Game Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  November 2, 2007

Records: Lakers 0-1; Suns 1-0
Offensive ratings: Lakers 96.1; Suns 99.5
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.4; Suns 87.9
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Ronny Turiaf, Kwame Brown;
Suns: Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Grant Hill, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire.

Lakers Notes: It was the Lakers offense that looked out of sorts in the season opener, but remember that was against the best defensive team in the NBA last year and a team with two of the best shot-blocking centers in the league patrolling the paint. They make a lot of teams look awkward. The question is how do the Lakers come out and respond tonight — and do other Lakers step up early so Kobe doesn’t feel he has to take over the game single-handedly.

One thing the Lakers did much better than in the past against Houston is defend the pick-and-roll. The bigs showed out — meaning they stepped out on the small guard and forced him away from the basket — then the rotations and recovery behind them were good. It was the best we’ve seen the Lakers defend that in a long time.

Which is good, they are going to see a lot of it from the Suns. Like every trip down.

Two great Kobe posts: In all the media noise about Kobe and trades, there were two that I wanted to point out to people. First is the latest from Roland Lazenby, which talks about the Lakers and Kobe being together for better or worse.

The second is Matt from the great Blog-A-Bull, talking about the dead-for-now trade from a Bulls (and very rational) perspective. It is worth the read. (This link does not mean we are opening this comment thread up to Kobe trade proposals — I don’t care how you think the Lakers can make a fair swap with the Bucks, we’re not talking about it. For right now, the Kobe trade talk is dead and this will not become a message board trade forum.)

The Suns Coming In: Tonight will be the second game of a back-to-back for the Suns, with travel in between as well. Last night the Suns looked very rusty for three quarters but pulled it together for a very Suns-like 12 minutes at the end and knocked off the Sonics 106-99.

It was the Suns Bench that led the way back — Phoenix started its run with a lineup of Marcus Banks, Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw along with Amare Stoudemie and Grant Hill. Barbosa led the way with a +8 for the Suns, but the bigger shock to me was the Marcus Banks looked much more confident and comfortable in the system than he did last year. It should be noted that only seven Suns played significant times.

Most of what I saw was a very sloppy Suns defense (which in turn was hurting their fast break), with Amare getting in first quarter foul trouble and unusually slowness from Marion (something I think he will not do two nights in a row).

But offensively there was no great new wrinkle — it’s the break and then the pick-and-roll, and the wisdom of Steve Nash running the show. Grant Hill still seemed to be finding his way, spending more time than he should hanging out at the three point line for spot ups. We’ll see if he adjusts for tonight’s game.

For more Suns background, check out Phoenix Suns Rising.

Note That Would Interest Only Peter King: For those of you other NBA stats fans out there, you need to check out this new site, Basketball Value. Not only does it have a lot of individual stats, it has a great breakdown by five-man units. The sample sizes are way too small right now to mean much, but this is going to be a great tool as the season wears on. (For the record, I did not use Basketball Value’s offensive and defensive ratings at the top of this preview, I used Hollinger’s off, the two are different, likely because they are using a different multiplier for pace. I need to see which is using what, but haven’t looked around their sites.)

Note That Would Interest Only Peter King, part deux: Jerry Buss is serving a two-game suspension, part of the penalty for his summer DUI in San Diego (that and a $25,000 fine from the league). So, exactly what good does suspending an owner from attending a couple of game do again?

Keys To The Game: Most teams struggle with the Suns because their style of play is an anomaly in the season. After seeing somewhat similar offenses for a month, in come the run-and-gun Suns, and with the grind of the NBA season there is little chance to really prepare for what is coming, and before they know it teams get swept up in the style.

The Lakers are different — after two consecutive years of playoff series against the Suns, the Lakers know how to defend and play the Suns. The basics are pretty simple — pound the ball inside, pound the glass and make Nash a shooter and not a distributor — but are easier said than done against such an athletic lineup.

