LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to bounce back from their season-opening loss by facing an undermanned Phoenix Suns team on Thursday. Two of the Suns' big three -- Bradley Beal and Devin Booker -- are sitting out L.A.'s home opener.
Beal, acquired in an offseason trade with the Washington Wizards, also missed Phoenix's 108-104 win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday with lower back tightness. Booker shined in the win over the Warriors, leading the team in points (32) and assists (8) but is out against the Lakers with a sore left foot.
"I think when KD misses, it's more so he missed," Lakers guard Austin Reaves said at shootaround Thursday when asked about guarding the Suns star. "You can play great defense, you can get a good contest, you can compete and try to make it harder for him, but he's 7 foot with a 7-foot-15 wingspan. So anytime he shoots it, especially for me -- 8-foot-3, what is that? -- but anytime he releases it [the shot is unstoppable].
"I think I saw it was in the Finals when he was in Golden State, they paused at the top of his release and he was releasing it at like 10-2 or something. So he's releasing it over the rim. For me, that's impossible to get to, especially as I'm trying to play good defense. But you just try to make it hard for him. He's a world-class player for a reason."
L.A. lost to the Denver Nuggets 119-107 on opening night.
Davis explained that the Nuggets double-teamed him after halftime and he looked to pass to open shooters but added, "I got to shoot it more," after going 0-for-6 after the break.
"It's tough sometimes because you want to stay spaced and give him the opportunity so when teams double, regardless of who it is, Bron or AD, then they have that opening to pass it," Reaves said when asked how the Lakers can adjust. "I feel like we need to just cause a little more confusion on the backside so teams can't load up."
Beyond creating movement on offense, L.A.'s role players will have to account for the team's plan to limit James' minutes to the 28-30 range this season.
The Lakers outscored Denver by seven in the 29 minutes that James played in the opener, meaning that they were outscored by 19 in the 19 minutes James was on the bench.
"When he's off the court, I've got to be the guy like he's been doing offense and defensively," Rui Hachimura, who trained with James in the offseason, said Thursday. "He's running around on the court -- he's got the physical [presence] to do that. So I've got do that more, especially when he's off the court. That's the thing the team wanted and [why] Bron talked about [me being his] 'understudy.'"