Game Preview: Suns Face Lakers to Begin In-Season Tournament….

The Phoenix Suns are embarking on their first game of a three-game homestand tonight against longtime rivals in the Los Angeles Lakers.

It’s also the first game of a new era of NBA basketball.

The Suns and Lakers are both playing their first group game in the first NBA in-season tournament. The Suns will be wearing their new City edition “El Valle” jerseys while playing on their special edition tournament court.

Both teams have faced inconsistency to varying degrees coming into the matchup. The Lakers are 3-5, including 0-5 on the road after a 128-94 drubbing at the hand of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

The Suns are coming off of a frustrating performance that happened to turn into a win, in a 116-115 triumph against the Chicago Bulls the same night.

On the health front, Devin Booker remains out for the Suns, as does Damion Lee. Bradley Beal is probable and is expected to play his first game in front of a rambunctious Suns crowd. Jaxson Hayes and star big man Anthony Davis are questionable for the Lakers.

This should still be an intriguing matchup despite the fact that we almost certainly won’t get fully healthy teams tonight. Here are some things to look out for:

Lakers’ Poor Perimeter Attack

The Lakers are off to a rocky start in all aspects, but the offense has been among the worst in the NBA.

The team was hopeful that third year guard Austin Reaves, the talented but inconsistent D’angelo Russell, and new acquisition Gabe Vincent would be sufficient support for the James/Davis duo, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth at this point.

The Lakers currently grade out as one of the very worst defenses in basketball, and much of that is due to the over-reliance on the franchises’ superstar duo.

The team is also shooting sub-30 percent from three point range and a quite poor 76.5% from the free throw line.

Just as important as the poor perimeter play on the offense is the surprisingly mediocre defensive product the Lakers have put out. Initially believed to be one of the very best defenses in the league coming into the season, they currently rank number 19 in defensive efficiency, and quite obviously rely too much on Anthony Davis being an enforcer down low.

While it is true that Jarred Vanderbilt, potentially their best non-Davis defender, has missed the entire season so far, his offensive game is sometimes such a non-factor that his ability to defend loses value.

The Lakers’ lack of production on the perimeter on both sides of the ball should be a huge advantage for Phoenix tonight.

The former top 10 pick out of Gonzaga has found a home in Los Angeles after several years of failing to develop on the Washington Wizards.

The talented forward has likely been the Lakers’ third best player this season, even in a four game sample of coming off the bench, averaging 13 points a game on efficiency shooting in only 17 minutes per contest.

Hachimura was reportedly a player of interest for Phoenix last season before the blockbuster Kevin Durant trade, and understandably so. Hachimura’s presence in the game tonight will also draw another layer of intrigue, as he will face off against the Suns’ very own Yuta Watanabe.

They are currently the sole players of Japanese descent to be playing in the NBA.

The Suns and Lakers will tip off shortly after 8 PM Arizona time, and the game will be a national-exclusive broadcast on ESPN.

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