The Los Angeles Lakers continue to take hits as they saw LeBron James sprain his ankle in the loss against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday afternoon.
The Lakers will be without James for the foreseeable future, so it will be an uphill battle as they take on their Pacific Division rivals the Phoenix Suns on the second end of a back-to-back.
While the Lakers and Suns are in a virtual tie for the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed, Phoenix has been playing relatively subpar basketball as of late as they are 3-2 post-All-Star break. However, they did get back on track with a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The trio of Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton will be a massive issue for a short-handed Lakers squad with each player being more than capable of creating their own shot or demanding extra defensive attention that will open up the floor for the rest of their team. Head coach Frank Vogel will have his work cut out for him trying to find defensive coverages that can limit them, especially because he will still be without Anthony Davis (calf strain) and Marc Gasol (health and safety protocols) to anchor the painted area.
The last time the two teams met, Vogel opted to play Montrezl Harrell and Damian Jones fewer minutes because of the matchup, but he will have no choice but to lean on the former with James being unable to suit up. Additionally, the team will be without Jones after they reportedly decided not to sign him for the rest of the season with his second 10-day contract coming to an end.
Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Dennis Schroder will have to carry the burden of scoring for the Lakers, but players like Talen Horton-Tucker and Markieff Morris will also need to step up.
Some might consider this a trap game for Phoenix as Los Angeles is short their two best players and are on the wrong of a back-to-back, but the Lakers absolutely have their work cut out for them. The lineup data without James is poor, and this game has the potential to get out of hand if the Purple and Gold fall behind early.
Lakers (28-14) vs. Suns (27-13)
7:00 p.m. PT, March 21, 2021
Phoenix, Phoenix Suns Arena, Arizona
TV: NBA TV, Spectrum Sportsnet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Montrezl Harrell
Key Reserves: Talen Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews, Devontae Cacok
Projected Suns starting lineup:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Mikal Bridges
PF: Jae Crowder
C: Deandre Ayton
Key Reserves: Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Dario Saric, Frank Kaminsky
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