Tonight a lot of the Lakers success will be on the Bigs — can the deep Lakers rotation take advantage of the smaller and shallower Suns lineup. The Sonics were able to get Stoudemire in foul trouble last night (Amare averaged 4.4 fouls per 40 minutes last season) and the drop-off from him to Brian Skinner is pretty far. The Lakers can run a lot of guys — Kwame, Bynum, Turiaf, Mihm, Radmanovic — at the Suns, but those Lakers need to have a good night for it to work.

If the Lakers are grabbing a lot of offensive rebounds, it’s a good sign. Making Nash shoot a lot would also be good, although he certainly can score (he had a good shooting fourth for the Suns last night). But a Nash shot is less dangerous than a Marion dunk, so make the Canadian shoot.

One other key — can Farmar and the rest of the second unit keep Barbosa from tearing them up. He killed them in the playoffs last year.

Thoughts/Prediction: This is the best situation the Lakers can hope to catch the Suns in — it’s a back-to-back with travel for them, so their legs shouldn’t be as fresh. That said, as it is the Suns home opener, they will be pumped.

I might have predicted a Lakers upset if Odom were healthy — Marion just can’t handle him on the block and Odom may have been the best player on either team in last spring’s playoff series. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lakers win, but the Suns have beaten the Lakers in eight of the last 10 regular season meetings, so I’ll say the Suns 103-99.

Where you can watch my prediction go up in flames: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into KCAL (9), nationally you get ESPN, and online check out the scoreboard page.

60 responses to Game Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

  1. I think the Suns are a deeper team. Skinner may not be as good as Kurt Thomas, but he isn’t a scrub either. When Banks is in the game they usually have Diaw and Hill in too run the offense. The Sonics threw a lotta zone on the Suns and it worked in the sense that it kept Nash from penetrating (though it exposed the Sonics to lots of open shots from the Suns). I think the Lakers have go with the ’05-’06 playoff strategy, and pound pound the ball inside. Marion will be on Rony, so I think we should look to exploit that. Also, will be interesting seeing Jordan get some minutes against Nash.

  2. I have been to a few Lakers Vs Suns games in Phoenix over the last couple of years, and one thing I have to tell you all..
    the Suns have a way way better home crowd, period.
    did you noticed Farmar trying to motivate our fans in the last game? in the last HOME game I saw him more than one time waving his arms around to the crowd as if to say, “Hey! wake up! let me hear ya!”
    the fans in the Staples Center, as they ewre in the Forum basically are “too cool” and just don’t get into the game, in that they don’t yell, scream, etc to show support for their home team.
    whereas the reverse is so much more the case in Phoenix, they truely have the best 6th man, the crowd, that I’ve ever seen. it’s totally nuts in that arena, you have to yell at the top of your lungs to be heard by the person sitting right next to you, and that’s throughout the whole game, even time outs, they really support their team.
    take notice of this tonight, you’ll see.
    and I do think this makes a difference, the Suns team seems to respond to this insane support, for sure.

  3. Wow, we look awful on paper.

    It shows how much Lamar means to this team. I would much rather see a lineup like this:

    PG: Fisher
    SG: Kobe
    SF: Odom
    PF: Turiaf
    C: Bynum

    We’ll see how this game plays out.

    On another note, has anyone been watching Seattle this week? They have a nice team up there. Very bright future for them. Unfortunately it may not be in Seattle much longer. It really bothers me how much money runs this sport, and the fans are secondary.

  4. the suns looked vulnerable inside due to Collison and Wilcox…at least that is what I noticed. I am not saying Amare of the Suns are soft…but…they just didnt seem like they could stop the Sonics inside…but the Sonics didnt exploit that.

  5. sorry for the double post…I messed up and clicked submit beofre I finshied….

    @ 2….The Lakers home crowd can be unbelivable too…there just hasnt been much to be excited about lately. I was one of “THE” Portland/Lakers home games (you guys know the series I am talking about)…the crowd….was out of control in a frenzy the whole time…it was perfect.

  6. Keys to Victory:

    1) As Kurt mentioned, defend the pick and roll. The Lakers did a good (not great) job against the Rockets for most of the game. They need to escalate this to great in order to beat the Suns.

    2) Make the Suns play 1 on 1. When the Lakers D challenged the Suns to take advantages of mismatches in the playoffs, they won that game. By creating mismatches, it may challenge some of the Suns to jack up more 3s. Their misses will lead to fast breaks for the Lakers.

