Suns, Lakers Clash for First Time This Season
If the Suns are to secure their first three-game win streak of the season, it will have to happen on the road against a rejuvenated rival.
The Lakers might have the most momentum of any team coming off a loss. That’s due to the much-anticipated return of Kobe Bryant, which occurred on Sunday. The 15-time All-Star shot poorly (2-of-9) in the loss against Toronto, and that was only after managing to hold onto the ball (eight turnovers).
The Suns, however, respect the threat Bryant brings to the court even after just returning from an Achilles injury.
“Kobe’s maybe the hardest guy I’ve ever had to guard,” P.J. Tucker said. “It’s always exciting to get a chance to play him, get after it playing in L.A.”
The Lakers have managed to stay in the Western Conference mix thanks to several players stepping up in Bryant’s absence, including Nick Young (14.4 ppg), Jodie Meeks (13.5 ppg) and Steve Blake (9.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
While Bryant’s return is likely still snagging headlines, onlookers at tonight’s game should keep an eye on the Blake/Bledsoe matchup at point guard. The Lakers playmaker has been a revelation this season after regaining a starting role, amassing at least eight assists in 11 of the last 14 games. He has hit at least one three-pointer in all but one game this season.
Eric Bledsoe could use his quickness and strength against Blake on the other end, where the Suns point guard is shooting 48.9 percent from the field. If he can pester Blake into some turnovers as well, Phoenix could get a huge edge from this position battle.
Despite being middle-of-the-pack in overall shooting, the Lakers are a major threat from beyond the arc. They rank third in the league in three-point shooting, hitting 40.2 percent of their shots from that distance.
The Lakers aren’t shy about pulling the trigger, either, averaging a league-best 10.6 three-pointers made per contest.
The Suns provide a worthy defensive counter. Phoenix holds opponents to a league-low 32.6 percent from beyond the arc and just 6.1 makes per game (fourth-fewest in the league).
Phoenix would love to see another night of aggressiveness from Markieff Morris, who hasn’t attempted a single three-pointer over the last four games. Instead the third-year forward has stuck to the inside which has helped him lead the team in field goal percentage (50 percent) along with Miles Plumlee.
“He’s able to take a big guy and, if a guy gets up on him, he’s able to drive by him,” said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. “If he steps off him, he’s a good shooter from that 15-to-18-foot range. He’s being smart about when to drive it and when to shoot it.”