Lakers vs. Suns Preview: Lakers Look To Avenge Loss Against Suns

Lakers vs. Suns Preview: Lakers Look To Avenge Loss Against Suns


lakers sunsThe Lakers have continued their up and down ways since losing Kobe Bryant for six weeks due to a knee injury. An inspiring home win on Friday against the Timberwolves was followed by a thrashing at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers look to right the ship in Phoenix against a Suns team that is one of the early season’s biggest surprises.

These two teams met two weeks ago with the Suns taking a six point win in Los Angeles thanks to the stellar guard play of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. That Laker team was much different as both Bryant and Steve Blake played heavy minutes. The Lakers come into this game with a record of 13-14 while the Suns are 16-10 and currently sit sixth in the Western Conference.

The Suns boast a solid, if not, unspectacular front line. P.J. Tucker is not much of an offensive threat and specializes more in the little things while Channing Frye is a three point specialist who just happens to be seven feet. The Lakers must work to keep Frye off the three-point line, but he will not be as worrisome on the block or the boards. Miles Plumlee has looked much improved this season but, much like Tucker, is more of a dirty work specialist who is good on the boards and will score when set up by the guards.

The bigs off the bench are the guys the Lakers need to focus on offensively as the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, combined for 37 points in the first meeting. They are both great outside shooters but their activity led to issues for the Lakers in keeping them off the glass.

Wesley Johnson has been playing much better as of late, and is likely to play a bigger role with his defense and rebounding. Jordan Hill will also have to stay on point as he will have to try and keep up his work on the boards while chasing around Frye or one of the Morris twins on the perimeter. Pau Gasol, assuming he plays, must continue his excellent play on the post, but if not, Chris Kaman has looked excellent lately and Plumlee should not be able to contain either on the block.

This is where the Suns had their way with the Lakers as Dragic and Bledsoe got in the paint at will and controlled the game. While Dragic mainly scored, Bledsoe set up his teammates and totaled nine assists. The Lakers must find a way to keep these two out of the paint. Expect Wesley Johnson to start off on one of the two as he is easily the best perimeter defender on the team.

Offensively, Xavier Henry has played admirably since assuming the point guard duties, but the Laker guards must re-discover their shooting stroke. Henry, Jodie Meeks, and Nick Young combined to shoot two for twelve from three-point range in the last game against the Warriors. If the Lakers plan to steal a win on the road, that number has to increase substantially.

Keys To Lakers’ Victory
Contain Penetration: The guards of the Phoenix Suns are the engine for this offense. It is the penetration of Dragic and Bledsoe that, not only allows those two to get points at will since they are capable finishers, but get guys like Channing Frye, P.J. Tucker, and the Morris twins going.

Wesley Johnson will almost definitely be guarding one of them, but Meeks, Henry, and Young will all take turns in trying to corral the explosive guard tandem. It is almost impossible to shut both of them down, but if the Lakers can succeed in limiting their time in the paint, it will limit the rest of the team. The Suns get a majority of their baskets, whether it be layups or spot up jumpers, off of the penetration of the guards .

Control The Defensive Glass: The Suns are not an elite rebounding team by any stretch of the imagination, but in the first meeting, they out-rebounded the Lakers by ten and also grabbed ten offensive rebounds. For an offense that averages over 103 points per game, the Lakers can not afford to give them second chances.

Gasol, Kaman, Hill, and Johnson must put bodies on this Suns team and limit them to one shot per possession. Tucker and Dragic are great at sneaking in and snatching rebounds, while Bledsoe uses his excellent athleticism, and Frye uses his length to keep possessions alive. It must be a team effort to win the rebounding battle in this game.

Three-Point Shooting: The Lakers have been ravaged by injuries this year. The bench, tops in the league in scoring, has little offensive punch outside of Nick Young, since guys like Henry, Hill, Johnson, and Farmar are either starting due to injury, or hurt themselves.

That leaves three-point shooting as the only advantage these Lakers hold over most teams, and that advantage hasn’t been much of one as of late. Meeks, Johnson, Young, Williams and Henry have to knock down the open shots they are getting as the three is the Lakers best offensive weapon at this point in the season.

Los Angeles Lakers (13-14) at Phoenix Suns (16-10)
6:00 PM PST, December 23, 2103
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
TV: Time Warner Cable SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English)/ 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Suns Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Eric Bledsoe
SF: P.J. Tucker
PF: Channing Frye
C: Miles Plumlee

Key Reserves: PF: Marcus Morris PF: Markieff Morris SG: Gerald Green

Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Xavier Henry
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Pau Gasol or Chris Kaman

Below is our preview chat with Kristofer Habbas of Bright Side Of The Sun. Be sure to follow them on Twitter here.

VIDEO: Lakers Celebrate Holiday Party With Kids

  • Gregory Choa

    Hopefully Pau will be ready for this one, and has fully recovered from his upper respiratory infection with a couple of days off since his last outing against the Wolves.

    The last time the Suns beat us, we got shredded by the backcourt duo of Bledsoe & Dragic…not sure the Lakers really have any answer for them with Blake and Farmar still out. I hate to say it, but I see more of the same happening in this one. The Lakers only hope is to shoot a reasonably high percentage and take care of the defensive glass and take away as many second chance opportunities off of missed Suns shots as humanly possible…can’t let those Morris twins get off.

  • chris

    why did antoni put jordan hill on the bench when he had 14 pts 10 rebounds…he didnt see the third or fourth quater ..he was the only hope lakers had against the warriors..he played incredible but was benched ..i dont get his system

    • Gregory Choa

      If I recall, Hill was hampered by foul trouble throughout that game.

  • meep

    defense defense and more defense,also i hope pau can play because lakers really miss him on Saturday

  • Guest

    Looks like not only is Pau feeling better and back in at center for this one, but MDA has Shawne Williams starting over Jordan Hill at the 4…this initially puts Pau on Plumlee and Shawne on Channing Frye…hell, I’ll take those matchups!
    We still have no one to effectively check the tandem of Bledsoe and Dragic in the backcourt, I think D’Antoni should just say “screw it” and start Kendall Marshall and Meeks in the Lakers backcourt and see what happens.

    • richard

      Kendal Marshal wasn’t even in the league a few days ago and you want him to start over Henry? Marshal wan’t taken in to start games, but just to fill in until we get our PG’s back.

  • Jim213

    Must win game IMO as aside of staying close to 500 avg they face the Heat on Wednesday. Given their previous loss both styles are similar but better ball handling and distribution will need to take place. Aside of shooting, hustle, and limiting TO’s.