The Lakers face off against the Suns Friday night in the third installment of the battle for 10th place in the Western Conference. Both teams have struggled recently, the Lakers gave up 46 points to Joel Embiid. The Suns lost by 26 to the Rockets Thursday night (and gave up 90 points in the first half).
Phoenix enters the game having struggled to start the year. They fired their coach, traded Eric Bledsoe, and handed the keys to Devin Booker. Booker has responded by averaging 22.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.7 tantrums per game. The young Suns guard is a phenomenal scorer and actually has hints of Kobe Bryant’s willingness to take bad shots and the ability to make them. Maybe they aren’t bad shots if you make them. I’m not a doctor.
The Suns themselves are the 3rd worst defensive team in the league (109.9 DefRTG) and rely exclusively on their offense to carry them. They are clearly in a rebuilding process and enter tonight’s game with a growing rivalry with the young Laker squad.
In a turn of events literally no one predicted, the Lakers remain the 4th best defense in the league (100.0 DefRTG). It is the Laker’s offense that struggles mightily to score. Having the 3rd worst offense (97.5 OffRTG) has held them back in some winnable games. Thankfully, the Lakers are averaging 116 points per game against the Suns.
Look for Lonzo Ball to respond to his recent struggles by coming out strong against a Suns. This team brings out the fight in the Laker. Lonzo is averaging 18/8/7/1.5 against the Suns and could use a confidence boost. Thankfully he has played well against Phoenix, presumably because they remind him of the college teams he played against at UCLA.
Future first ballot Hall of Famer Kyle Kuzma, fresh off a dinner with Kobe Bryant, is poised to put up another 20 points and 7 rebounds against a team that struggles to defend the basketball court. These teams do not like each other and are coming off tough losses. Look for Booker to put up 30 points unless he is defended by Corey Brewer in which case he will inexplicably forget how to play basketball.
Brook Lopez is due for another solid performance, the veteran will come out early and set the tone both inside and outside. Additionally, Julius Randle is arguably playing the best basketball on the team. Randle is going to reach double-double territory in this game and may be the first to respond with physicality when the game turns testy.
There are not going to be many games this year where we should expect a win. No game is guaranteed. That said, this game should be a win. Easy for me to say.
Where you can watch: 7:30PM on Spectrum Sportsnet.