Here is what you need to know before the Lakers tip off the year’s first road game against the Phoenix Suns.
1) Lonzo will face another strong defender
The first game of Lonzo Ball’s career will largely be remembered for the way that First Team All-Defensive selection Patrick Beverley brought his trademark aggression (and trash talk) against the rookie.
Beverley refused to give Ball much breathing room, leading to a three-point night for the second-overall pick on just 1-of-6 shooting. However, Lonzo did add nine rebounds and four assists, while not allowing Beverley’s tactics to speed him up or lose composure.
While elite defenders like Beverley are a premium in the NBA, Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe can certainly hold his own on that end.
Bledsoe is an impressive mix of muscle and speed, though Ball may be able to take advantage of the other players that join him on the court.
Already an expert at exploiting his teammates’ mismatches, Lonzo should have plenty of opportunities to pick at a defense that surrendered a league-high 113.3 points per game last year — provided he is able to hold his own against Bledsoe’s pressure.
2) The new starting frontcourt combination was successful on offense
One of the biggest storylines in training camp was which power forward — Larry Nance Jr. or Julius Randle — would best pair with Brook Lopez in the starting lineup.
Nance got the call in Thursday’s season opener and made a strong case with 14 points — almost exclusively on dunks — and 12 rebounds. He worked well in tandem with Lopez, who took a while to get going but finished as the team’s scoring leader with 20 points.
Randle didn’t have as successful a time, ending with nine points and six boards in 18 minutes. However, his chief struggle was the same as Nance’s: containing Blake Griffin.
Lakers coach Luke Walton envisions Randle feasting on opposing second units, but he spent a large portion of his night matched up against a five-time all-star. Griffin put on an offensive showcase at the expense of both Randle and Nance, piling up 29 points through a combination of dunks, drives and 3-pointers.
Griffin also hauled in 12 rebounds, but that was only half the total of center DeAndre Jordan, who gobbled up misses whenever Lopez had to protect the rim against a driving Clipper who had beaten his defender.
For this next matchup just 24 hours later, Phoenix will likely go small with rookie Josh Jackson starting at power forward, while 17-year veteran Tyson Chandler has shown still capable of holding it down at center after averaging 11.5 boards last year.
3) Both teams are focused on leaving opening night in the past
For all that went wrong in the Lakers’ sloppy loss to the Clippers, the Suns were even worse in their opener.
In fact, Phoenix’s 124-76 loss to Portland was both the largest loss in franchise history and the biggest defeat ever by any team on opening night.
But underestimating the Suns’ firepower would be foolish for the Lakers.
Devin Booker is a flamethrower who dropped 70 on the Celtics last year in the NBA’s highest-scoring night since Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game. Bledsoe and T.J. Warren are vicious slashers that get to the foul line with ease.
And both squads are committed to playing an electric pace, which is exactly the kind of setting that Ball thrives in. Look for him to find his groove in transition in what should be a busy night for the scoreboard operator.
Lakers: Josh Hart (left Achilles bursitis) is questionable.
Suns: Alex Len (left ankle sprain) is probable. Tyler Ulis (left quad contusion) is questionable. Brandon Knight (left ACL tear), Alan Williams (right meniscus repair) and Davon Reed (left meniscus repair) are out.
Tip-Off: 7 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Location: Talking Stick Resort Arena — Phoenix, Arizona
Click here to view game notes for this contest.
Larry can go get it
A post shared by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on Oct 19, 2017 at 9:41pm PDT