When: Tonight, 8:30 MST/10:30 EST
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Watch: FSNAZ (locally), NBA League Pass
Tonight, the 4-5 Phoenix Suns will take on the 3-5 Los Angeles Lakers on the road at the Staples Center. The Suns will attempt to bounce back from a hard-fought overtime loss against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, in order to get back to the .500 mark.
The Lakers will not be led by their new head coach (and former Suns' head coach) Mike D'Antoni. Mr. Pringles is coming off of knee surgery and already effectively ruled himself out of tonight's match-up when asked about his coaching debut..."Not Friday, I’m thinking Sunday." Instead, the Lakers will be coached by the 2-1 interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
The other familiar face in Laker Land, Steve Nash, will not be playing tonight as he is still recovering from a partially fractured fibula that he injured against Portland in the second game of the season.
Not only that, but back-up guard Steve Blake is also day-to-day with an abdominal injury. If Blake is out, third string rookie point guard Darius Morris will start in his place against the Suns. This could prove to be a significant advantage for Phoenix as Morris posted only 1 point, 1 assist, and 2 rebounds in his first start against San Antonio this past Tuesday.
2012-2013 OVERALL NBA RANKINGS PER GAME
Suns: 99.0 (8th) Lakers: 96.5 (19th)
Suns 44.3 (8th): Lakers: 47.4 (3rd)
Suns: 20.6 (20th) Lakers: 20.1 (24th)
Suns: 104.0 (29th) Lakers: 93.1 (10th)
This is a physically and mentally wounded Laker team who is in flux and searching for an identity. The Lakers will be without
our their new head coach and starting point guard, and may be without their backup point guard as well. Goran Dragic has shown he is a very capable first option on offense, and this would be a perfect opportunity for him to be used as such. In addition, Dwight Howard is still not 100% after suffering a back injury and having surgery at the end of last season, and while Howard at 75% is still better than nearly every other center in the game, it does give Gortat the chance to use his agility and mobility around the rim to get off shots that he normally wouldn't dare attempt, and somewhat help him with rebounding as well.
Good things happen when the other team has to force bad shots and long passes. Unfortunately the Suns aren't in the habit of proving this theory correct as they are currently ranked 29th in the league in points allowed. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard are all superstars who can almost single-handedly decimate an opponent on any given night. The Suns are short on talent while long on hustle and fight...but they will need to devote more attention to playing solid, team defense throughout the entire game, not just the 4th quarter, if they are going to get out of LA with a win tonight.
Although this applies above, the Black Mamba is in a different league all to himself. The Lakers are still Kobe's team, and they will go as far as he can take them. For the Suns (or any other team for that matter), there's no point in trying to stop Kobe, the best they can hope for is to contain him. If they can hold him to under 20 points tonight then the Suns have an excellent chance of winning the game.
Aside from Shannon Brown in the 4th quarter, the Suns have yet to get any consistent production from any of their wings. Jared Dudley has been almost non existent at times...and Michael Beasley, well, he's definitely made an impact, just not for the right team. As crazy as it may seem, the most consistently productive wing player per his minutes played so far has been P.J. Tucker, a free agent who wasn't even guaranteed to make the roster before training camp. While Tucker is certainly appreciated, he was never meant to be our best option during crunch time. As our own Dave King's article so eloquently pointed out, we need one of our starters to step up and get it done.
The Suns are in a great position to steal a win away from one of the most talented teams in the league. Phoenix has already shown that they won't quit no matter what, and their energy and hustle has already won them some games in the 4th quarter they would have otherwise lost. This is the type of effort the Suns will need to bring tonight.
They aren't going to win in a blowout against the Lakers (although the reverse is possible). Instead, their only hope is to out-hustle, out-run, and eventually out-last them. The Suns also can't afford to fall substantially behind early to a team like LA, who can gain confidence and play more relaxed and effectively in such a situation. Phoenix needs to play with 100% effort and focus for 48 minutes tonight if they are going to escape LA with a victory.