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Lakers try to keep good times rolling vs. Suns

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers will try to continue their best stretch of the season when they meet the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on Tuesday.

The Lakers (21-31) beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-104 on Sunday for their second straight win and 10th in the past 14 games. The nationally televised win occurred two days after a 102-99 win in Brooklyn when the Lakers held the Nets to 14 points in the fourth quarter.

The last two wins occurred after sub-par defensive showings in Toronto and Orlando ended a four-game winning streak. The Lakers allowed 127 points in a 22-point loss on Wednesday before rebounding with two wins.

The Lakers have been without rookie point guard Lonzo Ball for the past 10 games because of a knee injury and likely won't have him available against the Suns. Los Angeles hasn't had a true point guard in the starting lineup the past two games, instead starting shooting guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Josh Hart in the backcourt and asking 6-foot-9 small forward Brandon Ingram to bring the ball up the floor.

Ingram finished with 16 points, five rebounds and five assists Sunday after totaling 16, eight rebounds and a career-high 10 assists Friday.

"We needed him to tell us he wanted that challenge," Lakers coach Luke Walton said of using Ingram at point guard. "And we needed to know that he'd push the pace for us."

Hart has helped the Lakers in unusual ways as well, leading them in rebounds the past two games after totaling 14 points and 11 rebounds against Oklahoma City.

Los Angeles played the Suns three times in the first 16 games this season and won the first two before losing 122-113 on Nov. 17 at Staples Center.

The Suns (18-36) went 5-2 during a late-December stretch, but began struggling again in January and have dropped seven of their past eight and 10 of 12.

Phoenix blew a 21-point lead against the visiting Charlotte Hornets on Sunday before losing 115-110. The Suns held an eight-point advantage at the start of the fourth quarter, but turned the ball over on their first three possessions and lost the lead.

"We have to be better with the basketball; make better plays," Suns interim coach Jay Triano said after the game. "Good teams are going to ramp up their defense and you have to be prepared for it."

Devin Booker, the leading scorer for the Suns at 24.1 points a game, left the game with 6:53 to play after taking a knee to his left side of his torso.

He was diagnosed with a left hip pointer, did not return and did not practice Monday. If Booker does not play, Tyler Ulis will make the start.

Booker was already dealing with bruised ribs that kept him out of a 120-109 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 29. Booker is averaging 31.3 points in the three previous games against the Lakers this season.

Phoenix also played without forward Marquese Chriss, who was suspended one game for violating team rules.

"He's a good kid who had a bad moment. We look forward to seeing him on Monday morning, so we can turn the page and move on," Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said in a statement."

Chriss is expected to return Tuesday.

Phoenix rookie small forward Josh Jackson scored a season-high 23 points against the Hornets. He seems to have bounced back from his 0-for-13 shooting performance against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 28, scoring at least 20 points in the past four games while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor.
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