When: 8:30 p.m. AZ Time
Where: Crypto Arena
Listen: 98.7 FM
Season Series: 2-1, Suns
The Los Angeles Lakers come into Friday’s match-up on the outside, looking in.
They’re presently in 7th place and are looking to ascend out of the Play-In realm, and into the top-6 of the West.
They require plenty of help in doing so, primarily from the Golden State Warriors, if they want to do so, so naturally, they’d need this one much more than the Suns do.
The best way the Lakers can tend to their short-term goal, while also fending off those behind them, is to simply win out. Anything less would result in a multitude of tie-breakers, and number-crunching that - especially pertaining to New Orleans - does not bode in their favor.
With that in mind, the approach for this one could be contrasting from both teams, as, the Suns could taper back minutes, play the starters only one half (as Monty Williams mentioned could be on the table for his club), and put forth a rotation that is not the teams best punch.
Both teams come into this one 7-3 in their last 10 games, with the Suns on a seven-game win streak, and the Lakers coming off an untimely 125-118 loss to the Clippers, on Wednesday
They’ve climbed from the depths of the Western Conference and have compiled last-minute efforts to position themselves in line to make the dance, and are now knocking on the door.
In that, they’ve seen LeBron James return to the fold.
Having been present for the past six games, he’s averaging 25 PPG on 57.8% from two, 32.3% from three, while also knocking down 85.7% of his free-throw attempts.
As a team, they have the fourth-best offense since his return (122.1), doing great damage in transition (primarily off live rebounds) where they like to get out in the open floor and can avoid some of their process issues pertaining to their half-court attack (which ranks 12th in this window - 101.3).
Notably, only 78.3% of their offensive possessions are coming against a set defense in this six-game stretch with James back in the rotation, so the emphasis on pushing the pace is clear and abundant.
Defensively, they have had their bouts with sustaining success. An 18th-ranked half-court defense in this window (also 101.3) entails inconsistency.
Friday also serves as the penultimate game for both teams.
Probable Starting Lineups
· Chris Paul
· Devin Booker
· Josh Okogie
· Kevin Durant
· Deandre Ayton
· D’Angelo Russell
· Austin Reaves
· Jarred Vanderbilt
· LeBron James
· Anthony Davis
- At the moment, n/a, but last night Suns head coach Monty Williams made no promises that guys would play on the second night of a back-to-back
- LeBron James (right foot soreness) is QUESTIONABLE
- Anthony Davis (right foot stress) QUESTIONABLE
- D’Angelo Russell (left foot soreness) PROBABLE
1 thing to Watch For
Staying sharp, regarding the Suns.
Process-wise, the end of last night’s win was on par with expectations. However, the 44 minutes prior were far beneath the standard.
That speaks to the team - even amidst a seven-game win streak - having room for improvement in terms of general sharpness and continuity.
Whether it be offensive spacing and flow, getting back on defense (!!!), or staying sharp in defensive rotations, there is still work to be done in ironing out the kinks.
Regardless of opponent or venue, a standard should be upheld and be impervious to the situation, and I look forward to the Suns having a business-like approach to this showdown in Los Angeles.
Should he remain in the lineup, on the second night of a back-to-back after playing 41 minutes last night, this would be the first time both Durant and James have been on the floor as their teams square off since Christmas Day in 2018.
It was Durant’s final season in Golden State, and James’ first in Los Angeles.
Who knows what the intensity of this game will be, as the aforementioned stakes are a complete contrast for their respective teams, but it is just generally good for basketball to see these legends share the floor - in any respect.