Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  March 4, 2007

Who gets the playing time with Odom out? Odom is out for at least this four game road trip, so who gets the minutes? It will depend on the matchups, but with Cook the only healthy four (and he plays more like a three) I would expect Phil to try to go small more, maybe start Smush, Kobe, Mo Evans (who is back), Cook and Bynum, with more time for Shammond, McKie and Sasha (and Farmar) off the bench. One other option against bigger teams is to pair Turiaf with Bynum/Kwame along the front line.

Get out and run. Despite what Coach Norman Dale told us, some interesting work at 82 games suggests that teams that play at a faster pace tend to be more efficient on offense. Rob (from this site) broke it down earlier this season with the Lakers, they tended to be more efficient and win more when the pace was up.

If the Lakers play defense against the Suns like they did against Sacramento on Friday, how many points can the Suns score?

It Takes Five. While certain players bear the brunt of our frustrations with the defense, the loss to the Kings was a total team effort of crappyness on that end of the floor. Kobe is often considered the Lakers best defender and maybe his lack of focus was the catalyst for the entire team’s let down. To illustrate the total team “effort” let’s go over those first 10 Kings points:

• After winning the tip, the Kings work it around a little then get the ball to Artest high out on the wing, who dumps it in the post to Kenny Thomas, being covered by Brian Cook. Thomas spins to the middle and gets into the key, so Kobe decides to sag off Kevin Martin (the best and hottest shooter on the Kings) to double the 5 PPG Thomas. Thomas wisely kicks the ball out to Martin at the three point line straight away, Kobe is forced to run at him to prevent the three, Martin makes a ball fake and then steps right past Kobe, moves to his left and hits the clean 13-foot look. 2-0.

• With 13 to go on the shot clock, Martin has the ball right wing just beyond the three point line, where Ron “I love this city — just look at my haircut” Artest sets a pick on Kobe. Odom (on Artest) hedges to prevent Martin getting another good midrange look, while Kobe does a good job fighting through the pick and recovering. Artest, being ignored, takes a step to his right and sets up beyond the arc, Martin gets him the ball, and Odom is far too slow to recover, giving Artest a clean look at a three. 5-0.
• Bibby grabs the rebound on an Odom miss and pushes the ball up the court, but there is nothing there. He hesitates out top for a second and Thomas comes out to set a pick. But Bibby goes to the crossover away from the pick and Smush is caught flat-footed. Bibby drills the 21 footer. 7-0.

• After a Cook miss the Kings again push the ball up and while nothing develops several Lakers are forced to cover the closest King (not their man) to prevent a fast-break basket. The Kings kick the ball back out top to Bibby, who gets an uncalled moving screen from Brad Miller and drives the lane at Bynum. Meanwhile, some of the Lakers switch back to their assigned men but some don’t — namely Kobe, who rather than track down Martin plays a one-man zone. So Martin slides to the open spot, gets the kick-out from Bibby and has time to set his feet, line up his shot and cook a four-course meal before shooting the three. 10-0.

Missing Odom.
Of all the teams to not have Odom in the lineup for, Phoenix is a tough one. He is one of the few Lakers with the length and athleticism to slow the Suns’ deep front line. Plus, last time these two met he threw in 34 on 50% shooting. He will be missed.

Things to look for: Defense. Any sign of it.

Also, remember last season the Lakers lost the first three regular season games to the Suns when Kobe was option one, two and three in the offense and he scored 40+. They won games in the playoffs pounding the ball inside and with other guys stepping up. Granted, it’s harder to pound it inside this year with Amare swatting balls into the fourth row, but they need to start that way.