The LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers have gotten off to a rocky start. Three straight games against playoff teams from last season have led to three straight losses for the purple and gold as they continue to get accustomed to playing with each other.
On Wednesday, the Lakers head to the desert to face the Phoenix Suns in search of their first win. The Suns enter the contest at 1-2 with their sole win coming against the Dallas Mavericks. Projected to be near the bottom of the NBA standings again, the Suns will be showcasing the number one overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Deandre Ayton, alongside their young star Devin Booker.
Both the Suns and Lakers enter the contest in the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency, surrendering 112.9 and 117.2 points per 100 possessions, respectively. As has been the case in every game the Lakers have played thus far, pace should be a key to the result. The Lakers lead the league in possessions while the Suns are 22nd. Fortunately for the Lakers, they should be able to get out and run as the Suns are the second worst team in the NBA at holding onto the ball, turning it over on 17.2 percent of their possessions.
For the Lakers, the key to the game will be two-fold. Can they contain Booker, the Suns’ only productive guard, and force him to have an inefficient night? And can they throw out enough bodies to counteract the Suns’ athletic bigs in Ayton, Tyson Chandler and Richaun Holmes? JaVale McGee has been a revelation for the Lakers but until Johnathan Williams’ stellar debut on Monday, the Lakers had had a tough time finding suitable backups for the starting center.
This promises to be another high scoring affair for the Lakers whose defense has been atrocious so far. The Suns are not the same caliber of team that the Blazers, Rockets and Spurs were but they still pose a difficult challenge with their 36.4 percent shooting from three (14th in the NBA) on 35.7 attempts per game.
That said, the Lakers should feel the pressure to come out focused in a much more winnable game. LeBron has not had a “LeBron” game quite yet in a Lakers uniform. The Phoenix Suns could be his first true victim.