With or without Pau Gasol, the Los Angeles Lakers winning in Phoenix against the Suns on Monday night is a tall order. Whereas the Lakers have no available point guards -- Kendall Marshall hardly counts at this point -- the Suns start two point guards in their back court.
Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic form one of the more potent backcourt combinations in the league. The duo has propelled the Suns to sixth place in the Western Conference with a 16-10 record. Even hotter than their record indicates, the Suns have won seven of the last eight games--including a win at Staples Center on Dec. 10.
During that game, Dragic, who is officially listed as the shooting guard, poured in 31 points and five assists. Bledsoe had an off shooting night but still managed 18 points to go along with his nine assists. To highlight the quality of Phoenix’s back court, the Lakers actually had Kobe Bryant and Steve Blake starting that game.
With Bryant, Blake, Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash all guaranteed to sit out Monday’s game, the Lakers have their work cut out for them. Coming off a horrific 24-turnover game against the Golden State Warriors, the lack of a true point guard is beginning to show.
Xavier Henry has been starting at point guard for Los Angeles, but he is an attack-first guard, and the Lakers’ lack of distribution was on full display against the Warriors. Jodie Meeks and Nick Young tried to help fill the hole created due to injuries, but both guards committed four turnovers in Saturday’s loss.
One positive to carry out of the loss in Oakland to the game in Phoenix was the Lakers’ defensive energy. LA held the Warriors to under 40 percent shooting for the game, and LA actually held Golden State to 34 percent shooting in the first half before running out of gas on the second night of a back to back.
In order to have any shot at a victory on Monday night, the Lakers will need to take better care of the basketball and sustain 48 minutes of defensive energy. Getting Gasol back from illness certainly would help the cause, as the Spaniard was the team’s top assists man in the Lakers’ point guard-less win against the Timberwolves on Friday night.
Tip-off for the Lakers at the Suns is 6:00 pm PST.