Game Preview: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers

USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers return home after a grueling seven game road trip and take on the Phoenix Suns. All-Star weekend can't come quick enough.

Showtime

7:30 pm PST

Plot

The Los Angeles Lakers have returned home to Staples Center, wounded from a seven game road trip, but a seven game road trip where they came out with a positive record. Yes, the lost Pau Gasol for a painful 6-8 weeks. Yes, Dwight Howard's shoulder is like a rotting, hollowed out, log waiting to be crushed the next time someone lays a hand on it. Still, the Lakers kept their playoff chase alive, and while they didn't make ground, they didn't fall even further while on the road and facing a great deal of adversity both on and off the court.

Tonight the Lakers face the Phoenix Suns once again. The same team that defeated the purple and gold, and re-aggravated Dwight's shoulder, sending the Lakers road trip off to a terrible start. The Suns were led by Michael Beasley's 27 points, because that's just the way it's been for the Lakers this season. The highlight to Beasley's night? A stumbling, fumbling, bumbling, broken play that turned into a dagger of a layup.

There are two games left for the Lakers before they can cut out from NBA action and regroup. The Suns, and the Clippers, are all that stands between the Lakers and some much needed rest and relaxation. If the Lakers can lock in for two games that would be swell, but focus and consistency remain problematic for a team distracted by the roaring noise surrounding them.

For the Lakers to be successful tonight they'll need to pull the leash on Metta World Peace. Metta has been a black hole of death on the offensive side of the ball, taking far too many wild shots that aren't falling for him anymore. His percentages through the seven game road trip were unacceptable, and while Mike D'Antoni lives by guys loosely taking shots, the Lakers' offense is dying for that very reason.

Dwight Howard must be a factor for the Lakers. With the possibility of Earl Clark being out with a sore foot (MRI results pending), the rebounding issues the Lakers have faced lately will only be worse. Despite playing only 28 minutes in their last meeting Howard had 14 rebounds and was a huge factor in the Lakers outrebounding the Suns 46-36.

Kobe Bryant remains the key in everything Lakers, though, as he must continue balancing his possession usage. Between assisting, and scoring, with the Lakers offense holding together just enough to squeak out wins lately. With Nash and Howard both acknowledging there's a lack of rhythm in their pick and roll attempts, Kobe driving and dishing to Howard becomes the easiest way to feed Howard.

There's not much more to say than that. If the Lakers can't take care of the Suns, while home, then it's going to be a long second half of the season without Pau Gasol. The Suns have gone 1-5 since their victory over the Lakers in January. Yet another great opportunity to gain ground on the playoffs as Houston plays Golden State tonight.

On This Soundtrack

Lynryd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Albama

- Drew

- Follow this author on Twitter @DrewGarrisonSBN

- Bright Side of the Sun is surely hoping to make that draft pick even better tonight.

- Los Angeles Lakers Tickets

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