Game Preview: Suns, Lakers, where Lonzo Ball doesn’t have Bledsoe to push around any more

The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Phoenix Suns in the valley of the sun.

What: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns

When: 7:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


The Los Angeles Lakers come to Phoenix for the second time this year. Let’s see if this time either team plays any defense.

Last time, the Lakers outscored the Suns 132-130, contributing to Earl Watson’s firing a few days later. Since then, the Lakers have built one of the league’s most effective defenses while the Suns have been improving since Triano took over.

Neither team is winning regularly, but at least they have the makings of an interesting season.


The Lakers

  • Record: 5-8; Offensive Rating: 28th; Defensive Rating: 4th; Pace: 4th

Since you last saw the Lakers, rookie Kyle Kuzma has joined Lonzo Ball in the starting lineup. Kuzma is clearly one of the better rookies in the league, with an array of skills on the offensive end.

Ball and Ingram, both just 20 years old, lead the Lakers in minutes, followed closely by Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. All four play 30+ minutes per game, with Brook Lopez and second unit rounding out the 10-man rotation with 15-24 minutes per game.

Seven of the Lakers’ 10-man rotation score 10+ points per game, with rookie Ball at a stat-stuffing 9.7 points, 7.4 assists, 6.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. Ball’s weakness is shooting - he’s making just 31% of his shots this year (ugh!) - which doesn’t help their 28th ranked offense.

Ball got his first triple-double of the season against former Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, who’d coasted in the opening week and almost let Ball have that triple-double in the second game of his NBA career (29/9/11). Ball posted a 19/13/12 in a loss to the Bledsoe’s Bucks on Saturday night.

Ball’s two games primarily matched against Eric Bledsoe have clearly been Ball’s two most dominant NBA performances.

Okay now to the unexpected: Unbelievably, despite half their rotation being 22 or younger, the Lakers are 4th in the league in defensive rating. So, it CAN be done.

The Lakers are missing Larry Nance Jr. these days (fractured hand).

Here’s basketball-reference.com snapshot of the Lakers’ last 10 games.


The Suns

  • Under Watson - Record: 0-3; Offensive Rating: 30th; Defensive Rating: 30th; Pace: 2nd
  • Under Triano - Record: 5-6; Offensive Rating: 16th; Defensive Rating: 23rd; Pace: 2nd

Who knows what Suns team we will see tonight in a rematch against the highly beatable Lakers.

Will it be the Suns team that lost decisively at home last Monday to the beatable Nets? Or the Suns team that has beaten three playoff-caliber teams in their five wins (Jazz, Wizards, Wolves).

It’s all about effort. And shot making. Booker and Warren have to produce in order for the Suns to win. When your third leading scorer is Mike James, you might be a bit too dependent on your top two guys. But that’s how the cookie crumbles.

Basketball-reference.com gives a nice snapshot of the last 10 games, almost perfectly inclusive of Triano’s rotation choices (Triano has coached one additional game).

As the pair of scorers go, so go the Suns.


Matchup

Ball no longer has Eric Bledsoe to embarrass. He’ll have to deal with the likes of Mike James and new starter Tyler Ulis these days. Ulis was inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday on the heels of a five-game losing streak. Expect Ulis to get the starting nod again.

The Ulis matchup against Ball could be quite interesting, and also could go down as the lowest-scoring PG matchup in the league this year for guys who play 30+ minutes.

If either of Ulis or Ball make more than 35% of their shots, it will be a good night for their team I’d wager.


Prediction

I’m gonna say a win for the Suns just because it’s hard to sweep an equally bad opponent.

Let’s go with that.

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