Lakers-Suns Preview

The Phoenix Suns continue to surge behind efficient offense, though much of their recent success has come against lesser competition.

Monday night’s visit by the Los Angeles Lakers figures to be another relatively easy matchup before the schedule toughens up.

The Suns (24-18) rank third in the NBA with a 12-4 record since Dec. 17. They’ve averaged 111.4 points in that span – second behind league-best Golden State – after previously scoring 104.3 points per game. Phoenix has made an NBA-leading 54.4 percent of its 2-point attempts during its 12-4 run. It was previously 13th in the league at 49.3 percent.

Goran Dragic ranks second among all guards with a 60.4 2-point percentage since Dec. 17.

Seven of their last 12 wins have come against sub-.500 teams, however, including Friday’s 110-99 victory over Minnesota. Monday’s contest is the third on an eight-game homestand, though the rest will not be as easy. Phoenix will host Portland, Houston, the Clippers, Washington and Chicago – teams with a combined 140-66 record. Then the Suns visit Golden State before hosting division-leading Memphis and heading to Portland.

Phoenix is aiming for a sixth straight home win for the first time since an eight-game streak from March 14-April 13, 2010.

"We got a long home stretch right now so we’re going to try to win them all," said Eric Bledsoe, who has shot 37.5 percent from 3-point range over his last nine games after previously shooting 29.0 percent. "Games like this we need, and to win them big and get everybody rested for the next game is huge."

The Suns have won seven of eight in this series, including three meetings earlier this season and seven in a row at home by an average of 16.4 points. Phoenix is shooting 50.0 percent and averaging 22.0 fast-break points in the season series.

Los Angeles (12-29) is trying to avoid a fifth straight loss which would match its 0-5 start for its longest skid of the season. The Lakers have averaged 89.0 points during the four-game slide and could continue to be challenged offensively with Kobe Bryant expected to rest for the fifth time in eight games.

They committed 21 turnovers Friday – 15 in the first half – and had a season-low seven assists in a 94-85 loss at Utah.

Despite Los Angeles’ struggles, it has been one of the league’s better teams at taking care of the ball with 12.7 turnovers per game. Bryant has been chiefly responsible for the offense running smoothly, however, and he averaged 9.0 assists in his last seven games.

"Most of (the problem) is because (Bryant’s) not here," coach Byron Scott told the team’s official website. "Obviously he knows how to get guys the ball, but the second part of it is we just didn’t do a good job moving the ball. It’s simple as that. We all tried to do it one-on-one, and we don’t have guys who can do that on a night-to-night basis."

The Lakers fell to 2-5 without Bryant, though it averages a minus-3.2 scoring margin when he doesn’t play compared to minus-6.1 in all games.

Isaiah Thomas has averaged 21.5 points over his last four meetings with Los Angeles while shooting 62.0 percent and going 10 of 14 from 3-point range.