Coming off a five-games-in-seven-nights road trip, the Suns are glad to be home. They’d be even more cheerful with a win over the Pacific Division rival Lakers.
L.A. has been in even worse straights, dropping 11 of their past 12 games. The last time these two teams played, both were in a tightly-knit pack in the middle of the Western Conference standings. Now, the Lakers are third-worst in the West.
Who needs a win more? That’s a question the team’s themselves will answer in tonight’s game.
Back Home vs. On the Road
The Suns are mercifully done with their longest road trip of the season. The Lakers are just getting started with theirs. Phoenix marks L.A.’s first stop of a seven-game road swing.
The Lakers aren’t getting up on the right side of the bed, either. They lost to the Cavaliers last night in a draining, two-point loss at home.
Phoenix’s day of rest, combined with a collective welcome-home vibe, could be enough for a significant difference in game-opening energy tonight.
Can Suns Demolish Lakers on Boards Again?
In their previous two meetings this season, Phoenix out-rebounded L.A. by a whopping 33 rebounds combined. Miles Plumlee went bananas in the second meeting, snaring a career-high 20 baords to go with 17 points and two blocks.
Outside of Pau Gasol, the Lakers simply don’t have the personnel to match Phoenix’s size or speed in the post.
That’s music in the ears of the Suns, who haven’t won the battle of the boards since a Dec. 28 win over Philadelphia.
The injury bug has severely altered the course of both L.A. and Phoenix this season. The Lakers are without Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Blake (elbow) and Steve Nash (back, hamstrings), and have been for the majority of the season.
The Suns’ run of bad luck is more recent. Eric Bledsoe (knee) has missed the last six games since undergoing knee surgery. Until he returns, the load he carried has shifted to Goran Dragic (22.7 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.9 rpg) and the rest of the team.
Will either team find an unexpected source of scoring or, perhaps even more important, confidence to push through their respective injury woes?
Can Markieff Return to Form?
The Suns have sorely missed the off-bench production of Markieff Morris. The third-year big man scored in double-figures just once on the road trip, and hasn’t shot over 50 percent from the field since a Jan. 4 home win over Milwaukee.
Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said the team needs he and twin brother Marcus to “be that spark off the bench.”
Turns out Markieff is a particularly effective spark. In games he has scored at least 13 points, the Suns are 9-2.
Are Suns Due a Big Shooting Night?
Phoenix shot just 39.5 percent from the field on their five-game road trip, so odds are things will get better sooner than later.
The Suns haven’t hit at least 45 percent of their shots since Jan. 4, a significant mark since Phoenix is 17-4 when they shoot at least that well from the floor.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Lakers give up an average of 45.3 percent shooting to their opponents.