers that reflect the kind of season they are having... not terrible, but definitely below average.
After tonight’s contest the Suns close out their pre-All-Star break schedule with a home game Wednesday night against the Golden St. Warriors. Hopefully the eight games off will help the Suns get a little bit healthier.
So which Suns team will show up tonight? They have been nearly unrecognizable from game to game, and sometimes even from quarter to quarter.
The Suns have had a few quality wins recently, but this would definitely be THE signature win of the season.