    3) Lakers offense needs to limit their 3 pt attempts. 3s lead to long rebounds and the Suns will crush the Lakers in the transition game.

    4) Control the glass. How much do the Lakers miss their leading rebounder? Marion and Stoudemire are good rebounders and the Lakers will need to work the boards to win. Hopefully, wear and tear from last night will help the Lakes.

    5) More than 3 players must demonstrate confidence. Only Turiaf, Fisher, and Kobe showed confidence against Houston. Who will step up? Luke, Kwame, Farmar, Vlad, Bynum? Somebody needs to show the Suns that they are a legit threat on offense. This will make the game easier for #24.

    I will post a recap to evaluate the five points tomorrow.

  7. I agree, Staples Center is just waiting for something that is worth cheering for.

    Kurt, and everyone else, ESPN is also showing their games online at ESPN 360. It depends on your provider, but if you don’t have cable, you may be able to watch it on your computer.

    I also agree the Sonics look good, Durant may be better than people are guessing in his rookie season.

    Also, you think Dr. Buss not being able to go to the game would just be an excuse to go drinking. Someone grab his keys, or hope they have dividers in the rode!

    Still interested to see the pace of the Lakers. Perhaps they run and gun, but Phil probably pulls the reins. Like to at least see the Lakers push it off the boards, and then set up the triangle when the need for a better option arises.

  8. Carter: I agree with you about Seattle. I think the combo of Preski/Carlesimo wil work well. Preski got Green and West from Boston, got a trade exemption he turned into Kurt Thomas and lucked into Durant. Carlesimo is obviously emphasizing defense, and that means less of Ridnour, which I think is a good thing. Damn, it hurts to see so many teams with clear plans for the future, and our team without a plan for tonite

  9. I just added two links in the main post, the latest from Roland Lazenby plus a different trade perspective from Matt at Blog-a-Bull. Both really are good reads. But I’ll say again, this is not going to become a trade idea comment thread. We’re talking Suns/Lakers here.

  10. Hey, what the heck, they changed it to Kwame. Sorry

  11. I’d love to catch this game but as I’ll only be able to watch the ESPN broadcast (instead of KCAL on my League Pass) I don’t know how much I can stand. ESPN’s TV direction is even worse than their announcers.

  12. The way Drew played last game, I thought he earned a start. Hopefully if he plays well he gets the minutes, there is no Yao matchup that physically favors Kwame tonight.

    12. ESPN’s announcers are bad, their studio show is worse. Fanhouse has been talking about this all day. Why put Steven A. Smith and Bill Walton in the same room, unless you knew terrorists were going to blow it up?

  13. I’ll be bold and predict a Laker win tonight. The Sonics game last night in Seattle no-doubt wore the Suns out, and the Jr. Lakers are going to step up tonight. I can feel it. Look for at least 20 from Bynum and a double/double from Luke. Kobe will of course continue to frustrate but Phil will get him to pass at least a bit more.

    Let’s say: LAL 113 – PHX 109.

  14. Why put Steven A. Smith and Bill Walton in the same room, unless you knew terrorists were going to blow it up?

    If we could get Charles Barkley on that panel too it would be perfect!

  15. Bill Walton cracks me up. I can’t believe some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth. But after about 2 minutes I can’t take anymore. Did you watch him at the USA basketball this summer. He was like a human encyclopedia on South American countries.

  16. ESPN announcers are bad, but Jeff Van Gundy is a nice addition. He made an astute comment about teams mistakenly picking up Tony Parker and Devin Harris too far out on the court, allowing them to attack, and not forcing them into hitting shots. That said, every other announcer (save Hubie) is garbage

  17. Hubie is solid. And yes, Walton sounded like he was seeking tenure at a university. It’s funny to think about who different he and his son are when talking in front of a camera. I guess it had to have been all those Dead shows…

  18. “exactly what good does suspending an owner from attending a couple of game do again?”

    The young ladies have to sit on someone else’s lap?

