Despite being without starting point guard Lonzo Ball for a bulk of the stretch, the Los Angeles Lakers enter play Tuesday night having won 10 of their last 14 games. Included in that is a 6-2 mark in their last eight contests and a modest two-game winning streak.
The back-to-back victories came at the end of a season-long five-game road trip, with the most recent victory against playoff-bound Oklahoma City Thunder. Awaiting the Lakers in the first of a two-game homestand are the Phoenix Suns, owners of the fifth-worst record in the NBA.
They will also be without their starting point guard, as Devin Booker will sit due to a hip injury. Combined, the factors make for a possible letdown on the Lakers’ part, which was on head coach Luke Walton’s radar at shootaround.
“These are always tough games. For whatever reason, you get off a long road trip, your first game back home, you’re normally a little sloppy,” Walton said.
“Which is why I was worried about giving the guys the day off [Monday]. But I addressed all of it today. We will not have a day off again if we don’t come out and play well tonight, or play aggressive at least.
“We can’t afford to have a drop off. We need to play a certain way to be able to win games. And even though it’s coming off a big win, and Booker’s not playing, we have to come out and play the same way. If not, then Phoenix is very capable of beating us.”
Tuesday’s game is the fourth and final time the Lakers and Suns will play against one another this season. Los Angeles has won two of the previous three meetings, but lost the most-recent affair, 122-113, on the road last November.
At minimum, Walton’s message resonated with Kyle Kuzma. “I think we need to come in with a mentality to try to keep improving,” the rookie forward said.
“It’s always tough to come back from a road trip like we had, have a day off, and try to pump it up again. We’ve just got to focus on going out and trying to win.”
As for the notion the team would lose off days if they didn’t perform well, Kuzma wasn’t quite as aligned with his head coach.
“He’s trippin’,” Kuzma quipped. “I don’t know about that. There’s going to be more days off.”
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