The Los Angeles Lakers are back in action on Wednesday night, taking on the Phoenix Suns at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in their second game of the 2022 preseason.
The Lakers lost badly in the preseason opener against the Sacramento Kings, but the final score — 105-75 — hardly tells the full story of the Monday clash. L.A. had a five-point lead at halftime before getting outscored 64-29 after the break — but with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook watching the entire second half from the bench.
Still, the Purple and Gold will want to improve their game against the Suns, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. L.A. shot just 31.2% from the field and 23.3% from 3 on Monday, and James himself went 0-for-7 in nearly 16 minutes on the court.
Darvin Ham can’t count on Dennis Schroder, Lonnie Walker IV and Troy Brown Jr. to provide an offensive spark as the three offseason arrivals are still unavailable to play. However, Ham will try to rejuvenate his team’s offense by going small, starting Davis at the 5 and inserting Patrick Beverley and Austin Reaves into the starting lineup.
Ham seemingly wants to surround the Lakers’ Big 3 with more shooters against the Suns. That could also mean a bigger role for Thomas Bryant after the center came off the bench and played fewer minutes than Damian Jones on Monday.
The 25-year-old could be a solid stretch 5 option for the Purple and Gold this season as he shot 37.4% from downtown in three years with the Washington Wizards — before an ACL injury sidelined him for 12 months and his stats plunged in 2021-22.
Ham also vowed to give more minutes to his veteran players in Vegas. Hence, rookie Cole Swider might finally get to play with Lakers stars after he entered the court in the second half only against Sacramento.
Swider proved to be a serious threat from beyond the arc during the Summer League. And his shooting didn’t falter against more experienced players, going 2-for-4 against the Kings to end up with 10 points in 19 minutes — the second-biggest scoring tally on the Lakers.
L.A.’s defense already looks significantly better than it did at any point in 2021-22. However, the Purple and Gold still have some room for improvement on that end — and the work starts with Westbrook.
The 2017 NBA MVP did make a number of nice plays on offense in the first preseason game. But defensively, L.A. effectively played with four players on the court when the 33-year-old guard was in play. Westbrook hardly showed he was “all in” on trying to help L.A. win, failing to run back in transition or closing out on his defensive assignments — in addition to his usual lapses of focus.
Even though it’s still the preseason, the Lakers will want to see all their players putting in the necessary effort against the Suns, who are coming off an embarrassing 134-124 loss to an Australian side, the Adelaide 36ers.
The loss made Phoenix the first team to lose a preseason game against a non-NBA side since the Oklahoma City Thunder fell to Luka Doncic-led Real Madrid in 2016. That is more than likely to provide last season’s top Western Conference seed with extra motivation to beat L.A. at T-Mobile Arena.
Phoenix Suns (0-1) @ Los Angeles Lakers (0-1)
7:00 p.m. PT, October 5, 2022
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Patrick Beverley
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Thomas Bryant, Kendrick Nunn, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Wenyen Gabriel, Cole Swider
Projected Suns Starting Lineup:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Mikal Bridges
PF: Cameron Johnson
C: Deandre Ayton
Key Reserves: Torrey Craig, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Jock Landale
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