Preview: Lakers try to extinguish Suns’ hot start

PHOENIX, AZ – MARCH 2: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks to pass the ball during the game against the Phoenix Suns on March 2, 2019 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Lakers look to rebound against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, their first game since having their seven-game winning streak snapped by the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. The Lakers were nursing a five-point halftime lead, but a poor second half showing means they now turn their attention towards Phoenix’s rising Suns to get back on the winning trail. The Suns could draw even with the Lakers in the division and conference standings with a win at home against LA tonight.

The Lakers continue to look to fix their issues from three, as they only shot 10-30 against Toronto. Another issue that head coach Frank Vogel will look to rectify from the defeat is their transition on both ends. The Raptors chewed up the Lakers, outscoring them 32-8 in fastbreak points. The Suns come in ranked 9th in pace (three spots ahead of Toronto), so they will look to punish the Lakers on the break whenever they can, but the Suns are a different beast entirely than the Raptors.

Phoenix’s 6-3 start has surprised a lot of people, but they rank first in true shooting percentage (59%), second in effective field goal percentage (55.3%), and are third in the NBA in net rating (7.2), sitting one spot behind the Lakers (7.4). Putting it simply: they’re good at putting the basketball in the hoop, but this isn’t your older siblings’ “Seven Seconds or Less Suns”. They have the look of a complete basketball team, maintaining an above-average defensive rating of 103.7, which is good for twelfth in the NBA.

Perhaps the most impressive part is that the Suns have largely done this without second year big man Deandre Ayton, who is currently suspended by the NBA. Aron Baynes has done a great job of filling in, with a PER sitting at 25.48 whilst playing nearly 25 minutes per game. Still, the key to stopping Phoenix is their all-world shooter Devin Booker. He’s rounding out his game nicely, and he’s been a force at home, shooting 60.3% from the floor (he only shoots 46.3% on the road). Phoenix will look to get him going early, especially from the outside, where he’s shooting a ridiculous 57.7%. This is emblematic of Phoenix’s offensive game, where they are 5th in the league in three point percentage. Juxtapose that with how the Lakers play and struggle from distance, and you’re likely to see where the game is won and lost tonight.

The Lakers are going to need their rotations to be crisp and their perimeter defense must be on alert at all times. Danny Green and LeBron will be run through a wall of screens, as the Suns look to scheme their shooters (especially Booker) into situations with the Lakers’ big men. Keep in mind, the Suns are leading the league in assist percentage, so don’t expect a ton of isolation when the Suns have the ball.

The Lakers will be taking on the Suns at 6:00 PST in Phoenix. Be sure to follow Lakers Outsiders on Twitter and Instagram for updates.

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