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Goran Dragic

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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

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

December 23, 2013 — 6:00 PM (PST)
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-14) look to bounce back tonight against the Phoenix Suns (16-10) after a very disappointing loss vs. Golden State Warriors on Saturday. The Lakers’s lack of a true point guard showed last game, as they could not get any good shots, resulting in a 3-21 shooting nightmare during the 3rd quarter. C Pau Gasol looks to rejoin his team tonight after missing last game due to an upper respiratory infection. The Lakers will be led by Gasol and 6th man G/F Nick Young, who has been a constant scorer off the bench, scoring more than 10 points in 13 consecutive games

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, come into tonight’s match up very hot, winning 7 of their last 8 games. The Suns are led by the point guard duo of PG Goran Dragic and PG Eric Bledsoe. Dragic has performed very well replacing PG Steve Nash to run the show, averaging 18.1 PPG and 5.9 APG. Bledsoe has slowly blossomed into a perrenial star in this league as he has finally gotten a chance to start for the first time in his NBA career. Bledsoe has eerily similar numbers to Dragic, but leading his team in points and assists, averaging 19.1 PPG and 6.3 APG, while causing havoc on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to shuffle the starting lineup again to match up with the run and gun Suns and match up better with quick guards like Bledsoe and Dragic tonight on the defensive end. F Shawne Williams will replace F Jordan Hill to help spread the floor out and match-up with Suns F Channing Frye.

Projected Starters

PG – Goran Dragic Xavier Henry [Advantage: Suns]

SG – Eric Bledsoe / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Suns]

SF – PJ TuckerWesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF – Channing Frye / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Suns]

C – Miles Plumlee / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: G Gerald Green, F Markieff Morris, C Marcus Morris

Lakers: G Xavier Henry, G/F Nick Young, G/F Wesley Johnson, C/F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Defensive Rebounding: The Lakers have been struggling a lot at boxing out their players and allowing easy 2nd chance baskets. Their defense has played fairly well recently, but allowing offensive rebounds causes their defense to become very disorganized, causing them to lose their players they matched up with. The Morris twins, F Marcus Morris, and F Markieff Morris, killed the Lakers last time grabbing offensive rebounds, so anybody near them have to make sure to box these two players out by using proper fundamentals since they both possess a significant weight advantage over any players on the Lakers.
  2. Keep Guards Away From Paint: The Lakers have major problems keeping guards away from the paint, letting them get high percentage shots for themselves or an open teammate. Tonight’s match up will be their worst one, as they try to keep both Dragic and Bledsoe outside of the paint. Dragic destroyed and dissected the Lakers defense during their last meeting, which led to his career high of 31 points. The guards have to make the offensive players feel more uncomfortable while dribbling the ball and cause turnovers. Despite not having a point guard, guards like Meeks, Johnson, Nick Young, and Xavier Henry are all interchangeable skill-wise, so an excuse to play intense defense and show great communications cannot be plausible for this group.

Bottom Line

The very shorthanded Lakers will try to keep the game close and try to steal this game away from the Suns. The Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort, outrebounding the Suns, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. With their Christmas game vs. Miami Heat coming up this Wednesday, the Lakers have to come away with a victory here to have positive momentum moving into Wednesday.

Prediction

Suns: 124-110

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