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Preview: Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns

The Lakers host the Phoenix Suns on Sunday evening

The Lakers (9-21) look to avoid a three-game losing streak on Sunday night, hosting the Phoenix Suns (17-14) at Staples Center.

The Suns have already beaten the Lakers twice this season, a particularly difficult matchup with guards Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas taking turns running their offense.

Kobe Bryant might return from a three-game absence, resting his 36-year-old, aching body. The Lakers lost two of three without him.

The Lakers are still down Xavier Henry (Achilles'), Ryan Kelly (hamstring), Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (leg). The Kings will be without Andrew Bogut (knee). 

Key matchup

The Suns blew out the Lakers early in the season (119-99), getting 23 points off the bench from Thomas, who made nine of 11 shots.

Dragic (18 points) and Bledsoe (16) were also problems.

Soon after, the Lakers gave the Suns a more competitive effort, falling 112-106. Thomas had 22 points and nine assists. Dragic managed 16 points while Bledsoe scored six.

Thomas has been the biggest trouble-maker so far, giving the Lakers fits with his quickness.

If he continues to carve up the Lakers' defense on Sunday, it could be another long night for the home team.

The Lakers need Ronnie Price and Jeremy Lin to keep up with Thomas.  Jordan Clarkson could be an option as well -- the rookie forward has gotten some playing time with Bryant out of the lineup.  While he's still raw, Clarkson's length and athleticism could come in handy against Thomas.

X-factor

In both games, a Phoenix shooter had a big night. The first was Marcus Morris, with 21 points on five-for-nine shooting from behind the three-point arc.

In the second battle, Gerald Green was hot, making five of his eight three-pointers to finish with 22 points.

The Suns are hard enough to defend, but if they're also converting perimeter shots, the Lakers could be in trouble.

Wesley Johnson, Nick Young and Wayne Ellington will be charged with slowing the shooting guards and small forwards. Add Bryant to that list if he plays.

In two games, Bryant has averaged 35 points against Phoenix.

Outlook

The Suns recovered from a recent slump to win five in a row. Their particular brand of basketball, with quick guards, shooters and athletes make Phoenix a particularly difficult matchup for the Lakers.

Twitter: @EricPincus

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