NBA Basketball

Ailing Lakers hope to take advantage of struggling Suns

The Los Angeles Lakers will try to avoid their longest losing streak of the season when they play the visiting Phoenix Suns on Sunday evening.

The Lakers (25-24) have lost three straight for the third time this season, and a loss to the Suns will drop them back to .500 for the first time since they were 6-6.

The Lakers are close to getting LeBron James back from a groin injury that has sidelined him since Christmas, but he won't play against the Suns.

James, who leads the Lakers in scoring (27.3) and rebounding (8.3), as is tied with Rajon Rondo for the lead in assists (7.1), practiced in full during a full-contact defensive session on Saturday, but coach Luke Walton told reporters he's remaining cautious with his star forward.

The Lakers are 5-10 since James was injured.

"He was a full participant in that, so it was good to see," Walton said. "He looked good. He's still really good at basketball, in case you guys were wondering."

Los Angeles might also be without second-leading scorer Kyle Kuzma, who has been bothered by a hip strain and has been held below his 19.1 scoring average the past two games.

Kuzma did not practice Saturday and is listed as questionable.

"I told him if he's moving like he was last game, I don't want him playing (Sunday), so we'll see how he looks," Walton said.

Kuzma said he plans to do everything possible to be ready, but that he has to listen to his body, too.

"I just don't like to sit out games, but it's a little give and take," Kuzma told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm a little hard-headed sometimes, but I've got to see what's right and what's wrong."

The Lakers are also without point guard Lonzo Ball, who missed the past two games with a sprained ankle that's expected to sideline him another three to five weeks.

The Suns have lost seven straight following their 132-95 loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Friday night, which opened a three-game road trip.

They're still a ways away from matching their season-long losing streak of 10 straight from Nov. 25 to Dec. 11, but the team's morale may have hit rock bottom.

Players held a 40-minute meeting after the loss in Denver.

"We're just going to keep everything in-house," Suns guard Jamal Crawford said. "We had a nice talk. That's it."

Phoenix small forward Josh Jackson told reporters that the problems seem to be repetitive.

"I feel like at any moment, each guy here, we all like each other enough and are comfortable with each other enough that any one guy can call somebody out just say what they think and how they feel," he said. "Definitely don't need to wait until after any game."

Unlike the Suns, the Lakers are still thick in the playoff hunt. They enter Sunday two games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for eighth place in the Western Conference.

"At the end of the day, every game is a must-win," Kuzma said. "We're fighting to be in the playoffs, fighting for seeding and the season's ticking down. We got less than 40 games right now and everything has to be serious."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 26, 2019

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