(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)
Lakers vs. Suns: 3 Things to Know (2/6/18)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers return home against the Phoenix Suns.
1) Lakers are surging
Over the last 14 games, the Lakers’ 10-4 record is tied with Golden State for second-best in the NBA. Only Houston’s 11-3 mark is better.
What’s been most impressive about the Lakers’ surge among the league’s best has been the fact that they have ascended without the services of Lonzo Ball, who has missed 10 games due to a knee injury.
Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have been the forefront of the attack with matching averages of 16.4 points per game over this stretch.
Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram has done an admirable job with the responsibilities of primary ball handler, putting up 14.5 points and 4.8 assists a night.
Thanks largely to Ingram and Josh Hart, the Lakers have been able to (mostly) replicate Ball’s pace-pushing style, as they lead the league in fast-break points during this span (20.1).
Maintaining this quick-strike identity has been crucial to the team’s success, and will serve them well when Ball does return.
Lakers have found a lot of success surprising defenses by pushing the pace after made baskets lately.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 4, 2018
Randle bolts down the floor, and it's an easy pick-and-roll dunk. pic.twitter.com/47nmQjTakC
2) Hart provides whatever the Lakers need
He’s a defensive-minded, rebound-gobbling, 3-point-shooting wing — and he’s just a rookie.
Hart may not have the flash of Ball or Kyle Kuzma (his fellow first-years), but the guy flat-out plays like a veteran.
The 22-year-old has the hustle, footwork and low center of gravity needed to compete with the NBA’s many wing scorers. He has hauled in 25 rebounds over his last two games. And he is the Lakers’ best 3-point shooter by percentage (37.4).
Four days ago, coach Luke Walton shook up the lineup by sitting Tyler Ennis, starting Hart and having Ingram run point. The move has been a roaring success with back-to-back wins keyed by the two guys he empowered: Hart and Ingram.
Hart doesn’t need a ton of shots to be effective, and it’s that ability to make the team better without touching the ball that has made him a steal as the draft’s 30th pick.
And considering he’s facing the Suns, it’s worth noting that Clarkson recently dubbed his rebound-happy teammate “Josh Barkley” in homage to Phoenix legend and “The Round Mound of Rebound” Charles Barkley.
Josh Hart notched his second consecutive double-double, scoring 14 points to go with 11 rebounds pic.twitter.com/cMmLsbXDDm— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 4, 2018
3) Lakers cannot afford to underestimate their opponent
The Suns have lost seven of their last eight games and will be without leading scorer Devin Booker (hip pointer).
The Lakers should know better than to assume that will mean an easy win, given that they recently lost by 22 to an Orlando team missing Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic.
If the Lakers do come out with the right mentality, the absence of Booker will be crucial, considering that he has averaged a whopping 31.3 points in three games against the purple and gold this season.
But Phoenix has some other players capable of stepping up. T.J. Warren is an elite slasher and deadly on fast-breaks. Rookie Josh Jackson is in the best stretch of his career, having scored 20-plus in four straight games.
Yet if L.A. approaches this game the right way, it should be able to take advantage of a Suns squad that has surrendered a league-high 112.2 points per game.
Lakers: Lonzo Ball (sore left knee) is out.
Suns: Devin Booker (left hip pointer), Isaiah Canaan (left ankle fracture), Alan Williams (right meniscus repair) and Brandon Knight (left ACL tear) are out.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California