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Preview: Los Angeles Lakers (13-14) vs. Phoenix Suns (16-10)

Time: 7 p.m. MST




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Steve Nash was supposed to benefit from reuniting with Mike D’Antoni. Pau Gasol and his coach were supposed to be over a riff from last season. Kobe Bryant was supposed to be back. It hasn’t happend.

What has? The Los Angeles Lakers are finding themselves with the Dwight Howard mess in the past and the roster having a summer to be constructed for D’Antoni and not Mike Brown. That’s happened, but the Lakers have done that without Nash and Bryant and without smooth sailing from the Gasol-D’Antoni dynamic.

Kendall Marshall being Nash’s replacement is the only thing that’s happened the way it’s supposed to … only it’s happening in Los Angeles and only because of desperation and the Phoenix Suns officially giving up on the second-year guard before the season.

The Suns host the Lakers on Monday with the confidence from a two-game winning streak, and though things haven’t gone how they were envisioned in Lakerland, it’s not all bad.

These two teams are fun to watch and despite playing with relatively lesser talent than some other NBA squads, are dangerous. The Lakers are coming off a loss to the Golden State Warriors but previously had beaten Memphis and Minnesota, two teams picked to finished ahead of them by season’s end.

How does Kendall Marshall look?

The former Suns point guard that was waived by the Washington Wizards and picked up after a brief D-League stint debuted for six minutes against the Warriors and hit a three to go with four turnovers. The law of averages says he plays a bit better against his former squad.

Marshall didn’t fit with the Suns, but he certainly got a bad reputation with Phoenix for fair reasons. He still could turn into a decent NBA player if he grows to understand the gravity of his situation. He’s an elite passer who could still develop a fine jumper, and his set three isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be. If he takes his development seriously despite the quick second chance, he can turn into a fine floor general.

The fit in Los Angeles works well simply because D’Antoni won’t yank Marshall for defensive inability if he’s producing on offense. Right now, the Lakers just need a body and there’s no risk for either party to see how this works at this point.

Can the Suns score in the paint?

The Lakers didn’t have Pau Gasol because of a respiratory infections against Golden State, and though they have Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman available, they’re still prone to giving up a lot of dribble penetration. The Suns should look to attack off the bounce before relying on the three-point shot, even though the deep ball has been falling of late. After all, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe will be facing the likes of Xavier Henry and Marshall, and it’s not as if those two — or anyone on the Los Angeles roster — has a good shot of staying in front of the point guard duo.

If and when they penetrate, the Morris twins and Miles Plumlee need to put themselves in position to score off passes from the guards. And Channing Frye will, in all likelihood, be ready to keep gunning from deep.

Can Phoenix avoid playing into the Lakers’ hands?

Against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, the Suns played perhaps one of their best offensive games but still gave up 108 points. It was a feeling that they didn’t need to play defense with a decent lead, but they can’t let a freewheeling Lakers team get confident in their chucking.

Though it’d be fine to see the Suns play great on both ends, it’s better news if they make Los Angeles look uncomfortable and apprehensive. How Hornacek and Co. aim to do that will be an interesting thing to observe.

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