Suns eye revenge, aim to keep Lakers winless on road
Posted on: 10 Nov, 2023 at 01:11 AM
Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
As the Phoenix Suns exude optimism, with their entire team close to taking the court together soon, the Los Angeles Lakers are searching for unity and cohesion amid their own injury issues.
The dueling mindsets are set to clash Friday when the Suns play host to the Lakers as the teams wade into NBA in-season tournament play for the first time.
The Suns' new backcourt pairing of Bradley Beal and Devin Booker has yet to play together, but the big reveal is getting close. Beal made his Suns debut Wednesday after missing the first seven games because of a back injury and scored 13 points in 24 minutes against the Chicago Bulls.
"We're going to be smart with his rotations and not let him have too long of runs," Suns head coach Frank Vogel said of Beal, who is dealing with lower back spasms but is probable for Friday.
Booker has missed the past six games with a calf injury but went through a workout before the 116-115 overtime victory in Chicago. He has been ruled out for Friday's game.
"(Booker is) making progress but no firm timetable yet," Vogel said.
Phoenix is figuring out how to have success without its star guard, winning back-to-back road games after a three-game losing streak.
Grayson Allen had his best game as a member of the Suns, scoring 26 points against the Bulls while making a career-best eight 3-pointers on 13 attempts.
Kevin Durant scored 25 points for the Suns while the most important of Jusuf Nurkic's 20 points came on a layup with 7.3 seconds remaining in overtime to put Phoenix up for good.
Vogel, who was fired as Lakers head coach after the 2021-22 season, is poised for a double dose of revenge. Not only was he dismissed two seasons after guiding the Lakers to the NBA title in 2020, but he also took the Suns into Los Angeles on Oct. 26 and left with a 100-95 defeat.
The Lakers are mired in their own three-game losing streak, all on the road, including a non-competitive 128-94 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. All-Star forward Anthony Davis sat out with a hip injury two days after scoring nine points in a season-low 25 minutes during a 108-107 loss at Miami.
Rui Hachimura did return after missing four games with a concussion, but big man Jaxson Hayes was out for Los Angeles with an ankle injury. Forward Jarred Vanderbilt has yet to play this season because of a heel injury.
The Lakers are trying to reduce minutes for 38-year-old star LeBron James but through eight games he hasn't even shaved a minute off his playing time from last season.
The blowout defeat Wednesday, though, did allow head coach Darvin Ham to sit James for the entire fourth quarter as he scored 18 points while logging a season-low 27 minutes. At this point, the Lakers will take their gains wherever they can get them.
"We can't build cohesion if we don't have our unit," James said after the Lakers dropped to 0-5 on the road. "It's that simple. We're very depleted on the injury side. We did a good job of sharing the ball offensively early on. We just couldn't get in a rhythm offensively and (the Rockets) were shooting the ball extremely well."
--Field Level Media