The Los Angeles Lakers first road trip of the season hasn’t exactly gone to plan, as they have lost the first three games of the trip, although all the losses came against Eastern Conference playoff caliber teams in the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks.
Their last chance to salvage the road trip before heading back to Los Angeles is Monday night when they take on the Phoenix Suns.
The Lakers beat the Suns earlier this season in Phoenix, but since then the Suns have undergone a complete makeover as they fired head coach Earl Watson and traded starting point guard Eric Bledsoe.
After firing Watson, Phoenix went on to win four of their next five games, but then hit a bit of a skid, losing five straight before beating the Minnesota Timberwolves in their last game Saturday night.
With Bledsoe no longer on the roster, that has opened up more minutes for rookie Mike James, who has made the most of it. The 27-year-old rookie who has spent time overseas and is currently on a two-way contract is averaging 12.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists, which could earn him a contract for the entire season if he keeps it up.
James and Tyler Ulis have been splitting point guard duties, and they have a tough task ahead of them in Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double in Saturday’s game against the Bucks.
Ball also became the first player in NBA history to record at least 19 points, 13 assists, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals in a single game, so it looks like his early season struggles could be a thing of the past.
It’s impossible to talk about the Suns backcourt without mentioning Devin Booker, who at just 21 years of age is one of the bright young stars in the NBA today. He can score in a variety of ways, so Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed the first meeting between these teams, will have his hands full on the defensive end of the floor.
Jordan Clarkson will also be looking for a bounceback performance after a subpar outing on Saturday. The reserve guard has been one of the best bench scorers in the NBA and one of the Lakers most consistent offensive options.
Suns small forward T.J. Warren has really been playing at a high level in recent weeks, as the 24-year-old is averaging 21.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in his last 10 games, including a 35-point, 6-rebound performance against Minnesota.
He is joined in the frontcourt by second-year forward Marquese Chriss and veteran Tyson Chandler. The Suns No. 4 overall pick from this past draft, Josh Jackson, as well as the No. 4 overall pick from last year, Dragan Bender, and the No. 5 overall pick from 2013, Alex Len, all play significant roles off the bench for this young Suns team.
The Lakers frontcourt depth is their true strength, with Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez in the starting lineup and Julius Randle coming off the bench.
Randle has been accepting of his bench role and has made the most of it, averaging 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds in just 19.8 minutes per game.
Three Keys To Victory:
Get off to a good start: In all three of the Lakers games so far this road trip, they have fallen behind by double digits in the first half, and while they have played well after that, the deficits were just too much to overcome. So it is imperative that they get off to a good start against Phoenix to give them a chance.
Limit turnovers: Turnovers have also played a big factor in the Lakers losses this road trip, as they have had 23, 19 and 21 in the three games, which is obviously not a winning formula. Turnovers hurt a team not only on the offensive end but also on defensive as it allows the opposition to get out in transition, so taking care of the ball is a must.
Crash the boards: The Suns have one of the bigger front lines in the league with Chandler, Chriss, Bender and Alex Len so it will be important for the Lakers to crash the boards and limit them to one shot each possession.
Los Angeles Lakers (5-8) Vs. Phoenix Suns (5-9)
6:00 P.M. PST, November 13, 2017
Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Arizona
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Corey Brewer, Josh Hart
Projected Suns Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyler Ulis
SG: Devin Booker
SF: T.J. Warren
PF: Marquese Chriss
C: Tyson Chandler
Key Reserves: Josh Jackson, Mike James, Dragan Bender, Alex Len, Troy Daniels
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