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Stakes high for Lakers in Sunday’s matchup against Suns

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shoots between Los Angeles Lakers forward Markieff Morris (88), guard Dennis Schroder (17), and forward Kyle Kuzma (0) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Los Angeles Lakers are just about out of time.

For a team all year that has given off the vibe that they don’t give a hoot about what seed they land for the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine they thought it could potentially get to the point where they were in a play-in spot, seventh or lower.

And yet, after Friday’s action, Basketball-Reference has it at over a 74% chance of the Lakers being there. They sit one game back of Portland in sixth and the Blazers own the tiebreaker.

Los Angeles, of course, would be heavy favorites in a play-in game against Golden State, Memphis or San Antonio. But a whole lot can happen in one game. And if that game goes a certain way, then it would be win or go home.

That, my friends, gives Sunday’s matchup with the Phoenix Suns a certain amount of extra stakes to it. Beating Phoenix would drastically change the Lakers’ odds, as they’ll need to string together something special to catch Portland.

With that in mind, Suns head coach Monty Williams was asked after practice Saturday about the mentality the Lakers will have.

“We’re the same way. We play with a sense of urgency and desperation too,” Williams said. “I’m more of the mindset of focusing on our team, playing the way we’re supposed to play. If we do that we can beat anybody in the league.”

Fair enough!

But is there any extra motivation the Suns can have from their perspective to keep the defending champs in a more compromising position? Or is it just business as usual?

“It’s just business, for real,”  Suns guard Devin Booker said. “It’s too hard to try to control. You know what’s going to happen in the future so we worry about ourselves and we go out there every night and try to win every game.”

Okie dokie!

A big development on Friday outside of the standings was that in the Lakers’ loss to the Blazers, All-NBA big man Anthony Davis somewhat found his stride.

Davis hadn’t played for two months due to problems with his calf, and in his first eight games back, didn’t look like Anthony Davis.

He did on Friday, however, notching 36 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

For Sunday, the Lakers will continue to be without starting point guard Dennis Schroder due to health and safety protocols. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that LeBron James is expected to miss Sunday’s game too as he continues to sit for the betterment of his right ankle ahead of the playoffs after missing 23 of the team’s last 25 games.

While the league’s number one duo of James and Davis has played a combined one game against the Suns this year across two Phoenix wins, Sunday will be Davis’ first go against the Suns this season.

To go back to those Basketball-Reference odds, they peg the Suns at a 76.3% likelihood of getting the second seed. Meaning, if the Lakers stick at seventh and take care of business in the first play-in game, we very well could see a Suns-Lakers series in the first round.

There hasn’t been much of a preview for it given the Lakers’ health, but Sunday will at least give us our first idea of how the Suns can match up with one of the best basketball players on the planet in Davis.

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