Game Thread: Suns (13-9) at Lakers (17-3)

Lakers 115, Suns 110

Suns

Suns

Lakers

Lakers

I feel bad for anyone who bet on the Suns to win this game in Vegas before finding out Phoenix’s roster would be shell of the team that can’t beat the Lakers anyway.

The Suns will be without Shaquille O’Neal, who is heading east for the funeral of his 92-year-old great grandmother, as well as trade victims Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary.

That means the Suns will suit up a likely starting lineup of Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire and Robin Lopez and a bench consisting of Matt Barnes and that’s about it (unless you count Goran Dragic, Lou Amundson and activation candidate Alando Tucker).

And that’s not to mention that the Lakers will be pissed off after the Kings improbably snapped an eight-game losing streak against them last night.

At first I was a bit critical when I found out Shaq would be playing last night against the Bucks (good thing he played) with the way he often sits one game of back-to-backs, but that was before I realized the Daddy would miss this game anyway. If it weren’t for a family issue, you know there’s no way the Big Cactus would be sitting this one out.

Shaq’s first game in Los Angeles against the Lakers with the Suns will now have to wait until Feb. 26.

In the meantime, Lopez will play heavy minutes tonight, assuming foul trouble doesn’t limit him. Knowing there’s really nobody behind him, Lopez has got to make an extra effort to limit his fouls because the Suns need his big body to bang against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

One bright side to the Suns’ lack of depth is we will likely see Hill and Barnes together quite a bit. The duo often substituted for each other early in the season, but they have played well in concert in recent games.

Unlike the last time the Suns played the Lakers, this is the furthest thing from a measuring stick game. The Suns should be happy if they come away healthy and aren’t utterly embarrassed, as they just don’t have the firepower to beat L.A. tonight.

I think their best shot is to take a page out of D’Antoni’s book and maybe catch the Lakers off guard by speeding things up with Nash, Barbosa, Barnes and a healthy dose of Amare.

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