On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers went toe-to-toe with the best team in the league and nearly came out on top behind a combined 62 points from Brandon Ingram and LeBron James. Now, they’ll face their biggest challenge of the weekend: beating the Phoenix Suns on the second night of a back-to-back.
To be clear, the Suns aren’t a good team by any means. In fact, based on wins and losses alone, they’re the worst team in the NBA, but the Lakers have an annoying habit of losing to bad teams, as evidenced by their back-to-back losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans earlier this week.
There’s reason to be optimistic that they won’t drop a disappointing game this time around, though.
For starters, the Lakers have beaten the Suns by a healthy margin in each of the games they’ve played this season. Even when they were struggling to win without James, they still beat the Suns. It’s been arguably the only consistent thing about this team this season.
On top of that, they have too much at stake at this point of the season to be dropping games to the Suns. The same could have been said about the games against the Pelicans and Grizzlies, but the Lakers are getting deep into “do or die” territory.
With just 20 games left in the regular season, the Lakers are 3.5 games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. In order to sneak into the playoffs, they have to leapfrog the Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs, who have easier schedules than the Lakers going forward, according to Basketball Reference.
The Lakers hold the tiebreaker with the Kings regardless of the result on March 24, but they don’t hold the tiebreak over San Antonio after going 1-3 in the season series against them. That’s not to mention the Clippers, who the Lakers have to beat on Monday to win the tiebreaker over.
Of course, this is assuming the Lakers get that far into the playoff race. If they can’t get an easy win against the Suns in Phoenix, they might as well simulate to the end of the season.
Tip-off is at 6 p.m. PST on Spectrum SportsNet. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Christian on Twitter at @RadRivas.