The undermanned LA Lakers will face a Western Conference rival on Sunday when they meet the Phoenix Suns at Phoenix Suns Arena. The defending champions recently learned that LeBron James will be out indefinitely after suffering a high right ankle sprain in Saturday’s game versus the Atlanta Hawks.
Without their leader, the LA Lakers lost 99-94, snapping a four-game winning streak that began after the All-Star break.
The Phoenix Suns have struggled lately, losing two of their last four games after winning five straight. They are hoping they have finally righted their ship after a 113-101 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.
Fixture - LA Lakers vs Phoenix Suns | 2020-21 NBA Season
Date & Time - Sunday, March 21st, 10:00 PM ET (Monday, March 22nd, 7:30 AM IST)
Venue - Phoenix Suns Arena, Phoenix, AZ
LA Lakers Preview
The prognosis for the LA Lakers is bleak, with the four-time MVP out for an undetermined amount of time. How do they replace 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists a night? They were already hurting without All-Star Anthony Davis and now they have to play without LeBron James as well.
However, the team can try to minimize the impact of James’ absence by distributing the load amongst them. Just as with the LA Lakers game against the Sacramento Kings before the All-Star break, Dennis Schroder, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell will have to shoulder a bigger load than the rest until their stars return.
Meanwhile, the front office might consider adding a player, via trade or the buyout market, with James’ injury in mind.
This is the type of adversity that makes or breaks champions and this will test how good of a job LA Lakers GM Rob Pelinka did in the offseason with his acquisitions.
Key Player - Montrezl Harrell
Perhaps the past few games were preparation for Montrezl Harrell to take on a bigger scoring load than usual. The LA Lakers center has come off the bench to lead the team in scoring in three of their last four games.
During that stretch, Harrell averaged 20.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting a scorching hot 69.4 percent from the field. The points haven't been all dunks, mind you, as the 6-foot-7 veteran has mixed up his offense with a few mid-range shots aside from the usual dunks in traffic.
But it may be more difficult than usual for Harrell to replicate his scoring outbursts in the coming games without the 17-time All-Star acting as a facilitator while drawing defenses to him.
Nevertheless, the LA Lakers big man may be the most able among his teammates to take on a greater role in the absence of their leaders.
LA Lakers Predicted Lineup
G Dennis Schroder, G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, F Kyle Kuzma, F Markieff Morris, C Damian Jones
Phoenix Suns Preview
The Phoenix Suns have been inconsistent the past few games but, unlike the LA Lakers, they have almost their entire roster intact. Though they are led by All-Stars Chris Paul (16.0 ppg, 8.7 apg) and Devin Booker (25.1 ppg., 4.7 apg), others such as Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Jae Crowder have contributed mightily to their success this campaign.
Owners of the West’s second-best record at 27-13, the Phoenix Suns have become one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Since Feb. 5, they have owned the league’s most potent offense (120.1) and the sixth stingiest defense (108.8).
When they face the LA Lakers, their fans will be expecting a blowout of major proportions. But the Phoenix Suns’ last two losses came against teams that were outside the top eight in the conference and it remains to be seen if they have learned their lesson.
Key Player - Chris Paul
NBA legend Charles Barkley believes Chris Paul should be the MVP this season because of how he has transformed the Phoenix Suns into dark horse title contenders. Barkley may be on to something as Paul has elevated the play of teams he has been on ever since he entered the league.
This season may be his best work yet as the Phoenix Suns have never made the playoffs since the 2009-10 season when they lost in the Western Conference Finals.
One of the best playmakers in NBA history, the 11-time All-Star is only nine assists away from becoming the sixth player in league annals to record 10,000 assists in his career. This will serve as the backdrop for the Phoenix Suns, who will want Paul to accomplish the feat tonight.
Phoenix Suns Predicted Lineup
G Chris Paul, G Devin Booker, F Mikal Bridges, F Jae Crowder, C Deandre Ayton
Lakers vs Phoenix Suns Match Prediction
This will be the second meeting this season between the LA Lakers and Phoenix Suns. The latter won that first meeting with a score of 114-104 in Los Angeles on March 2. LeBron James scored 38 points but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Lakers’ poor shooting.
Tonight, without James and Davis at the same time, it would be a miracle if the boys from Tinseltown are able to escape Arizona with a win.
But stranger things have happened in the NBA and it’s up to the Phoenix Suns to make sure they stick to their game plan to avoid an upset by the LA Lakers.
Where to Watch Lakers vs Phoenix Suns?
The Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers game will be televised nationally by NBA TV and shown locally by Spectrum SportsNet and FOX Sports Arizona. For international viewers, the game will be available on NBA League Pass.