Showtime: 6:00pm PT
Plot: Hit with injury after injury at one of the worst possible times in their schedule, it seems that the Lakers can't catch a break. In facing the league's most surprising, red-hot teams, this trend doesn't look like it's going to break anytime soon.
After a 102-83 drubbing at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers head to Phoenix for their second to last road game of 2013. It's hard to say whether or not the Lakers are playing well--after all, I'm not sure who this team is at the moment. Saturday night in Oakland, the Lakers were without the services of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash. For a Mike D'Antoni system that typically features a nine-man rotation, that left the discombobulated Lakers awfully thin on all areas of the court.
The team committed a haneous 24 turnovers, though that number is completely understandable when one realizes the team was starting a non-point guard at point guard (Xavier Henry) and a guy whose played 28 minutes in the past 28 days (Chris Kaman), and had a point guard in reserve who had almost as many turnovers (4) as he's had Laker minutes played (6) in Kendall Marshall. The game was an abject disaster from the third quarter on, as an experienced Warriors team slowly dissected LA, albeit imperfectly so.
Like last season, the challenge is going to be finding an ever-changing equilibrium amidst players going down left and right. Tonight, the Lakers need to find a balance with a revolving door of guards, both offensively and defensively. Before the season, we expected that at this point in the season, the back court rotation would include Kobe, Nash, Blake and Farmar, perhaps with a little Jodie Meeks sprinkled in. Now we're looking at a starting duo spearheaded by Henry and Meeks, with Marshall and Nick Young playing supporting roles. Offensively, they haven't been crisp in the least, turning the ball over at an alarming rate and succeeding mostly through fast breaks. Defensively, it's been a challenge on all ends of the court, a problem that should only be exacerbated with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe staring them down.
The Lakers played the Suns for the first time this season two weeks ago, dealing Kobe his second straight defeat. While Bledsoe and Dragic did their damage, it was actually Phoenix's front court duo, the Morris twins, that landed the finishing blows. Markieff and Marcus destroyed the Lakers' big men, specifically Pau Gasol, to the tune of 37 points on 16 for 23 shooting.
The only change in personnel should be Gasol coming back from a respiratory illness, oddly an unwelcome return in terms of locking down PHX. If LA stands a chance tonight against a remarkable 16-10 Suns team, they must win on the strength of their defense as their offense works out the kinks. Not an ideal statement for a MDA team to be sure.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino