The Los Angeles Lakers seem to have turned a corner. They finished their five-game road trip with a respectable 3-2 record and have won 10 of their last 14 games overall. Now they return home in hopes of building on their recent play against the Phoenix Suns.
The Lakers have looked much better in the last two contests since Luke Walton’s decision to change up the starting lineup, inserting Josh Hart in place of Tyler Ennis. Maybe the biggest beneficiary to this has been Brandon Ingram.
Ingram has been far more engaged and aggressive since taking over the main point guard duties, something that has been lacking since he returned from an ankle injury. With Lonzo Ball still not back from a sprained MCL, the team needs Ingram at his best, both as a scorer and a playmaker, to remain successful.
The Lakers have also gotten back-to-back good games from Brook Lopez. He has admitted his frustration with his lack of playing time this season, but has responded the way a player should, by stepping up his game.
A matchup with veteran Tyson Chandler should be an interesting one as Lopez has had success spending more time in the paint. But taking Chandler out of the painted area is a necessity.
Defensively, the Lakers catch somewhat of a break as Devin Booker was ruled out due to a hip injury. Phoenix, much like the Lakers, don’t start a traditional point guard, shifting most of the creating duties to Booker when he’s available.
Thus, L.A. will need to be locked in defensively against TJ Warren and Josh Jackson. Warren is an excellent scorer who is the Suns’ secondary offensive option while Jackson has improved greatly over the last month.
The play of Josh Hart has also been huge for the Lakers recently, particularly his work on the boards. He gives the team another player in the lineup who can rebound and push the ball immediately, which helps them push the pace.
The halfcourt offense is still a work in progress, so constantly pushing in transition is a must. While they’re now home, the Lakers will also be looking to get Kyle Kuzma back on track.
He was terrible offensively during the road trip, averaging just seven points on 34 percent shooting. Though he has been improving defensively, the Lakers need their leading scorer to turn things around.
Thankfully, the duo of Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have been on fire for the Lakers recently with both settling into their roles and bringing exactly what the team needs.
Three Keys to Lakers Victory
Don’t Overlook Them: The Lakers have had issues this season taking bad teams for granted, most recently on display in last week’s game against Orlando. Coming off a long road trip against a team they’ve beaten twice already this season, and with a rematch with OKC looming on Thursday, is a recipe for a letdown the Lakers can’t afford.
Win the Turnover Battle: Phoenix is one of the few teams that turn the ball over as much as the Lakers. If L.A. can take care of the ball and force some turnovers from the Suns they should be able to get plenty of easy buckets against the NBA’s worst defense and pull away from them.
Three-Point Shooting: This is the battle of the league’s worst deep shooting teams. The Lakers simply can’t allow Phoenix to get hot from deep, likewise they must continue their excellent ball movement of late and get open shots for themselves against a soft Suns defense.
Los Angeles Lakers (21-31) Vs. Phoenix Suns (18-36):
7:30 A.M. PST, February 6, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Brandon Ingram
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso
Projected Suns Starting Lineup:
PG: Devin Booker
SG: TJ Warren
SF: Josh Jackson
PF: Dragan Bender
C: Tyson Chandler
Key Reserves: Tyler Ulis, Troy Daniels, Alex Len, Jared Dudley
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