Anthony Davis and DeAndre Ayton

LAL vs PHX, Preseason No. 4, Three Things to Know

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers face the Suns in their fourth preseason game of the 2021-22 season, with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet from Staples Center.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

The Lakers had the day off on Saturday following an early morning arrival after Friday night’s third preseason game at Golden State, so there has yet to be an update from Frank Vogel from an injury standpoint. Yet, we know from the Game Notes that both Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker will miss Sunday’s game against Phoenix. Monk has a right groin strain, and THT a right thumb sprain.

Both wing players have shown impressive flashes in the first three games, particularly on offense, with THT going for 17 second half points at GSW, and Monk totaling 33 points against BKN (Oct. 3) and PHX (Oct. 6). We’ll likely get an update during Vogel’s pregame availability about their status moving forward, and hope the absence on Sunday is more of a precaution. In their place, expect more minutes for Wayne Ellington, Rajon Rondo and Austin Reaves.

The Lakers not only played Phoenix in Round 1 of the playoffs in late May and June, but also on Wednesday night in the Valley of the Sun. Now they draw the orange and purple franchise again on Sunday, another preamble to the game that actually counts that’s now 12 days away, on Oct. 22, L.A.’s second game of the regular season.

We can recall that the Lakers had Phoenix in a 2-1 hole before Anthony Davis got hurt last spring, or that the Suns handled L.A. with relative ease last week, with both LeBron James and Russell Westbrook watching from the bench. The result of Sunday’s game won’t matter, but who plays and who doesn’t will certainly go a long way. Phoenix played its entire roster with the exception of Devin Booker on Wednesday, and Chris Paul had them very well organized. Will CP3 steer the ship again for this preseason game, or has he seen enough of L.A.?

Meanwhile, will this be the game that LeBron, AD and Westbrook share the court for the first time? We’ll find out soon, and how that question is answered will definitely impact the scoreboard.

Friday’s loss at Golden State was the first time LeBron and Russ have shared the court as teammates outside of their Team USA experience. They played 11 minutes together, to start and finish the first half, and were otherwise staggered by Vogel, in a hint at the regular season rotation to come.

“Really good energy, good to see them play on the court together for the first time,” said Vogel. “To be expected there was some rust, there was some growing pains, adjustment period is something we expect with those guys. I thought both of them played with great energy and I thought Russ was trying to even create, play unselfishly, too much on a couple possessions that led to some of these turnovers, but playing the right way we’ll live with that.”

“The more minutes that we get on the floor we’ll be able to log those minutes and see what works for the betterment of our team, for the betterment of myself and Russ (Russell Westbrook),” added LeBron. “We got to log the minutes first though.

“I just think his dynamic ability to push the tempo, put us in our spots offensively, competitive nature, just another threat on the floor. Anytime you can have multiple threats offensively just keep the defense at bay, keeps the defense’s eyes off you individually. His ability to get down the hill and attack the rim either for a shot or for a kickout is very key for our ball club.”

Westbrook weighed in as well.

“Yeah I mean we’re not going to figure it out right now,” he explained. “Everything’s not going to be figured out in the next week or two so, got a long year, this is the preseason. First game for a lot of us, well since April, May, or something like that. We’ll figure it out.”

“The things that (LeBron’s) able to do on the floor. Obviously his size and his pace really helps me out a lot just because of having somebody next to you run with the same speed and same force each time down the floor is beneficial to us especially in transition.”


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