The Phoenix Suns are starting to rise, riding a five-game winning streak, while the Los Angeles Lakers could be looking at another game without Kobe Bryant Sunday night. After a feel-mostly-good win over the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers have lost back-to-back games without the Black Mamba, and he's officially listed as "probable" against Phoenix.
The Suns are in a fierce battle for the No. 8 seed is the Western Conference, bouncing back-and-forth with the New Orleans Pelicans while the Oklahoma City Thunder try to cover ground now that Russell Westbrook (and Kevin Durant, though he's been missing games with an ankle sprain) are back in action. Every win matters for a Phoenix team that has playoff aspirations after committing to Eric Bledsoe, but they haven't been able to separate from the middle of the Western Conference. Instead, they have four teams within 3.5 games of swiping the eighth seed from them.
The Lakers, meanwhile, are treading water after their shipwrecked start to the season. They're the second-worst team in the Western Conference, but have the fifth-worst record in the NBA. In case you haven't heard, the Lakers need to their 2015 draft selection to be in the top-five in order to retain their pick from the -- yes -- Phoenix Suns. The Suns' have the ulterior-motive of wanting a Lakers' win here, while the Lakers losing to the Suns would help Los Angeles. No, neither team will intentionally throw this game, but it's a fun backstory.
We'll likely hear about Kobe Bryant's status a few hours before the game. This wraps up the holiday weekend leading up to New Years. It's been a tough close to the year for the Lakers, a win would be nice, but a loss wouldn't be the worst outcome either. No matter how you're pulling for this one, enjoy the game.
Time: 6:30 p.m. PT