  19. Youse guys never heard Bill Walton when he was in collage – well, neither did I, but that is the point. He has worked through severe speech issues and become a blabbermouth. He was always smart and always marched to a different drummer. I enjoy the variation for about a qtr, then I want him to slow down and just comment on the game – he does know it well.

  20. ESPNs coverage is horrible. Hubie is not a bright spot either; his biggest comment is always “That was great timeout”

  21. I wish Marv could announce the Finals. I think that would spice things up a bit. It just doesn’t feel like a big game unless he’s announcing.

  22. Woohoo, we’re playin some defense in the first quarter.

    Not as good as the score would indicate, the Suns are kind of cold. But good.

    Mmmm, starting to smell that potential…

  23. Really liking what I am seeing from LA in this first quarter. I am quite surprised to see Phil going with so many guys in the first quarter, but they seem to be playing well so far. The more I see Crittenton the more I like his game. He just seems to have a great feel for the game. Fisher is really balling too. I love the swagger he seems to have, A few times Kobe wanted the ball and Fisher was directing him to go elsewhere on the court. Nice to see him taking charge,


    Defensive stops, Kobe and Kwame blocking the same damned shot?! Is there anymore that the second unit could have done?!

    this is beautiful, D-Fish starting us off and everyone hitting and NO lamar?!

    Guyz, this may be our year to exit the second round.


  25. I’m only watching the box score. Is Phil Jackson really playing ELEVEN guys on rotation in the first half?

  26. I think they can only keep up this level of play if the management and Kobe jointly agree that all trade discussion is off for the season so the players can concentrate on what’s important.

  27. 24. Heh. Yeah, this could be the year.

    Maybe more. But that jump of hope probably can’t be made until taking a look at this squad at the end of the season. I wouldn’t expect THAT much, but I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility either, considering how well our young talent is developing in a fairly short span of time.

    All I know is I love this team.

  28. Jackson actually has used all 12 guys now with Sasha finishing the half.

    The Lakers are played good. They have given up a few more offensive rebounds than I would have liked, have looked stagnant on offense at times, but are playing pretty well. Sans a couple bonehead plays, and poor defensive rotations, they’d be up 20 easy.

    It’s early in the season and the game isn’t over yet, but they have looked a lot better in this game than the opening pne. I too wish they;d agree to ride out the season, but I am not sure Buss/Kupcake saying anything now is good because it could u[set Kobe. Kobe needs to be the one to end the speculation.

  29. Here’s hoping the balanced scoring and good passing keeps up for the second half…

  30. Kwame Sucks!

  31. I’m not gay or anything…..but I love Derek Fisher.
    A true warrior and consummate professional.

  32. I’ll keep saying it. If the Lakers stay healthy they will be much better than anyone expects them to be. They would have been a 50 win team last year if Luke, Kwame, Lamar, Vlad Rad, and Mihm didn’t miss 25+ games. Patience baby!

  33. Team play par excellence

  34. Same team, plus health, plus improved Bynum, plus Fish instead of Smush. Big difference from last year. Cross your fingers for health guys…

  35. ok, it’s 5.26 am, I just got up to go to the bath, take a look at the internet and see that the lakers are kicking the Sun’s ass?

    Who are these guys dressing purple and where are the real lakers buried that I’m going to throw some more ground on them

  36. Kobe in the third quarter, ahhh. Reminds of a game a couple years ago where they shredded Dallas on the road. He was picking apart the defense with pinpoint passes, keeping everyone involved…it was a display of beauty. Truly championship-era Jordanesque play.

    This was the first time since then I’ve seen him do that.

  37. I just really like how they are playing defense. They are contesting everything and rotating a lot better than the first game. I really like this two headed monster at center in Kwame and Bynum. Kwame’s defense was impressive for the most part sans some bad help on Nash a few times but he was good overall. The Lakers are rebounding pretty well too. Really like the ball movement as well.

  38. Goddang, get Coby out there to get some playing time.

  39. by 30…are you kidding me? who are these guys? I love it…team D…team O…all this without LO…man…what they can do if they had him too????

    please..Kobe dont go anywhere…tell everyone that you are staying…and let us all watch this team play!!!!

