February 6, 2018, 6:47 pm
The Lakers (21-31) host the Suns (18-36) on Tuesday with a chance to build on their recent excellent play.
The Lakers are one of the hottest teams in the league, with a 10-4 record since January 7. They are also learning to close out games as they are 5-0 in games decided by six or fewer points during that stretch.
Leading the charge for the Lakers during that period have been Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, two players who have been rumored to be on the trading block since early in the season. They recently received a well-deserved vote of confidence as it was reported that the Lakers may focus on re-signing their own players and shift their free agency ambitions to the free agent class of 2019.
Most recently the Lakers have had new life infused by No. 30 overall draft pick Josh Hart. Hart replaced Tyler Ennis in the starting lineup two games ago and has responded with 29 points, 25 rebounds, four assists, three steals and five 3-pointers while shooting a spectacular 10-of-14 from the field. He has played stellar defense and injected much needed toughness into the Laker lineup.
Another key roster decision was moving Brandon Ingram into the starting roster while Lonzo Ball continues to recover from a sprained MCL ligament in his knee (tonight will mark his 11th consecutive missed game). Ingram has acquitted himself well as the offense’s main initiator, accruing 32 points, 13 rebounds, 15 assists and two clutch blocks during the stretch in a pivotal win over the Thunder on Sunday.
The Suns will be without leading scorer and best player Devin Booker who will be missing the game with a hip pointer suffered in their most recent game. He leads them in almost all categories with averages of 24.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.6 3-pointers per game.
In his stead, the Suns will rely on No. 4 overall pick Josh Jackson who is playing the best basketball of his career recently. He has scored over 20 points in four consecutive games and is fresh off a career-high 23 points. For the season he averages 10.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.9 steals on 40.4 percent from the field but is tallying 21.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.7 steals over the last week while shooting 56.5 percent.
- The Lakers average 23.4 assists per game (8th) compared to only 21.1 assists per game (26th) for the Suns.
- Expect a lot of turnovers as these are two of the worst teams at taking care of the basketball. The Lakers average 16.1 turnovers per game (29th) vs. 15.8 miscues per game (28th) for the Suns.
- Los Angeles and Phoenix are the two worst 3-point shooting teams in the league at 32.9 percent (30th) and 34.0 percent (29th) respectfully.
- Defense has been a large contributor to the Lakers’ recent success. During their successful 14-game stretch, they have a defensive rating of 102.8 points per 100 possessions (5th) vs. the Suns who have a rating of 111.7 points per 100 possessions (29th) during the same stretch.
- The Lakers must continue to focus on their rebounding and interior defensive effort as they concede 14.0 points off second chance opportunities (30th) and 49.0 points in the paint (29th).
- These two teams are among the league leaders in pace with the Lakers averaging 103.14 possessions per 48 minutes (1st) and the Suns close behind with 102.02 possessions per 48 minutes (3rd).
Projected Starting Rosters
Brandon Ingram (PG)
Josh Hart (SG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Tyler Ulis (PG)
Josh Jackson (SG)
T.J. Warren (SF)
Dragan Bender (PF)
Tyson Chandler (C)
Lonzo Ball (knee/MCL sprain) – OUT
Devin Booker (hip pointer) – OUT
Isaiah Canaan (ankle) – OUT
Time: 7:30 PM PST, 10:30 PM EST
Television: SPECSN/SPECD, FOX SPORTS ARIZONA, NBA TV CANADA
Radio: 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES, ARIZONA SPORTS 98.7 FM