The Los Angeles Lakers will take on the Phoenix Suns in the first game of 2020 and the new decade, hoping to extend their winning streak to three games.
After a great start to the 2019-20 NBA season, the Suns have fallen off a bit as expected. After getting off to a 7-4 record, they have won just six of their last 22 games. This includes an abysmal eight-game losing streak that has plummeted them to 10th in the Western Conference.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have bounced back well from their four-game losing streak, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks on back-to-back nights. This came with an especially impressive defensive performance against the Mavericks as the Lakers held the NBA’s best offense to just 95 points.
The Lakers will need to be sharp defensively again as the Suns sport a top-10 offense in basketball. Where the Suns poor record comes from is their defense, which currently ranks in the bottom-10. The Lakers can and should use this game as a means of keeping their defense steady while also working to find some offensive rhythm against a bad defense.
Stopping the Suns starts at stopping Devin Booker as he has been red hot recently, scoring 34, 32, and 33 points in three straight games leading to two wins. The Lakers will hope for a defensive performance on Booker similar to their last meeting where he had just 21 points en route to a Lakers win.
The Lakers also hope to see continued good performances from their bench. After several poor showings, the Lakers bench appears to be on a hot streak in their back-to-back wins. The reserves, led by Kyle Kuzma, scored 72 and 46 points against the Trail Blazers and Mavericks respectively.
Kuzma is the largest catalyst for this as he has finally gotten some great rhythm going since returning from his ankle injury in mid-December. Despite a zero-point outing against the Mavericks, he had 16, 25, and 24 points in the three games prior.
The Lakers survived a difficult December schedule with a 9-5 record and will now be rewarded with a significantly easier stretch of schedule coming up. In the first 15 days of the new year, the Lakers will face a host of sub-.500 teams including the Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Orlando Magic. They’ll also play the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder on an away back-to-back situation.
This stretch is a perfect opportunity for the Lakers to rack up more wins as they’ll take on a brutal six-game stretch to the end of the month of January, including a five-game road trip where they’ll see the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers and then come back home to face the Los Angeles Clippers.
Los Angeles Lakers (26-7) vs. Phoenix Suns (13-20)
7:30 P.M. PT, Jan. 1, 2020
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN), 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Danny Green
PF: Anthony Davis
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso
Projected Suns Starting Lineup:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Kelly Oubre Jr.
PF: Dario Saric
C: Aron Baynes
Key Reserves: Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton, Cameron Johnson, Elie Okobo