Devin Booker’s return has only made the Phoenix Suns stronger. The Suns’ leading scorer was back to his usual self against the Charlotte Hornets. He finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in 26 minutes of game time. He was a game-high +/- 32, which means that the Suns outscored the Hornets by 32 points when he was on the floor.
The Booker and Chris Paul pairing is one of the best in the NBA and will certainly be a headache for the LA Lakers to contain. LA’s improvised lineup will also have to contend with the Phoenix Suns’ bevy of savvy and aggressive supporting players.
The LA Lakers just aren’t catching any breaks. With the virus outbreak decimating almost half the roster, they also had to contend with Anthony Davis’ knee injury. After taking on the tough-as-nails Chicago Bulls, they are now slated to face the best team in the NBA record-wise.
LeBron James and the crew stayed toe to toe with the Bulls by playing with more focus and determination from bell to bell. They will have to bring more of that against the polished and poised display of the Phoenix Suns.
Fixture: Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers | 2021-22 NBA season
Date & Time: Tuesday, December 21st; 10:00 PM ET (Wednesday, December 22nd; 8:30 AM IST)
Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Phoenix Suns Preview
That the Phoenix Suns do not have anyone under health and safety protocols has to be investigated by the NBA. While almost every team in the league has been scrambling for G-League reinforcements, the Suns only got healthier with Devin Booker’s return.
The Phoenix Suns’ dominance this season was encapsulated in the win against the Charlotte Hornets. Coach Monty Williams’ team played with almost clockwork precision on offense and was downright suffocating on defense. They dominated the interior with 60-46 points in the paint differential and were a big reason for the Suns’ win.
Chris Paul and Devin Booker are starting to cause some serious headaches for opposing defenses. They will likely continue to do so against the LA Lakers’ makeshift and undermanned lineup.
Key Player - Chris Paul
Chris Paul is the Phoenix Suns’ metronome. It’s almost an understatement to say that he is the heartbeat of the team. Even without Devin Booker, who is the team’s leading scorer, the Suns were still a confident bunch who just kept on chugging along. Paul is the biggest reason for such an impressive display this season.
The Point God is the only player in the NBA that ranks in the top 5 in both assists and steals. He leads the league with 10.1 assists and is tied for second with 2 swipes per contest. The 36-year old superstar just never knows how to slow down.
The LA Lakers’ defense will surely know that stopping or limiting 11x All-Star is the best recipe for success. Doing that with a depleted lineup is an entirely different thing altogether.
Phoenix Suns Predicted Lineup
G - Chris Paul | G - Devin Booker | F - Mikal Bridges | F - Jae Crowder | C - Deandre Ayton
LA Lakers Preview
The LA Lakers, like many teams in the league right now, have resorted to hiring G-League players just to keep the show going. Isaiah Thomas went from G-League to NBA starter in just a matter of days. To be fair, he is doing it not only because of the lack of warm bodies but also because he has been playing well.
Russell Westbrook was acquired by the LA Lakers for precisely this reason. He will have to play better than the performance he showed against the Chicago Bulls. Westbrook finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists, but he also had a game-high 6 turnovers.
While it’s easy to justify those turnovers as a result of heavy usage, those miscues have to drastically go down. The LA Lakers had 20 turnovers, which really cost them the game. They can’t afford those gaffes against the unforgiving defense of the Phoenix Suns.
Key Player - LeBron James
The LA Lakers are practically throwing the kitchen sink just to stay afloat. They are currently trying LeBron James at center in a small-ball lineup. While this has certain advantages, there are also repercussions in the long run that could doom the Lakers’ season.
Against the Phoenix Suns, he will have to go up against Deandre Ayton, who has been playing with a chip on his shoulder this season. At this stage, the four-time MVP shouldn’t have to carry this heavy of a workload for the LA Lakers just to have a chance of making the play-in.
LeBron James, at nearly 37 years of age, is still a serious problem for opposing teams. If he can only get consistent support from the rest of the roster, the LA Lakers will look like legit contenders.
LA Lakers Predicted Lineup
G - Isaiah Thomas | G - Russell Westbrook | F - Wayne Ellington | F - LeBron James | C - DeAndre Jordan
Suns vs Lakers Match Prediction
The LA Lakers will have to show the same fight they brought to the table against the Chicago Bulls for a chance to compete against the Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix is a well-oiled machine right now that is decidedly healthier than the Purple and Gold team. Despite LeBron James’ best efforts, the Phoenix Suns could go 2-0 against the Lakers this season.
Where to watch the Suns vs Lakers game
The game is available on national TV via TNT.