  40. That was so enjoyable to watch, I have nothing else to add.

  41. This was the most fun I’ve had watching a Laker game in a long time. And it looked like the most fun the team had playing in a long time.

  42. Wow. I watched the third quarter and it was just too much.

    Most fun in a long time indeed. Although I still hate it when they put Brian Cook into the game. His carefree attitude and play is the only downer in an otherwise perfect game.

    Key to the game, I think, was defense at the PG position. They chased Nash around and when he drove into the paint, I’m glad to see so many gold jerseys collapsing on him. Let’s hope they can keep playing this style of defense.

  43. Great game. I love how the announcers want to play up the 2nd day of a back to back angle for the Suns. Funny how no one says that when the Lakers lose. Just a good old fashioned thrashing by LA. Kobe had 11 boards in 28 minutes and sat out the entire 4th. That’s really good to beat a top team regardless of how early it is. This gives guys confidence and speaking of confidence, what about Radmanovic? He was on fire tonight. Bynum played well, Fisher was out of his mind, and Kwame was solid as well. Really nice overall game for the Lakers. Real nice to see.

  44. Laker porn from buzzer to buzzer. I really enjoyed that long stretch in the second half when Phil kept Kobe on the bench to watch his teamates. I can only hope that message came through (it appeared to, given Kobe’s unselfish play in the 3rd quarter). It’s easy to get overhyped after such a spectacular display, but I will say this: our second unit can hold its own with against second unit in the league.

  45. Did anyone else see the pregame comments by John Ireland about Grant Hill? How Grant was really considering the Lakers until “the Kobe situation” came up and he scratched the Lakers off of his short list because of all the uncertainty going on with the Lakers.
    We can assume KG thought the same thing.
    It just makes me sick to think about it. KG and Grant Hill were there for the taking….if someone would’ve just kept his mouth closed after the exit interview.

  46. This game was really won early on, when Phil went with a 3-guard set (Kobe-Farmar-Critt) plus Radman and Bynum. That set had energy, speed, could make shots from anywhere on the court, and played good D. I hope Phil continues to use the 3-guards more because of how well it worked tonight. Radman really kept up his good play throughout and showed why he should be the choice off the bench rather than Cook. I hope that Bynum will gain confidence and work hard to get low post position like Shaq used to. He really showed he can score from down low.

  47. Let’s just some it up with the combined stats from two players:
    C Kwame + Bynum 47min 21pts 22rebs 4asst

  48. I’m going to save the analysis for a day or so and just bask in that win, but Rob L. just sent me some numbers and Kobe was down to using 20% of the Laker possessions when he was on the floor — think about that, with five guys on the floor each should use 20% for perfect balance. I’m not saying Kobe will or even should use that percentage every night, but man that was just pretty to watch.

  49. The Zen Master was at work again. It’s the 1st Quarter, the Lakers are up by 10 after going on a 17-2 run. Phil rests Fish with about 2:30 left in the quarter. At this point the Laker line up consists of: Kobe, Bynum, Farmar, Crittenton and Vlad. This unit stays on the floor to finish the quarter.

    They end up increasing the lead to 13…and Kobe doesn’t take a single shot.

    Phil did this on purpose as part of the trust building and he did it at the exact right time: while the momentum was on the Lakers’ side and early in the game. Establish the team concept early in the game. This was a switch from the early 1st, which was mainly Kobe/Fish.

  50. well guys, it was just 1 game, but a sweet one to enjoy.
    now, I hate to get ahead of myself, but just imagine if the team could win 4 out of the next 6, have a couple mini streaks…
    imagine what this does for the confidence of the younger guys, and gets Kobe to learn to trust and involve his teammates…
    and maybe something like this would quieten down all this media driven trade speculation BS that’s a 24/7 distraction of major proportions.

    it could happen ya know…

  51. That was pretty spectacular in all ways. Some moments that still stand out: Luke’s through the legs pass; Ronny’s dunk off Kobe’s bullet pass; all of Vlad’s 3’s; Bynum’s post moves on Amare; pretty much everything Fisher did all night. Ya it’s just one game, but it was a damn fun one.

  52. Wow…..what a game!

    By the way, did anyone notice why the Lakers were wearing the Gold uniforms (usually reserved for home games) instead of the purple….er….forum blue uniforms??

  53. Hey Kobe!

    While your purple and gold homies were tearing up Phoenix at home, did you hear what happened to the Bulls?

    Yes, they’re O-2 and they lost their home opener to the 76ers. BTW, Deng was 4/12 for 10 points and 4 rebounds. Toward the end of the game, the fans were shouting, Kobe–Kobe. Still aching to go?

    Do you even remember where you were in the fourth quarter of this game? No, it wasn’t a dream. Felt good, didn’t it? Kinda rest those knees, protect that wrist. When you sat down, the lead was more than 30.

    They’ve been saying that this team seems pretty much the same as last year–mediocre. You were actually buying into that crap.

    But then Derek walked out there with the old Laker swagger and matched Steve Nash shot for shot. I bet you forgot how good and reassuring that made you feel. Did you notice Radman hit those 3’s–even at the end of the half? And Jordan and Javaris were both out there with you at the same time, playing great–and Smush wasn’t even on the bench?

    It’s just one game, and the team may lose the next three –but you must know in your heart right now that if you come back, where you never left, to that “Laker for life” idea–it’s gonna be fine.

  54. Last year’s first PHX game? we also won that game… but look how that season turned out.

    they said as the game was dwindling down, Mike D’Antoni said we’re alright we got three more games. I can’t help but think that perhaps Phoenix is again just fixing out the kinks in their armor before going full throttle again

  55. Best game Ive seen since 2004. What bothered me most is that Kobe in the post game interview. What an ass. If those guys can play like that, they dont need to trade Kobe, but if Kobe still insists on a trade, I think you hang on to him this year and then see what happens. The whole future of the team depends on some of the other guys emerging and if tonight was any indication, if they are in contention and Kobe is still around, watch out NBA.

  56. PG rotation was amazing last night, also, it’s fine if Bynum comes off the bench (because he kills 2nd unit Centers) but he should play the majority of the center minutes. Cook, like someone said earlier, should not see the light of day.

  57. The Center position really has potential to be a strong point for us, unlike the liability it has been since the Diesel left.

    If Mihm can get out there and be effective, we really have 3 solid, above-average big men to throw out there every night at teams that usually at best have two 7 footers (btw, that slo-mo replay of Bynum’s dunk left me breathless. I can’t believe how high above the rim his arm can go when he jumps).

    With Vlad Man finding his stroke, Turiaf playing his arse off, and Lamar set to come back soon, I can’t believe how excited i am about this season. Health killed us last year, but we are deeper and a year better.

    I will say, these next 6-7 games will be brutal on the schedule. If we can come out of the first 10 games at 5-5 or better, I think we have a terrific shot of making some noise this year. This game, as early in the season as it was, could prove to be a rallying point to a very fragile team.

    We’ll see. Basketball is back though, no denying it!!!

  58. Mico, when the Suns played the Lakers again that season it was later in the year after injuries had destroyed the Lakers. That was a good team last year until injuries killed them. Let’s see how well the Suns would have done if Marion, Barbosa, Bell, and Diaw would have missed 25+ games each. That’s basically what happened to the Lakers. You can’t keep winning consistently when your core is hurt. I’ll keep saying it to anyone that will listen. Without injuries this is a 50+ win team. You can call me crazy all you want. But it’s true. Especially now that they have more veteran leadership out there in D Fish instead of the pouting of Smush Parker. Speaking of which, do you notice how Fish plays hard the entire time he is out on the floor? If Smush could have learned to play like that, he’d probably be making $5-7Mil per year somewhere instead of $2.5Mil.

  59. Fisher was playing great. Not only did he play hard on offense but he burned Nash on offense. That’s the reason why I’ve never thought Nash deserved the hype everyone in the media gave him. Nash has a hard time on the defensive end and if opponents can take advantage of this, they might end up blowing the Suns out.

    @ Jones,

    Yesterday’s team looked like a 50+ Lakers. However, even if they do cross 50, I still have them as a 6th or lower seed because of the super stacked West.