Showtime: 6:30pm PT
Plot: Let's get this out of the way right now: these two teams do not like each other.
The Los Angeles Lakers tangle with the Phoenix Suns for the last time this season, and the first time since their brawl on January 15th in Phoenix. Both Nick Young and center Alex Len were ejected from the game that night, with Young later expressing his dissatisfaction with his teammates not coming to his aid.
The Suns are a feisty group of young, hungry players, which when put next to the Lakers of almost the exactly the same disposition (but perhaps different talent level), it could get real, real messy. It stands to be even more intense tonight, as Phoenix is in a battle with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks for two playoff spots amongst three teams. Meanwhile the Lakers are trying to bounce back from one of their worst defeats all season.
LA was soundly destroyed Friday night in Minnesota, losing by their largest margin ever to the Timberwolves. The Lakers were bad on almost every conceivable level, yielding 143 points and allowing an incredible 67% shooting in a 143-107 rout. It was one of the rare times this season that the outmanned Lakers showed poor effort despite an obvious lack of talent on the floor.
The hope is, of course, that the Lakers don't bring that same type of crap-tastic attitude back with them into STAPLES Center as they face a Phoenix team that badly needs the win. They've ceded 114, 117 and 121 points to the Suns in successive games this season, a figure that may again increase with a Lakers defense that's been especially horrible as of late. Anytime LA wins this season, it's simply because the other team doesn't show up. As the Suns battle for a playoff spot, they can't afford anything less besides a season sweep against the Lakers.
The driving force for Phoenix will be Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, each of which have routinely feasted on LA for the past couple of years. The Morris twins and Gerald Green, meanwhile, have taken it to the Lakers from the inside out, taking down their much less mobile opponent bigs with a combination of strong paint play and solid shooting. The Suns, it seems, are exactly the the type of attack that especially ails the Lakers.
LA may be with Pau Gasol and Steve Nash tonight, with both players in and out of the lineup as of late. Gasol suffered a scary bout with vertigo last week and hopefully will be well enough to rejoin the team. Nash meanwhile, surprisingly played in Friday's game and could again be a part of the team's active roster tonight.
LA is simply looking to not embarrass themselves after successive defeats on the road to the pitiful Milwaukee Bucks and T-Wolves. It's a low, low standard to achieve, but then again, who knows if this team can hit even that mark.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino