Lonzo Ball’s highest-scoring output of his 15 NBA games came against the Phoenix Suns and that might be why he will still be in the starting lineup Friday. Ball is averaging 4.5 points on 4-of-19 shooting over the past two games but Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton said he isn’t moving the No. 2 overall pick to the bench for the home tilt against Phoenix.
Ball scored a season-high 29 points (he also had 11 rebounds and nine assists) against the Suns on Oct. 20 but struggled in the rematch Monday when he tallied only seven on 2-of-10 shooting. Then came an even poorer effort against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday when Ball scored two points on 1-of-9 shooting and didn’t play in the fourth quarter for the second straight game. “He’s our starting point guard,” Walton insisted after Thursday’s practice. “So there’s no discussion, no talks as of now of moving Lonzo to the bench. Nah. He’s our starting point guard.” Phoenix has dropped seven of its last eight games and its defense was non-existent while giving up 90 first-half points in Thursday’s 142-116 loss to the Houston Rockets.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FSN Arizona (Phoenix), Spectrum Sports Net (Los Angeles)
ABOUT THE SUNS (5-11): Center Greg Monroe started against the Rockets in his Phoenix debut and had season highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes, and he is also expected to start the Lakers. Monroe, who was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks in the recent deal for guard Eric Bledsoe, was inserted into the lineup because starter Tyson Chandler is away from the team because of a respiratory illness. Standout shooting guard Devin Booker registered a season-best 10 assists against Houston but scored only 18 points after scoring 35 or more in each of the previous two games.
ABOUT THE LAKERS (6-9): While Ball continues to struggle, second-year forward Brandon Ingram (26 points) and rookie forward Kyle Kuzma (24) each recorded career-best point totals during the loss to the 76ers. Ingram, the second overall pick in 2016, is averaging 14.7 points while Kuzma is faring even better at 15.5 and said the scrutiny Ball is under is more than a tad unfair. “I know he wants to play better and wants to be that guy,” Kuzma told reporters. “I think he is going to be all right. The media and everybody in the country wants him to be a Hall of Famer, wants him to be an All-Star right now, but he is still a rookie. It is tough to play at this level for anybody. There are 10-year vets that play way worse than he does and nobody talks about them.”
1. The Lakers are 2-0 against the Suns this season after losing 16 of the previous 22 meetings.
2. Phoenix backup SG Troy Daniels matched a franchise record with six 3-pointers in a quarter (the second) versus the Rockets and finished with season bests of 23 points and seven 3-pointers.
3. Los Angeles reserve PG Jordan Clarkson has scored 20 or more points in each of the past two games and is averaging a team-leading 15.8 points.
PREDICTION: Lakers 125, Suns 119