I’m going to keep this short because a Tuesday night game against the Suns the day before my birthday means I’m going to take some liberties. Haha.
The Lakers are coming off a successful road trip, winning 3 of their 5 games — including W’s over the Celtics and the Thunder. And while they remain without Lonzo Ball and his sprained MCL, the team has found a new rhythm that includes a new starting lineup (hello Josh Hart, bye Tyler Ennis), a re-commitment to defense, and a resurgence of Jordan Clarkson (along with continued strong play from Julius Randle).
The team really did pull itself out of the abyss of their 9-game losing streak to win 10 of their last 14 (including the aforementioned road trip). Things are good, then! And while rumors swirl and talking points get leaked about the trade deadline and this team’s free agency future, the product on the court is as good as its been at any point this year.
Which brings us to tonight. The Lakers play a Suns team that is below them in the standings and without Devin Booker. Plus, as noted, this is the first game back from a long road trip. If there was a game where the Lakers might not look sharp or might not have their heads totally into the game, it is one like tonight’s.
The Lakers will need to fight against complacency, keep their focus away from Thursday’s trade deadline or next week’s All-Star break, and keep their momentum going in the right direction. This seems obvious, but players are human and it’s human nature to have letdowns. They must go into this game understanding this game is ripe for it and fight against it.
And while X’s and O’s and matchups matter, I truly believe if the Lakers play hard defensively and maintain their dedication to pushing the pace and moving the ball offensively they’ll be fine. Yes, I’d like to see Brook Lopez continue his string of nice games and for Ingram to continue to be a nice playmaker for teammates. I’d also like to see Kuzma regain some the shooting which has gone absent in recent weeks (Celtics game aside). Add more solid play from Hart, Clarkson staying aggressive and hitting shots, and this game could be one the Lakers win going away.
But, if they don’t take it seriously or if too many of the above factors don’t go in their favor, this game will be close. And we’ll probably all be mad about it.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.