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Lakers vs. Suns Preview: First in-season tournament game

This unhealthy Lakers team is far from ready to begin the in-season tournament that awaits them vs. the Suns on Friday.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers will begin their in-season tournament stint against the Phoenix Suns on Friday. It’ll be the third night of games held in the Western Conference’s Group A and the first out of the four games that the Lakers will participate in during group play.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns

When: 7 p.m. PT, Friday, Nov. 10.

Where: Footprint Center

Watch: ESPN, Spectrum Sportsnet

For the Lakers to advance to the knockout round, they need to have the best record in their group — which also includes the Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers — be eligible to be the wild card team of their conference.

The only way the Lakers can be the wild card team of the west is if they finish second place in Group A and have at least the fourth-best record in their conference. The purple and gold will play two games each at home and on the road throughout the group play round, which will go on until the third week of November.

In Group A so far, the Blazers already defeated the Grizzlies last Friday. But respectfully, the most exciting battle in this category is the one happening on Friday between the Lakers and the Suns.

Just like the Lakers, the Suns (4-4) are off to a tough start to the season mostly because of injuries, particularly to Bradley Beal and Devin Booker. Beal looks set to play on Friday but Booker remains out for the game.

So assuming Beal suits up for this one, it’s safe to assume that this will be a completely different game compared to the Lakers’ home opener. It’ll be interesting to see if the in-season tournament indeed serves its purpose by making these games more competitive. Expect a more motivated Suns team to show up on Friday, especially since they want to get back in the winning column.

As for the Lakers, it’s hard to tell what version of the team is going to show up because, at this point, their injury report is filled up just like a grocery list. They’ve now lost three straight games — two of which were blowouts — which they all played with less than a nine-man rotation. If we’re being honest here, this team is far from ready to compete in its first in-season tournament game right now.

The Lakers don’t have any choice

It’s frustrating to keep harping on and blaming the Lakers’ three-game losing streak on injuries but that’s really the main problem here. Los Angeles has missed half of its key rotation pieces for the last four games, including Anthony Davis who sat out for the first time in Wednesday’s ugly loss to the Houston Rockets.

Ugly is pretty much the perfect word to describe how the Lakers have started their season. And it could very much be the perfect adjective to use if they don’t have AD again against a complete Suns team on Friday. But once again, the Lakers don’t have a choice but to weather the storm.

The worst part about all of this is that the Lakers can’t fully work on their issues until they get healthy. The lineups, rotations, minutes and shot distribution attempts are all jumbled up right now because of who is consistently in and out of the lineup. While most teams around the league are building their foundation and continuity right now, the Lakers are left figuring out how to survive games this early in the season with who’s active on the spot.

As Darvin Ham pointed out postgame after last Wednesday’s loss, no one is going to feel sorry for the team, especially since they’re the Los Angeles Lakers. Each team will make the most of the opportunity to pounce on this unhealthy Lakers team and that’s going to be the case for the Suns on Friday. It’ll be up to the Lakers to try to survive this once again. That’s just how they’re going to have to approach their first-ever in-season tournament game.

Notes and Updates:

  • While the Lakers are currently on a three-game losing streak, the Suns meanwhile, are on a two-game winning streak. They defeated the Chicago Bulls (116-115) in overtime on Wednesday without Booker. Even if their big three have yet to play a game together, they’re currently 15th in the league in offensive rating and 10th in defense (the Frank Vogel effect!) thanks to Kevin Durant who has been carrying their team to start the season.
  • As for the Lakers, their three-game losing skid has dropped them to 28th in the league in offensive rating.
  • But on the bright side, remember that being on the wrong side of history doesn’t necessarily mean the Lakers season will end badly. Remember, last year’s team had the worst start in franchise history (2-12) yet still made it as far as the Western Conference Finals. There’s still a lot of hope for this young season.
  • Now for the injury report, the team lists Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis), Gabe Vincent (knee) Jalen Hood-Schifino (right patella contusion) as out. Meanwhile, the bigs in Anthony Davis (left adductor/hip spasm) and Jaxson Haynes (ankle) are labeled as questionable.
  • For the Suns, Booker (right calf strain) and Damion Lee (knee) are listed as out. Beal is probable to play with low back spasms.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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