There are a few obvious topics that frame this Christmas tilt between the Suns and the Lakers. First is the Suns as a measuring stick. The Lakers at 17-10 have crept up the Western Conference standings, but there is still a gap between them and the top teams. A win today would pull the Lakers to within one in the Pacific division and they would even be getting close to San Antonio at the top of the conference. Additionally, the Lakers torched the Suns early in the season in Phoenix and a similar victory tonight would remove any thought that the Lakers caught the Suns before they got going. On an individual basis, this will also be another big game for Andrew Bynum. Andrew will have a tough match-up against Amare Stoudemire, but he has the opportunity to dominate physically. If he can do that, then he can cause the Suns to play more Brian Skinner or make then go ever deeper than they normally prefer into their bench. Both Amare and Bynum face foul potential that could affect their minutes and likely the outcome.
Second, the last game ended quite heated, featuring a few verbal blasts from Suns coach Mike D’Antoni. The recent history of these teams will continue to create extra friction as familiarity has certainly bred contempt. Lakers fans will doubtless take the opportunity to boo Raja Bell if his back spasms subside enough for him to play.
Third, as ever, is the respective injury reports for the teams. Kwame will not be playing. He’s getting closer, but Phil said, “I wouldn’t put Kwame out in this game, he isn’t ready.” Phil went on to talk about what Kwame could do, given the quality of the team’s play in Kwame’s absence. Phil said, “Kwame has the ability to play people one-on-one in the post. Boozer, that’s a guy he would play. The last time we played Utah he wasn’t there so it didn’t matter, but maybe he can play the other kid that killed us, Millsap. That’s the kind of effort he can give us.” On the subject of Lakers big men, Phil cautioned not to read to much into Mihm’s aggressive dunk against the Knicks. Luke hopes to return tonight, but it will be a game time decision. Were he to return, guarding Marion would certainly be a test of the ankle. On the Phoenix side, their only real injury at this time is Raja Bell, as mentioned above.
The recall of Coby Karl changes the Lakers bench composition somewhat, but expect him to be inactive for tonight’s game and likely to be used as one of the Lakers inactives once Kwame returns.
UPDATE: Luke and Kwame are inactive for tonight’s game, so Coby Karl is on the bench.
For more discussion on the tactics for the game, check out our Scouting Report