After two consecutive loses, the Lakers will look to get a win tonight the Phoenix Suns visit Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant has sat out the past three games and is listed as probably to start tonight. We’ll see if he opts to suit up or sit out and rest his Achilles. In Kobe’s absence the Lakers have gone 1-2. The Suns have won five straight and look very strong coming into tonight’s game. Their deep bench has helped propel them to victory in close games. Whether or not Kobe suits up, the Lakers will have their work cut out for them tonight.
Frontcourt: Recently Alex Len usurped Miles Plumlee and took over as starting center. In his second year, Len has become a steady player with upside. He’s been especially strong on defense and has tallied 14 blocks during the Sun’s five game winning streak. At power forward, Markieff Morris has blossomed into a legitimate stretch four. He’s posting career high numbers across the board – 15 points, 49 percent shooting and 6 rebounds per game. Morris has the ability to hit three-pointers, but he doesn’t take many of them. However, his outside shot helps space the floor and keeps defenders from crowding the paint.
P.J. Tucker starts at small forward and is the Suns defensive specialist. He’s a gritty player who does all the dirty work that doesn’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. His counterpart – Gerald Green, is an offensive weapon who loves to shoot. He’s averaging 14.2 points off the bench and can cause trouble if he’s gets hot but can hurt the Suns with overshooting.
Backcourt: The Suns have an electric backcourt made up of a young duo – Dragic and Bledsoe. Since joining the Suns, Bledsoe has emerged as a dynamic playmaker and tenacious defender. Bledsoe is a well rounded player as evidenced by his recent triple-double. He’s one of the best rebounding guards in the league so the Lakers will have to be sure to box him out.
Dragic complements Bledsoe well because he’s a great shooter. He’s converted on 49.7 percent of his shots this year and leads the Suns with 16.3 points per game. The former understudy of Nash, Dragic also has great passing vision and regularly sets his teammates up for easy baskets.
Off the bench, Isaiah Thomas is a speedy point guard who can put up points in a flash. Thomas has given opponents grief with his ability to penetrate the paint and get to the rim with ease. The Lakers guards will have their hands full with the Suns stellar backcourt.
Keys to Victory:
Defensive Energy: Outside of their inspired win against the Warriors, the Lakers have not played defense this entire season. Looking back at the Warriors game, the difference that night was in the Lakers energy on defense. They were active and closed out on shooters quickly. The Lakers need to rekindle that spirit and give maximum effort on defense tonight if they hope to stop the streaking Suns.
Ball Movement: The Lakers ball movement has been improved with Kobe on the bench – both out of necessity and because they lack a primary scorer. This type of offense is more ideal for the Lakers going forward and even if Kobe returns tonight, the hope is that they’ll continue to move the ball and distribute the scoring load. There’s no question that Kobe is the most talented scorer on the team, but he can’t be depended to carry the scoring load especially at given his aching Achilles and age.
Prevent Suns Penetration: This goes along with bringing energy to defense. Specifically the Lakers need to keep the Sun’s guards out of the paint. Bledsoe and Thomas are especially dangerous when they penetrate. Neither of them are great shooters though, so the Lakers should push them out and force them to beat them with their jump shot. If the Lakers can limit the Sun’s guards then they’ll have a good chance to stifle an offense which lacks an interior scoring threat.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are 4.5-point underdogs against the Phoenix Suns according to Sportsbook.ag.
Phoenix Suns (17-14) at Los Angeles Lakers (9-21)
6:30 PM PST, December 28, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Suns Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Eric Bledsoe
SF: P.J. Tucker
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Alex Len
Key Reserves: PF: Marcus Morris PG: Isaiah Thomas F: Gerald Green
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ronnie Price
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ed Davis
C: Jordan Hill
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