Preview: Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns

Preview: Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns
Lakers point guard Steve Nash lays it in as Phoenix guard Goran Dragic applies pressure during a game on Feb. 12. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers (24-48) host the Phoenix Suns (44-29) on Sunday night at Staples Center.

Phoenix has had little trouble scoring against the Lakers this season, averaging 117.3 points in three games, all victories for the Suns.


The Suns are in a tight race at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff standings, fighting as one of three teams vying for two postseason slots. Phoenix is in seventh place, the Memphis Grizzlies (43-29) are in eighth and the Dallas Mavericks (44-30) are ninth.

Whereas a win could be viewed as a negative for the Lakers, taking draft lottery positioning into place, the Suns need every victory they can get.

Key matchup

Point guard Goran Dragic has had a tremendous season, averaging 20.6 points and 6.0 assists.  Through 69 appearances, Dragic is shooting 51.5% from the field and 42.8% from three-point range.

Even when Dragic was a reserve with the Houston Rockets, he seemed to cause the Lakers problems.

The Lakers are relying on big minutes from Kendall Marshall, who is averaging 8.0 points and 8.9 assists.

Marshall isn't necessarily a strong defender.  Coach Mike D'Antoni typically puts Jodie Meeks on an opponent's higher-scoring guard, but the Suns also play Eric Bledsoe at the two -- which probably means Marshall will need to do his best against the crafty Dragic.


The Lakers have had trouble with many Phoenix players this season, including Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye.

Gerald Green has emerged as one of the Suns' most explosive scorers, averaging 15.4 points while shooting 43.9% from the field and 39.2% from long range.

The Suns average 105.5 points while allowing 102.5.  Phoenix may not be the best defensive team in the league, but the Lakers may be among the worst, allowing 108.9 while scoring 102.4 a game.

Now that Nick Young has returned from a knee injury, the Lakers have another important offensive weapon back on the floor. Young is averaging 17.0 points, just a half a point below the team's leading scorer, Pau Gasol.


The Suns have won six straight and are a particularly difficult matchup for the Lakers.


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