On Monday night, the Los Angeles Lakers will take a quick trip to Phoenix to take on their recent foils: the Suns.
The game will be the second night of a back-to-back, following a 119-117 win against the Washington Wizards on Sunday night that ended with one of the more preposterous game-winners you’ll see from Thomas Bryant at the end of a severely broken play.
Sunday’s contest was the first full game the Lakers played without Anthony Davis following the right foot injury he suffered against the Nuggets, and given that said injury will reportedly keep him out at least a month, they are going to have to get used to that.
Can they keep their spirits afloat?
The Suns add another layer to the challenge the Lakers will already have to stay afloat in the standings without Davis, because even though any game they play in the next month (or so) will be a challenge without AD, most of them are sure to be tougher than a game at home vs. the Wizards.
That competition quickly gets harder on Monday when the Lakers face off against the 18-12 Suns on the road. After that, the Lakers will head back to California, specifically a little more north, to face the Sacramento Kings who continue to impress with a 16-12 record.
The Lakers will then return home for a Dec. 23 game vs the Charlotte Hornets, but right after that they embark on a five-game road trip starting with the Christmas Day matchup against the Mavericks in Dallas.
They’ll be the Las Vegas underdogs in most of the games I’ve laid out above. Putting matchup analysis, X’s and O’s, and things like that to the side, I think the most important thing to monitor in these next few games isn’t necessarily what results happen on the court: It’ll be their overall demeanor and spirit that I monitor the most.
We saw a glimpse of what that spirit was in Sunday’s gritty win vs. the Wizards, and if you’re a Lakers fan, you had to have enjoyed what you saw.
Despite what seemed like multiple bumps and bruises taken by Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker and LeBron James, the team fought from the initial buzzer to the last. It resulted in a win, but just barely.
Petition to ban 12/18 from existence pic.twitter.com/1PXgA6DOc3— Thai (@thailuong33) December 18, 2022
Sadly, we saw this movie last year. The hero can’t be with his team amidst an already stressful Holiday season, leading to their demise via the odds being too stacked against them. Of course, this sequel has different cast members including Lonnie Walker, Thomas Bryant, Dennis Schroder and others.
But those newcomers won’t be able to make a positive difference if the spirit starts to fade within the leading members of the ensemble. Two of them have already been through this song-and-dance in LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, while head coach Darvin Ham will hopefully continue to lift his team with his inherent determination, grit and effort.
If those three start to lose hope, positivity and drive due to this seemingly insurmountable challenge ahead of them, then things will unravel quickly. Hopefully, even if the night in Phoenix ends with another tally mark in the loss column, they can maintain their spirit to continue down the road ahead.
Notes and Updates
- The Lakers are going to be severely shorthanded against Phoenix. Wenyen Gabriel is available for the first time in several games, but a lot of players are... not.
LeBron James (left ankle soreness) and Austin Reaves (right ankle sprain) are both out tonight, along with Anthony Davis and JTA pic.twitter.com/cU4KyOCEUY— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) December 19, 2022
- The Lakers may get lucky on the second night of their back-to-back as some notable names are on the Phoenix Suns’ injury report, however. Devin Booker (groin soreness) is out and Deandre Ayton (left ankle sprain) is listed as questionable.
Devin Booker is out tonight, per Suns— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) December 19, 2022
- Ayton has missed the past two games, with Booker missing two games on Dec. 11 and 13 with this injury. He had previously came back to play their last two games, including a 58-point performance in their latest, a 118-114 win vs. the Pelicans.
- Jae Crowder (not with team due to trade demand), Cam Johnson (right meniscus tear), Cameron Payne (right foot strain), Duane Washington Jr (left hip strain), and Jock Londale (concussion protocol) will all be out.
The Lakers and Suns will tip off at 6 p.m. PT. The game will be nationally televised on NBA TV, and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.