The Lakers got a rare win against a banged up Grizzlies team playing on the second night of a back to back last night and will try to carry forward some of that momentum against the Suns tonight. This is the same Suns team who handled the Lakers just last week, so even though they, like the Lakers, are a wreck of a team, don’t get any ideas about this game being any sort of a sure thing.
That said, the Suns are down a key cog.
Tyson Chandler (back spasms) said he doesn't expect to play in #SunsVsLakers tonight. He is bummed not to face Kobe Bryant one last time.
— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) March 23, 2016
In the last match up between these teams, the Lakers had real issues dealing with Chandler’s dives to the rim in the P&R where he caught lobs for easy finishes in the paint. Chandler also did good work on the offensive glass, tipping balls back out to the perimeter to gain the Suns more possessions. Considering the Lakers’ struggles defensively, these extra chances were big factors in securing the win.
That said, the Lakers may be dealing with their own injury issues. D’Angelo Russell left Tuesday’s game with a bruised shin and is listed as questionable for this game. He traveled to Phoenix, but was limping noticeably after suffering the injury. And while Kobe has said he will play, that too is not yet confirmed. Missing either (or both) would hurt the Lakers’ depth on the wing and require more of Huertas, Williams, and Clarkson offensively than what is already expected of them.
That said, I do expect Kobe to suit up. As has been his m.o. since announcing his retirement at the end of the year, missing the final appearance in any given city is to be avoided. This will be Kobe’s last trip to the Phoenix desert and with that I think he’ll suit up. If only to provide one last chance at adding to some of the great showings he’s had there:
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) March 23, 2016
Of course, the injury situations of both teams and will he/won’t he questions about Kobe aren’t the only storyline here. As we wrote in our game preview from the game last week, there are lottery odds implications as well.
The Lakers remain 4 games “ahead” of the Suns for the 2nd worst record in the league. A Suns win tonight almost assures they will not catch the Lakers in the standings. A Lakers’ win, though, makes things interesting over the final 12 games of the year. It would still be a longshot the Lakers surrendered their spot, but it wouldn’t be out of the question either.
So, this game matters on that front as well. In the end, though, I think the bigger picture is that the Lakers have now played 70 games. Their season will be over exactly 3 weeks. There is not much basketball left for the young players this season or for Kobe in his career. Wins and losses still mean something, but the congruence of key players’ careers just starting while a legend’s comes to an end is what interests me the most. It really is the reason I tune in. I’m guessing I’m not alone, either.
Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.