Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen, Getty Images

January 16, 2014 — 6:00PM (PST)
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-24) scored 118 points last night, shooting 52.4 % from the field and 38.2 % from the 3 pt. line. Jodie Meeks scored 26 points shooting 6/10 from the 3 pt line while Nick Young added 28 points. The problem? They allowed 120 points to Cleveland Cavaliers, who only average 96.2 PPG. The Lakers could not stop anybody, letting them get off any shots they wished to take.

Now, the Lakers have to embark on a brutal Grammy’s road trip, which unfortunately starts tonight vs. Phoenix Suns (21-16). However, the Suns, coached by former NBA sharpshooter Jeff Hornacek, have been dealing with injuries, which have caused them to lose 5 of their last 7 games. One of the point guard duo, PG Eric Bledsoe, had surgery on his right knee, which keeps him out indifinitely. Therefore, PG Goran Dragic will lead the show tonight. Dragic has become the cornerstone for the Suns turnaround this season, averaging 19.3 PPG and 6.0 APG. Dragic seeks to run around the Lakers defense in circles again, causing matchup nightmares and leading the Suns to open shots every possession.

Lakers C/PF Pau Gasol decided to play last night despite a strained toe tendon, which jeopardizes his future availability. Gasol made a gracious effort last night, grabbing 20 points and 12 rebounds. However, as Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has done with other injured Lakers, he did not protect Gasol’s health at all, playing him 36 on a bad toe despite another game tonight. A toe sprain might seem something very minor to those who have never suffered from it before, but the injury cannot be neglected since the big toe carries a lot of pressure every time one takes a step on it while running or even walking.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall / Goran Dragic [Advantage: Suns]
SG – Jodie Meeks / Gerald Green [Advantage: Even]
SF – Wesley Johnson / PJ Tucker [Advantage: Even]
PF – Pau Gasol / Channing Frye [Advantage: Lakers]
C – Robert Sacre / Miles Plumlee [Advantage: Suns]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: F Markieff Morris, F Marcus Morris, G Leandro Barbosa

Lakers: G/F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Suns: Out-PG Eric Bledsoe, Out-C Emeka Okafor, Questionable-SG Leandro Barbosa

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, GTD-C/F Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: The Lakers defense has been atrocious to say the least this season, evidenced by allowing 120 points to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Regardless of how well the Lakers play offensively, difficulties to win a basketball game occur especially if they continue to allow the NBA’s 2nd worst 105.5 PPG to opposing teams. With Dragic running the show for the Suns, we cannot expect much better from tonight’s game. The only chance the Lakers have to stay competitive tonight has to be to limit the Suns to 1 possession and not allow offensive rebounds, something the Lakers have struggled with throughout this season.

Bottom Line

If the Lakers last 12 games when they lost 11 games foreshadows what will happen tonight vs. Suns, it seems like a sure loss for the Lakers. However, with a change of scenery and playing away from home taking a long road trip, lets see if the Lakers mindset will change starting tonight. The Lakers will have to contain Dragic and not let marginal players like SG Gerald Green and C Marshall Plumlee go off for career nights again like the Lakers allowed them to do last game. If they cannot succeed at that, this game could become ugly tonight.

Prediction

Suns: 125-110