Lakers Vs. Suns Preview: L.A. Continues String Of Must-Wins Against Shorthanded Phoenix
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves once again on the outside looking in at the postseason picture. But with how close the Western Conference is, just one win could vault them up multiple spots. They have another chance to land that important win against the shorthanded Pacific Division opponents, the Phoenix Suns.

Prior to the start of Wednesday’s games, the Lakers sit in 11th place in the Western Conference standings. They are 0.5 games back of the No. 10 Utah Jazz and No. 9 Minnesota Timberwolves and 1.0 games back of the No. 8 Dallas Mavericks and No. 7 Oklahoma City Thunder. They are also 1.5 games back of No. 6-seeded Golden State Warriors.

While the Suns sit closer to the top of the conference standings, the Lakers are catching them at a particularly vulnerable time. Not only are the Suns 5-5 in their last 10 and 1-4 in their last five, but they are also without two starters for Wednesday’s primetime matchup.

Both Kevin Durant and Deandre Ayton did not make the trip to Los Angeles, meaning both are out against the Lakers. The Lakers, meanwhile, continue to be without LeBron James and Mo Bamba, but will have everyone else in the lineup.

The Suns absolutely must still be taken seriously with their guard tandem of Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The Lakers have had some difficulty with opposing guards throughout the season, often giving up big nights to players like Ja Morant, Jordan Poole, Donovan Mitchell and Kyrie Irving.

Booker is liable to wreck an opponent’s game plan on any given night, and he should be the primary focus of L.A.’s defensive strategy. During the teams’ first meeting in November, the Lakers had a strong game plan against Booker, forcing him to a 10-for-24 shooting night with 25 points.

This time, the Lakers have more competent perimeter defenders that should make life even tougher on the All-Star guard. Dennis Schroder, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and even Jarred Vanderbilt should be able to provide consistent pressure on Booker without two of his co-stars.

Offensively, the Lakers may use this game to figure out a way to involve Anthony Davis more frequently. Head coach Darvin Ham has revealed that the team is working on a way to get him more touches, as he falls significantly behind some of the game’s other elite centers in this category.

Without Ayton in the lineup, it’s a perfect chance for the Lakers to force-feed Davis without worrying about a strong defender giving him issues.

Other games to watch tonight for standings purposes include the Warriors-Mavericks matchup on ESPN, Timberwolves vs. the Atlanta Hawks and the Jazz vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. ‘

Los Angeles Lakers (35-37) vs. Phoenix Suns (38-33)

7:00 p.m. PT, March 22, 2023 Arena, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Troy Brown Jr.
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Austin Reaves, Dennis Schroder, Rui Hachimura, Wenyen Gabriel

Projected Suns Starting Lineup:

PG: Chris Paul
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Josh Okogie
PF: Torrey Craig
C: Bismack Biyombo

Key Reserves: Landry Shamet, Terrence Ross, Jock Landale, Damion Lee

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