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Lakers vs. Suns Preview: Back-to-back ends in the valley of the Suns without Kobe Bryant

No Kobe in Phoenix, which hopefully means more D'Angelo against the Suns.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers wrapped up their first home victory of the year against the Detroit Pistons but immediately traveled to Phoenix for their game against the Suns Monday night. It's the Lakers' second back-to-back of the year, and Kobe Bryant will sit out after clocking in 35:43 minutes against Detroit.

Perhaps his absence will make a clear path for young D'Angelo Russell to log fourth quarter minutes after sitting the final frame against Detroit. Russell barely scratched 20 minutes against the Pistons, so if nothing else, he should be fresh and ready to deal with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight.

Bledsoe has had a great start to the year, averaging 23.2 points, 6.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game to help push the Suns to a 5-4 record. He's shooting 40 percent from deep on 3.9 attempts per game and 49.7 percent from the field. It's going to be a challenging match for both Russell and Jordan Clarkson to deal with, especially with how the Lakers seem to let other guards run the floor on them after scoring at least once a game.

Despite Bledsoe's fast start, the Suns are putting up just 98.9 points per 100 possessions. It's been their defense that's been their best feature, holding opponents to 97.9 points per 100. The Lakers' defensive rating has improved to allowing 104 points per 100 possessions, but both the Dallas Mavericks and Pistons played poorly to help swing that number. It will fluctuate early in the season because of the small sample size available, but perhaps a pattern will form and that improvement will be something more tangible.

Enjoy the game, especially considering the Lakers will be off until Friday following this one.

Time: 6 p.m. PT

Station: TWCSN

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