The Lakers are losers of 7 of their last 8 meetings with the Phoenix Suns, including an 0-3 mark this season. LA has yielded at staggering 115 points per game to their Pacific Division rivals in those losses, exemplary of their first half deficiencies on defense. And in those three defeats, they had Kobe Bryant. That won't be the case tonight, as the Black Mamba will sit out for rest.
Just another difficult game in what seems to be a season full of them.
The Lakers head into Phoenix tonight riding a four-game losing streak, and another loss would match their season-high of five straight defeats. However, despite the lack of success, LA has played much more spirited, competitive basketball over the past week with close contests versus the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat. With a little more luck and some slightly better execution, the Lakers could have easily won any of them, turning a four-game losing streak into an improbable five-game winning streak.
The Suns are hanging onto the eighth seed in the Western Conference, a difficult feat to say the least. Many figured that with the returns of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Phoenix would have been bumped from the last postseason spot by now. Not the case. The Suns are 6-2 in 2015 thus far, including a throttling of both the Toronto Raptors and the Cavs. They continue to be an offense juggernaut under coach Jeff Hornacek, buoyed by five players averaging double figures in scoring for this month.
Guards Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas continue to be terrors in the back court, which should be a problem for a Lakers team that hasn't been able to stop any of them this year. Dragic and Thomas have been especially lethal, with the latter shooting 62% in three games vs the Lakers, good for 60 points total. Yikes.
Meanwhile, the Lakers continue to try and win despite very obvious holes in their lineup. Wayne Ellington and Jordan Clarkson should get minutes in Bryant's absence, though they'll be hard pressed to replicate Kobe's production considering his newfound willingness to play the point guard in recent games. However, there's really no point in discussing the offense any more. Versus Phoenix, it's all about LA's ability to defend and shut down an soring unit that averages 110 points per game.
The Lakers have a tough test in the MLK Jr. Day nightcap, but then again, haven't we said similar sentiments all season?