Suns/Lakers Preview: When the Lakers have the ball

Kurt —  April 22, 2007

Last year, during the first four games of the Lakers/Suns playoff series, Kobe was the distributor, Kwame was finishing at the hoop, Odom was toying with Marion and the Lakers took a 3-1 series lead.

The blueprint for the Lakers hasn’t changed on offense, however with Amare Stoudemire patrolling the paint, and Kurt Thomas and not Tim Thomas, it’s going to be a lot harder.

This is one series where the offense really does impact the defense, there are things the Lakers can do on offense to slow the vaunted Suns fast break. One is making shots (although the Suns run well after a make).

The Suns have a mantra of taking a shot in the first seven seconds of the shot clock, the Lakers need to reverse that and try to take a shot late in the clock. They need to be deliberate; they need to slow the pace. The other way to do that is for Kwame Brown, Lamar Odom and the rest of crash the boards — if Marion and Stoudemire have to worry about rebounds they will be slower to get up the court.

The next big thing for the Lakers to do is something friend of the site Nate Jones talked about at Fanhouse — exploit the matchups. For the Lakers, that will be Lamar Odom covered by Shawn Marion. In last season’s matchup the Lakers used this one to their advantage, Odom was too much for Marion in the post. That hasn’t changed, and the four was the weakest spot defensively for the Suns this year, with opposing fours shooting 51.4% this season.

Posting up the Suns was something the Lakers did well last year, but that was before Stoudemire. Still, they need to try this, particularly posting up Nash when Smush Parker and Sasha Vujacic are in the game.

What the Lakers cannot do for seven games is count on Kobe to carry too much of the load — he can steal one game but not a series. Raja Bell plays Kobe one-and-one as well as just about anyone, he can’t shut him down but he can make him less efficient.

Because of that the Lakers need to see Kobe the distributor, then the other Lakers have to step up, they have to be efficient. It can be Luke Walton one night, Lamar Odom another, Maurice Evans another. But others have to step up, Kobe’s 50 has not beaten the Suns consistently in the past and it won’t again.