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Game Preview: Suns take on play-in bound Lakers

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Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers

When: Sunday, 7:00 PM

Where: In LaLa Land, baby

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona and NBATV

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Suns have not faced a healthy Lakers team yet this season while winning both prior matchups and won’t tonight either.

The Lakers are fighting for their playoff lives, while the Suns are settling quite nicely into the second seed.

Prior matchups

Suns beat Lakers, 114-104

Anthony Davis was out. LeBron James had 38 points in 37 minutes as the Suns beat the Lakers with a balanced attack. Dario Saric (21 points) led four players with 15+ points. The Suns pulled away early in the fourth quarter to take a commanding lead that the starters held on to.

Suns beat Lakers, 111-94

Neither Anthony Davis nor LeBron James played in this one. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton each had 26 points to pace the Suns in a decisive, not-really-close game.

Tonight’s seeding implications

This time LeBron James is out while Anthony Davis is in. The Lakers need to win this game to avoid the play-in tournament. As I detailed earlier, the Lakers are in a two-team race (or is it ‘stumble’?) with the Blazers for 6th to guarantee a full playoff series, likely against the 3rd-seeded Clippers.

While the Lakers would probably rather not play the Clippers in round one, preferring the Suns or Jazz, they would have to risk surviving the play-in round to do that. And guess what’s likely waiting in the play-in? A red-hot Stephen Curry. One loss to Curry would drop the Lakers to no better than 8th, and only if they can beat the Grizzlies or Spurs to stay there. Phew.

So there’s no real easy answer for the Lakers that guarantees them some breathing room in round one.

Mo Problems for Lakers

It seems the Lakers have more problems than their playoff opponent. They can’t seem to win games yet, even with Anthony Davis back. The Lakers are only 2-7 since AD returned, including one loss with LeBron in there as well, and AD has only averaged 18.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.

On the plus side for the AD, he brought those averages up with a huge 36/12/5 stat line against the Blazers, but on the bad side for the Lakers it was still another loss. The Lakers were -11 in AD’s 39 minutes in a 5-point loss.

This was after a 24-point blowout loss to the Clippers, which was right after a promising win over the Nuggets. That they followed up a win over the Nuggets with two uninspiring losses tells you there’s more problems in LA than LeBron’s hate for the play-in format.

Probable Starting Lineups

Dennis Schroder is hurt, which also compounds the Lakers issues.

Prediction

I actually think the Lakers are sneaking a maneuver into a 7th or 8th seed with the expectation that winning one play-in game gets them a more-favorable Suns or Jazz first round matchup rather than the buzz-saw Clippers.

You’ll see tonight, if the Lakers play desperate or not. If the Lakers are desperate to win, they simply want that 6th seed regardless of opponent. If the stroll through the game, they’re banking on a Suns or Jazz outcome.

Either way, who cares how the Lakers play. Without LeBron, they can’t beat anyone good.

Suns win, 120-100.