clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Game Preview: Lakers at Suns, colorful courts, and the need for payback

The Suns not only lost their last game to a Lakers comeback, but lost their last two home games too. Gotta get that win!

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Los Angeles Lakers (3-5) at Phoenix Suns (4-4), as part on In-season tournament group play

When: Friday, 8:00PM AZ time (late start)

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: ESPN

Listen: 98.7 FM

Tonight is already the second matchup between the Suns and Lakers, and we’d all like to forget how that last one ended. Let’s see if the Suns can get a different final outcome this time.

What’s gonna be weird is that the Suns court and the uniforms are all going to be special and colorful so we don’t forget that this regular season matchup (yes it counts) is also part of a new In-Season Tournament with the reward for winners being a few extra bucks, and for a team to take home a new NBA Cup.

What’s the point, you ask? Just look oversees at the European football (which we snootily renamed to soccer so we can call our version football even though we absolutely outlaw using your foot on the ball and usually hate the two guys allowed to do it in specific situations). There’s always been in-season tourneys in Euro football to rev up the players, and ticket sales of course. It’s a good thing. On the NBA side, imagine giving last year’s hothot Utah Jazz a chance to memorialize ho great they were before the holiday hit. That’s kinda cool, actually.

Want to know more about the rules? Here’s a high level overview from The Ringer if you want the bigger picture.

From the Suns point of view, if they want to play into the bragging/pay rounds in December, they need to win their Group, which includes 4 other teams. How those Groups were defined are in the Ringer article above.

So far, not much has happened. This month, each team plays each other once, and then there’s tiebreakers if the Group leaders need it.

Big key here: these are ALSO regular season games, so they count in the standings until the whole thing moves to Vegas in early December for the final four, while the rest of the league gets a week vacation (the Suns probably prefer the latter!).

Of course the NBA wants you to know this is a special game. So here’s the look at new Suns court design and Suns ‘El Valle’ uniforms.

Uniform Matchup, courtesy of NBA LockerVision on the Check it out! There you can find all the uni matchups throughout the season.

Probable Starting Lineups

Latest injury report (watch for updates — no final decision until 30 before tip)

Update at 3:50PM: Anthony Davis is now PROBABLE with groin strain; no other change as of yet

Consider yourself STAT’d

From the look of this comp, the Suns are the much better team despite being only one-up in record. Still middle of the pack where they currently belong, the Suns look better here just because the Lakers are well below the median.

Last Matchup, : Lakers win 100-95, Game 2 of this season

The Lakers won the earlier matchup and provided the league with an easy way to beat the Suns in crunch when KD is left as the lone star while Beal and Book are sidelined. The Lakers, down 12 heading into the 4th, just simply crowded Durant, and no one else on the Suns roster were ready to take the wheel from him. LeBron James and Anthony Davis played the whole fourth, and the Lakers outscored the Suns 28-11 in the final quarter to eek out the win.

What does that mean for tonight’s game?

  1. This game might be more of the same, because the Lakers showed themselves how to win this way. Devin Booker is still out, so for the Suns have any better fourth quarter answers they have to come from the same supporting cast actually making some shots and.....
  2. hopefully, a healthier looking/feeling Bradley Beal. Beal is bing listed as probable, but it will all depend on how his back responds today. Either way, he looked REALLY stiff, not doing any of his usual magic stuff with the ball and failing to drain any shots inside the arc off the dribble. Still, he DOES draw defensive eyeballs and that can only help Durant get one less pair of eyes when he catches the ball.
  3. Extra motivation for this being part of Group Play in an in-season tournament that competitive guys love to eat up (spoiler alert: same for Lakers)
  4. Home crowd! Benchie level players always play better at home. And with another sellout already assured, HOPEFULLY NOT SOLD TO TOO MANY GOLD JERSEYS PLEASE, the crowd should help the Suns keep it going.

Actual basketball keys to a Suns win

Let’s start with cutting down the turnovers, okay? The Suns allow the FIFTH MOST points off turnovers in the league (19.9). Imagine cutting that one down.

Without Book running the show — second in league in scoring and assists when he plays, but also a TO machine (5.0 per game) as he learns the part — the Suns are doing a passing drill most of a possession and too many of those get get tipped and stolen for transition buckets.

No I’m not asking for a starting level point guard. Would be nice to have a secondary guy who set up teammates for good shots without committing turnovers, but I’m not interested in sliding Book down to small forward and KD to power forward on the regular. I’m talking about injury insurance that includes real playmaking and the ability to make a catch-and-shoot three.

The Suns doing well on defense this year — 10th overall, one of the best at protecting the paint, giving up fewer true fast breaks, better than average in allowing secn=ond chance points, TOPS in league in blocks — but those live-ball back court turnovers on bad passes to each other just need to become better.

Lakers keys to win (remember Lakers fans, this is a Suns fan list!)

  1. Dial into what they did last time to beat the Suns — triple team Durant in crunch, get steals for easy points, and hope the rest of the Suns miss 90% of their shots
  2. hope Bradley Beal is still stiff as a board or is out (he’s probable, with the back stiffness/pain)
  3. hope Anthony Davis is fine and dominates like he did last game — boy that was incredible (he’s day to day with groin issue)
  4. hope the refs got the memo, lost sleep over missing calls in favor of the Lakers, and overcorrect that in this game.
  5. Extra motivation for this being part of Group Play in an in-season tournament that competitive guys love to eat up (spoiler alert: same for Lakers)


This is the Bright Side!!!

I predict the Suns win, and win easily. The Suns are not going to want to repeat the disappointments of last week’s home losses to the lowly Spurs.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bright Side of the Sun Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Phoenix Suns news from Bright Side of the Sun