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10 Things to Know: Lakers at Suns (2/15/17)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers finish the pre-All-Star slate against the Phoenix Suns.
1) The Lakers are immediately back on the hardwood after falling in the final seconds to Sacramento on Tuesday night. Lou Williams was Los Angeles’ entire offense in that game, piling up 29 points in 25 minutes. But even his red-hot hand had its limitations, as his game-winning buzzer-beater was just off, allowing DeMarcus Cousins (40 points, 12 rebounds) and the Kings to escape with the win.
2) Williams has been one of the NBA’s top late threats this season, ranking fourth in fourth-quarter scoring (7.7). However, he took it to another level against the Kings, dropping 19 in the final period alone — including a pair of game-tying triples — while also managing to hand out four assists.
HIGHLIGHTS: Lou Williams dropped 29 points and added 5 assists in tonight's loss to Sacramento. pic.twitter.com/mmbJ5ErYiy— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 15, 2017
3) Several of these clubs’ young talents will team up at All-Star Weekend in just two days, as each will send two players to join the U.S. Team at Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge. D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram will serve as the Lakers’ representatives in the annual game for top rookies and sophomores, while Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss will make the trip for the Suns.
4) It’s going to be a busy weekend for Booker, who will also compete at Saturday’s Skills Challenge. This year, the 20-year-old has further established his reputation as an explosive scorer — including by dropping a career-high 39 points against the Lakers on Nov. 6 — and currently ranks second among sophomores in points per game (21.1).
5) Meanwhile, Chriss was named January’s Rookie of the Month and appeared ready to build upon that honor when he poured in 27 points on Feb. 11. However, since then, the eighth-overall pick has averaged only 5.8 points while shooting 34.3 percent in his last five games.
6) Booker won’t be the only Sun competing on All-Star Saturday Night. Undrafted rookie Derrick Jones has only played in 20 minutes of six games for Phoenix, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the frontrunners for the main event — the Slam Dunk Contest. Jones has been showing off his altitude for the D-League’s Northern Arizona Suns, while also throwing in a few jams during NBA warmups.
7) Jones hopes to join Phoenix’s previous Slam Dunk Contest champions, who both have strong ties to the Lakers. Larry Nance Jr.’s father, Larry Sr., won the inaugural contest back in 1984. Eight years later, Compton native Cedric Ceballos took home he title. He would soon return to his hometown and enjoyed the only All-Star season of his career with the Lakers in 1994-95.
8) This current Suns squad has been defined by its speed, which has it running the league’s third-fastest pace (109.4 possessions). While this has boosted Phoenix’s offense, it has also been costly on the other end, as opponents have scored 120-plus points 16 times — all of which were losses.
9) This up-and-down style has Phoenix living and dying on the possession battle. The Suns force the NBA’s second-most turnovers (15.5), but they also give away the third-most (15.6). Their offense has been predicated on their guards getting to the hoop and drawing contact, as they rank first in made free throws (20.4) but last in assists (18.4).
10) Phoenix has been in an extended rut, losing 10 of its last 12 games. During this span, the Suns are allowing a league-high 116.8 points per game, which has been the main reason for their record falling to 17-39 — last in the Western Conference.
Lakers: D’Angelo Russell (sore left knee), Jordan Clarkson (right thumb sprain) and Lou Williams (mild right ankle sprain) are probable.
Suns: Dragan Bender (right ankle surgery) is out.
Tip-Off: 6 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW