19 December 2020 06:38
What: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns When: Friday, 8:30 PM tipoff Where: Phoenix Suns arena Watch: ESPN, Fox Sports Arizona Listen: 98.7 FM For the second time in three nights, the Phoenix Suns will host the world champion Lakers in a preseason game. Get used to it folks, in terms of consecutive games against the same team. Suns will do it again next week, in Sacramento for a pair. This is the preseason finale for both teams, with a five-day layoff before the games start officially counting. Because of that, and the fact that it's being aired on ESPN, I expect both the Suns and Lakers will play their starters closer to 30 minutes each.
Oh sure, the fourth quarter will be the deep benches again, but those first three quarters could be must-watch TV. Yours truly will be at the arena to cover the game. I'll be masked up and socially distanced from everyone else, and won't get too near other media members or get to interview players in person or anything, but I couldn't pass up the chance to check out the renovated arena with my own two eyes! I figure there might be less people at a preseason game, just in case I get jittery about people getting too close. The other night We just saw these teams play two days ago. LeBron James and Anthony Davis played their first minutes of the season, running regular stints in the first half before resting the second half. The Suns played Jae Crowder for the first time, and Chris Paul saw his second game. The whole new starting unit played and looked great, while the third unit took the place of the second unit as top reserves Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson and Dario Saric all sat out with minor ailments. The Suns ran up the score to 20-7 to start the game before resting starters, and then dominated the third quarter to take a 14-point lead into the fourth. But everyone behind the starters played poorly, and the Suns ultimately lost the game to the Lakers' bench (112-107 final). Deandre Ayton put up 21 and 9, Devin Booker had 16/7/4 while Chris Paul had 4/8/8. Jevon Carter led the bench scorers with 15 points. Tonight The Suns get to enjoy the return of the Cams in the second unit, but Dario the connector is still out. Everyone for the Suns is listed healthy except Dario (quad) and Abdel Nader (concussion protocol). The Lakers are all listed healthy again. Expected starting lineups What to watch The Chris Paul to Deandre Ayton pick and roll connection is hot hot hot because Paul just manipulates everything perfectly. Last time, the defense focused more on CP than DA, so CP dished (8 assists) rather than score (2 baskets) while DA racked up 21 points. Paul is so good that if the Lakers switch to defend the rolling Ayton, you might see Paul drop 15-20 points of this own this time. We should expect the two of them to average a combined 35-40 points a night on full minutes in a regular season game. A nightmare for defenses, who will have to commit extra guys to defend this action all year. Oh yeah, and then there's the team's leading scorer, Devin Booker, to worry about. And Jae and Mikal spotting up for weak side threes. Does a win matter? No, because it's a preseason game. The final score doesn't matter at all. Just look for execution from any lineup filled with regular season players. Don't worry Don't stress over lineups with Damian Moore and/or Johnathan Motley in extended minutes. They're only playing because the Suns are missing Dario and unwilling to extend the minutes of the swing forwards or rookie Jalen Smith in preseason. You'll see as much of them in the regular season as you saw of Cheick Diallo and Tariq Owens a year ago. And don't stress about Jevon Carter or E'Twaun Moore in extended offensive initiator minutes. They're only getting point guard minutes because of Cameron Payne's injury and the Suns not wanting to extend Chris Paul or Devin Booker in preseason. You'll see as much of them on-ball as much as you saw of Ty Jerome on-ball a year ago (Payne is getting Elie's minutes from last year). Be Happy The Suns are playing on a gorgeous new court with a future Hall of Fame point guard running the show with a talented young core ready to be a force in this league. Prediction Someone wins.