Tonight the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Phoenix Suns in one of the most important games of the regular season. Both teams are competing for the second worst record in the NBA, and the Lakers need to remain in that spot if they want better odds to keep their top-3 protected pick.
The Lakers will obviously look to win, but a loss tonight would be more beneficial for their lottery odds. Kobe Bryant is sitting out yet another home game, missing six of the last 10 games at Staples Center, which leads to speculation that his sore shoulder may be more hurt than he is letting on. The young guys for the Lakers would love to bounce back after their poor performances in the last two games, and tonight’s matchup against the Suns could open the door for them to get back on track.
Jordan Clarkson knocked down his first shot attempt of the game from beyond the arc, which is a great sign after he has been cold for the past couple games. Unfortunately, Clarkson’s three-pointer was the Lakers only field goal in the first few minutes, and the Suns jumped to a 11-3 advantage. The Lakers continued to struggle from the field, shooting 10 percent and they trailed 5-11 with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter. Julius Randle finally ended the eight minute drought without a field goal, with a tough left-handed finish in the lane. D’Angelo Russell finally ended his spell without a field goal with 2:36 remaining and the Lakers cut their deficit down to two points. Despite another miserable start of the game from the starters, the Lakers managed to escape the first quarter only trailing 22-26 after Marcelo Huertas found Ryan Kelly with an inbounds lob to end the quarter.
The Lakers’ poor shooting continued in the second quarter, and the Suns extended their lead to eight points after Devin Booker bullied Huertas in the post. Brandon Bass made a nice defensive play, swatting away a layup, but the Lakers failed to convert on the offensive end and still trailed by 12 points midway through the second quarter. The Lakers’ offense was stagnant and the starters were consistently playing poorly throughout the first half, as the Suns pushed their lead to 14 points with 4:35 to go in the half. After nailing his first shot, Clarkson went ice cold from the field, missing his next eight shots, and his frustration was apparent. The Lakers played even worse in the second quarter than they had played in the first, only scoring 10 points. At the end of the first half, the Lakers trailed the Suns 32-47.
Just as he started the game, Clarkson made his first field goal of the second half, which resulted in a three-point play. Suddenly the Lakers found some energy in the third quarter, going on a quick 7-0 run to cut their deficit to nine points. The Suns called a timeout and retaliated with a 7-0 spurt of their own, and the Lakers were looking for solutions. Both teams played really sloppy basketball and it is apparent why these are the two worst teams in the Western Conference, but the Suns led the Lakers by 15 points midway through the third quarter. To add insult to injury, P.J. Tucker dunked on Lou Williams in transition to push the Suns margin to 19 points with 3:51 remaining in the third quarter. Lou Williams scored a layup at the end of the quarter, but the Lakers trailed 54-68 heading into the fourth quarter.
Williams euro-stepped his defender in semi-transition and converted a three-point play to cut the Lakers deficit to 11 points with 11 minutes to play. The second units of the Lakers ramped up the defensive intensity, and Huertas jumped the passing lane and finished the break with a layup, to cut the Suns’ lead to just eight points with 7:53 left in regulation. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Suns led by 10 after two free throws from Booker. Larry Nance rebounded a Lou Williams miss and put back up immediately, and the Lakers trailed by only six points. On the very next possession, Huertas worked his black magic and found Bass in the lane for a dunk, and the Lakers only trailed by four, 80-84, with 4:37 remaining in regulation. The run continued for the Lakers as Lou Williams drained a three and Staples Center erupted, but Brandon Knight quieted the crowd with a three of his own. The Suns pushed their lead up to four, but Williams made yet another three to give him 30 points in the game. On the next Suns possession, Nance denied Knight at the rim, which lead to a loose ball foul that sent Ryan Kelly to the line, who missed two free throws, and the Lakers still trailed by one. Knight made a deuce to give the Suns a three point lead with 30 seconds remaining in regulation. The Lakers lost possession of the ball after Huertas missed a runner, and the Lakers played the foul game until they ultimately lost the game.
Final Score: Lakers 90 Suns 95