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Preview: Lakers at Phoenix Suns

December 23, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • The Lakers' Pau Gasol, center, is pressured by Phoenix's Eric Bledsoe, left, and Marcus Morris during the Lakers' 114-108 loss to the Suns at Staples Center.
The Lakers' Pau Gasol, center, is pressured by Phoenix's Eric… (Paul Buck / EPA )

On Monday night, the Lakers (13-14) will have a chance to avenge a Dec. 10 loss to the Suns (16-10) when they visit Phoenix.

The Suns have a potent backcourt with point guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.

The Lakers have no point guards, other than recently signed Kendall Marshall.

Forward Xavier Henry, who has a career high of four assists, is filling in at the position while Jordan Farmar (hamstring), Steve Nash (back), Steve Blake (elbow) and Kobe Bryant (knee) are sidelined with injuries.

Two weeks ago, Dragic scored 31 points against the Lakers while Bledsoe had 18 with nine assists. Forward Marcus Morris scored 22 off the bench on 10-of-13 shooting.

Blake and Bryant played in the loss. Can the Lakers get a short-handed win against one of this season's surprise teams?

Key matchup

Perhaps a taller defender on Dragic, such as the 6-foot-6 Henry, will slow down the crafty point guard who hit nine of 18 shots and all 11 free throws in the previous meeting.

The 6-foot-3 Dragic is a clever player who always seems to give the Lakers a difficult time.

The Lakers have struggled to run basic plays without a point guard. Henry can only do so much -- his court vision and passing skills are fundamentally limited.

Where Henry has helped the Lakers most is as a scorer off the dribble.

Marshall played his rookie season with the Suns. In brief minutes with the Lakers on Saturday night, he was unimpressive. Perhaps the chance to show up his old team will bring out something more.

X-factor

The Lakers had serious issues with the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff. In addition to Marcus' 22 points, Markieff chipped in 15 with seven rebounds.

Channing Frye is also a concern, one of the league's prototype stretch power forwards.

The Lakers are going to need to do a much better job sticking to the Phoenix shooters. Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill all have size but aren't as mobile as the quicker Suns.

Instead, the team might need big defensive performances from combo forward Shawne Williams and swingman Wesley Johnson.

Gasol was playing through a sprained ankle the last time the two teams met. He missed the Lakers loss on Saturday night to the Golden State Warriors.

If Gasol can be a powerful scoring force as well as a defensive presence, the Lakers will have a much better chance to steal a win on the road.

Outlook

The Lakers have hit on difficult times. Winning without a point guard is possible but the team goes into most games at a significant disadvantage.

The Suns are playing exceptionally well this season, despite lower expectations, even within the Phoenix organization.

Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni has kept his team competitive in most games, despite difficult circumstances.

A win Monday night in Phoenix would be impressive, though unlikely.

ALSO:

When will the Lakers get their point guards back?

Lakers pull out a victory over the Timberwolves, 104-91

Kobe-less Lakers 'excited' about proving people wrong, D'Antoni says

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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