When the Los Angeles Lakers face off against Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns on December 5, it will be the third meeting between the two teams this season and the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament. But it will be the first time they see Booker this season.
Booker, for one, is looking forward to it.
“I’m excited for this one,” Booker said via Duane Rankin of azcentral on December 2. “I know they’re playing well as of now. And they’re back healthy, they have their roster back. So it’ll be a heavyweight match in L.A. A lot on the line. Winner goes to Vegas, so I think everyone’s looking forward to it. It’ll be fun.”
The Lakers won both previous meetings by an average margin of four points. Booker – averaging a hair under 28.0 points per game this season – might have turned the tide.
Booker averages 23.1 points per game against the Lakers in his career. In two games last season – one win and one loss – he averaged 29.0 points on 62.2% true shooting. The Suns come in having won six of their last eight contests.
Their last outing, a 116-109 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, saw Booker go for 34 points.
The Lakers have the ninth-best defensive rating, per NBA.com. The Grizzlies rank 12th, suggesting the latter could stand a better chance at slowing down the Suns’ No. 8-ranked offense. For the Lakers, their 24th-ranked offense will go against the league’s No. 18 overall defense for Phoenix.
LeBron James Congratulated Kevin Durant on Moving into Scoring Top-10
The achievement drew praise from Lakers star LeBron James, who moved into No. 1 last season.
“TOP 10!!!!! @KDTrey5 CONGRATS,” James posted on X, accompanying the sentiments with a host of fire emojis.
Durant had 30 points, a season-high 11 assists, and three blocks in the win over Denver. He scored 39 and 38 points, respectively, in the first two meetings against the Lakers, grabbing nine-plus rebounds in each contest as well. Durant is 6-17 all-time head-to-head with James, per Statmuse, including 0-3 since the latter has been a member of the Lakers.
Jarred Vanderbilt’s Return
One key difference for the Lakers in this meeting will be Jarred Vanderbilt. He missed the first two meetings against the Suns, most of the preseason, and had missed the entire regular season until making his debut versus the Houston Rockets.
“It felt good to get back out there with my teammates,” Vanderbilt said via Lakeshow Interviews. “Anytime you can get back on the court is always a good feeling.”
He admitted to having some “rust” and needing to get his conditioning back up to par. But he could be a significant difference-maker in a matchup that will challenge the Lakers on both ends of the floor. It may just not have much of an effect against Durant. The Suns star had 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting the last time he matched up against Vanderbilt
That was in 2021-22, though.
Vanderbilt, then with the Minnesota Timberwolves, had 10 points, 15 rebounds, and three assists in that game. He also logged one block and one steal. But Durant’s Brooklyn Nets were the victors in a 110-105 affair.