Suns’ stars Beal and Booker sidelined vs. Lakers

Photo of Beal and Booker

Following their season-opening loss, the Los Angeles Lakers are determined to bounce back as they prepare to face a depleted Phoenix Suns team this Thursday. Notably, two of the Suns’ top players, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker, won’t be taking the court for the Lakers’ first home game.

Beal, who was brought to the Suns in an offseason trade from the Washington Wizards, was also absent in Phoenix’s 108-104 triumph over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday due to discomfort in his lower back. Despite Beal remarkable performance, where he led the team with 32 points and 8 assists in the victory against the Warriors, Booker won’t be able to participate in the Lakers’ game due to a left foot injury.

The Phoenix Suns’ lineup will still include the consistently impressive Kevin Durant, who is just 37 points away from moving into the 12th position on the all-time scoring list, currently occupied by Hakeem Olajuwon. Regarding the challenge of defending against Kevin Durant, Lakers guard Austin Reaves shared his perspective during Thursday’s shootaround, saying:

“When KD misses a shot, it’s often because he just missed it. You can play strong defense, contest the shot effectively, compete hard, and try to make things tough for him. However, with his towering 7-foot height and a wingspan that feels like it’s 7 feet and 15 inches, every time he releases a shot, it becomes nearly impossible to reach.

He releases the ball over the rim, which, especially for someone like me, who’s 8 feet and 3 inches, presents quite a challenge. But you give it your all to make things difficult for him. He’s a world-class player for a reason.”

In their opening game, the Lakers experienced a 119-107 defeat to the Denver Nuggets, and two significant storylines emerged. First, Anthony Davis went scoreless in the second half, and second, the Lakers encountered difficulties when LeBron James was on the bench.

Anthony Davis explained that he faced double-teams from the Nuggets in the second half and tried to pass to open shooters. However, he acknowledged that he needed to take more shots, having gone 0-for-6 after halftime.

When asked about adapting to this situation, Austin Reaves added, “It can be challenging at times because the goal is to maintain spacing and provide an opportunity for him to pass when the opposing team double-teams, whether it’s LeBron or AD. I think we need to create more confusion on the backside so that opposing teams can’t overload.”

In addition to introducing more movement in their offensive strategy, the Lakers’ role players must also adjust to the team’s plan of restricting LeBron James’ playing time to 28-30 minutes per game this season.

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In the season opener, the Lakers outscored the Denver Nuggets by seven points during the 29 minutes that LeBron James played, but they were outscored by 19 points during the 19 minutes when James was on the bench. Rui Hachimura, who trained with LeBron James during the offseason, emphasized:

“When he’s not on the court, I need to assume the role of performing both offensively and defensively, similar to what he’s been doing. He’s all over the court and possesses the physical presence to do that. So, I need to do that more, especially when he’s not on the court. That’s what the team desires, and that’s why LeBron talked about me being his ‘understudy.'”


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