The Los Angeles Lakers are in search of their fifth straight win tonight as they host the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. They will have to do so without their defensive stalwart, Andrew Bynum, who is serving the final game of his two-game suspension for a flagrant foul on Friday against Minnesota. The Lakers have turned it up a notch defensively, thanks largely to Bynum, and are 12-1 since the All-Star break.
During that span, the Lakers have allowed just 87.9 points per game, and have held eight of their last 13 opponents under 90 points. They have allowed a paltry 1.02 points per possession since the break, while maintaining their offensive efficiency at 1.13 points per possession during that time (the Lakers are second in the NBA on the season with 1.115 points per possession).
On Sunday, the Lakers held Portland to 38.6% shooting from the field, the seventh foe since the break to shoot under 40%. That was without Bynum, but the Lakers still came through defensively, holding the Blazers to 80 points. Dexter Fishmore of the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll was impressed:
In the decisive moments, the Lakers as a team ramped up their ball pressure and started aggressively jumping the Blazers' passing lanes. The Blazers, in turn, let their composure slip. After turning the ball over just six times in the first three periods, they coughed it up eight times in the fourth quarter alone. Not only did this result in empty offensive possessions they couldn't afford - in the second half, the visitors scored only 0.78 points per trip - but it allowed the Lakers to get running in transition and push toward the hoop before that annoying zone defense could get in place.
Tonight, again without Bynum, the Lakers will need their defense again as they face the Steve Nash-led Suns. Phoenix is ninth in the league in offensive efficiency (1.09 points per possession), so the Lakers will have their hands full. But, the Suns are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league (third-worst in offensive rebounding percentage, fourth-worst in defensive rebounding percentage) so Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom should be able to clean up tonight. Look for double-doubles from both big men as the Lakers try to win the season series against Phoenix.
For more news on the Lakers or tonight's game, be sure to read Silver Screen and Roll.