With the Los Angeles Lakers needing to win out to have any real shot at the sixth seed and the ability to avoid the NBA play-in tournament, the Phoenix Suns are handing them a gift on Friday night, as Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton will all sit out of their penultimate regular season game, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
The Suns are on the second night of a back-to-back after gutting out a win vs. the undermanned Denver Nuggets on Thursday. This absence from KD will extend one of the weirdest streaks in sports, as James and Durant last played against each other on Dec. 25, 2018 during LeBron’s first year in Los Angeles while Durant was still with the Golden State Warriors. Who knows when their next matchup will be, but it won’t be tonight.
No Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James expected tonight: With 4 seed clinched and priority on postseason health, the Suns are planning on sitting their four core stars – Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton – vs. Lakers on second night of back-to-back, per sources.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 7, 2023
The Lakers will face an undermanned Phoenix team tonight: Kevin Durant (left ankle injury management) is out;— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 7, 2023
T.J. Warren (illness) is out;
Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Chris Paul (rest) are out, according to the Suns.
If the Lakers win out and the Warriors lose one of their…
As our own Jacob Rude broke down yesterday, “if the Lakers win both of their games this weekend, the Warriors need to drop one of their two road games, either in Sacramento on Friday or Portland on Sunday.” If the Lakers split their final two games, Golden State would have to lose both to give the Lakers the sixth spot.
Even given the Dubs' well-publicized road woes and the fact that they won’t have Andrew Wiggins, that seems incredibly, incredibly unlikely, especially since the Kings appear on course to sit basically their entire rotation on Friday, and Portland has been tanking as blatantly as anyone for the last several weeks.
No matter all that standings chicanery, though, all the Lakers can do is try to control the part of their destiny that they can decide. Phoenix is handing them a gift, but they still have to take it.
The Lakers and Suns will tip off on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised nationally on NBA TV, and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.