Game Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  December 25, 2007

Records: Lakers 17-10; Suns 0-0
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.9 (8th); Suns 114.1 (2nd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (9th); Suns 107.8 (15th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladamir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Grant Hill, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire

Merry Christmas To All: We’re going to be a little short and sweet on the preview today because I want to spend time with my family. But I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas (or the holiday of your choosing, we don’t discriminate here, except against Celtics fans). And I want to thank all of you for making this such a fun and rich place to talk hoops.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers book on the Suns is pretty well known by now — pound the ball inside, hit the offensive glass hard, play deliberate (not slow) and make Nash beat you with his shot and not lobs to his athletic guys on the wing. Defend the myriad of pick-and-rolls the Suns run (especially when they run “drags” where the a big screens for Nash out high very early in the clock) with good play from the bigs and quick rotations. Contain Barbosa. Make the Suns jump shooters. The Lakers did almost that in the second game of the season and got a D’Antoni-angering win. Which was fun.

However, those things are pretty much the opposite of what we have seen from the Lakers lately. They have fallen in love with the three — in part because Kobe is injured and pulling up more, and in part because VladRad and Sasha and Farmar can hit it, so they take it a lot. As kwame a. pointed out in the comments yesterday, there are good threes and bad threes — perimeter pull-up threes are bad shots for the Lakers, particularly against the Suns. However, inside out spot up threes (because Bynum passed out of a double or Kobe did the drive and dish) provide much better looks.

I’ll let commenter 81 Witness fill in the rest:

Note to Bynum: Stay put, don’t chase the high screen and leave Amare open.

Note to Fisher and Farmar: Let Nash shoot those 20-22 footers behind screens. Much better than him beating you off the dribble and dishing to a wide open Amare or Matrix. (Editor’s note: One thing you have to do with Nash is mix up your pick and roll coverage, stay with one thing too long and he gets comfortable and starts picking you apart.)

Note to all the other Lakers: Worry about your own man and do not break down and give the help defense.

Note to the bench: You will win this game for the Lakers. You are much better than the Suns bench and do not lull yourself asleep like you did against NY.

Note to PJ: Do not let the Lakers fall in love with the 3. You saw what happened in Cleveland and (against the Knicks).

Where you can watch: Game time is 2 p.m. (Pacific) and we’ll all be watching it on ABC. What I want from ABC for Christmas is a couple of “Lost” promos.

Kurt

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69 responses to Game Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

  1. Great points from KD:

    That said, the Lakers are coming home from a long road trip, they’ll be about 48 hours removed from finishing up a game in New York before tipping off at 5 PM Eastern at the Staples Center in El Lay, and the Suns are humming. Midway through the third quarter of Phoenix’s win over the Raptors on Saturday, Steve Nash’s crew had just two turnovers. Two! That’s after scoring 85 points in the game’s first 30 minutes.

    So this is the sort of game that will likely reinforce the fair-weather fan’s Kobe Bryant stereotypes: the Laker youngsters might be a bit off after returning home from a tough (though successful) road trip, jet-lagged, weary from family responsibilities, and nervous with the ABC klieg lights in attendance. This means Kobe might have to go nuts for the Lakers to stand a chance, which means he’ll shoot 31 times, and the whole of America can go to bed that night, full of Christmas cheer, and safe in the knowledge that Kobe Bryant is still a ball-hog.

    He’s not, but it makes you wonder if the NBA – scheduling a nearly impossible win for Los Angeles in its showcase nationally televised game – might not want it that way? That said, this one will still be heaps more entertaining than the usual Christmas Day dreck the NBA has provided for us over the last half-decade, so let’s appreciate the baby-steps sent in the right direction.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/nba_experts/post/Game-to-pay-attention-to-Phoenix-at-Los-Angeles?urn=nba,59114

  2. Merry Christmas Kurt and everyone at FB&G!

  3. So excited boys! good job getting me pumped up! No doubt I’ll watch this game 2+ times tomorrow… Merry xmas everyone :)

  4. Merry Christmas Everyone! From the Laker delegation here in the Philippines (who has just celebrated Xmas day approx 12 hrs ahead) we wish you all a spirited Holiday.

    My grown up Christmas Wish is for us to be 18-10. Its not much to ask but as it has been reiterated, D’Antoni has promised Revenge from that day we humiliated the lackluster Suns at their home turf. Nothing nixes Xmas worse than a D’Antoni smirk.

    Keys to the game: It gets old. This is a game we could use Lion Heart Lamar to show up. Add in the “new drew” Bynum, we do stand a better chance.

    Game time will be 6am here in the Philippines and I shall drag my Xmas eyebugs to this game. I shall prepare myself a nice breakfast to celebrate a win.

    As Kurt likes it, its “where Lamar Odom happens” for us.

  5. There will be no lump of coal in the Phoenix stocking hung at Staples this morning–just two notes: one from Christmas past, and the other from Christmas present.

    The first will remind them that two Laker ghosts from Christmas past will not be playing defense today: Smush Parker, and Brian Cook.

    I don’t think that will bring D’Antoni much Christmas cheer.

    Oh yeah, number two. We now have someone besides Kobe that can match up on defense with anyone they have: Trevor Arisa . Oh, and by the way, VladRad and Sasha don’t just sit on the perimeter and shoot threes any more. And . . . .oh, now I remember–don’t get that boy in the middle angry. He’s already turned into a beast, and might decide to feast on an Amare-burger!

    The only uncertainty that D’Antoni can hope for is that Lamar doesn’t show up.

    Last we heard, he was substituting for one of Santa’s reindeer–.until lazy Santa gave Lamar some Christmas basketballs to toss through chimneys more than 30 feet away. When Lamar bricked his third miss through his third front plate glass window, Santa called the North Pole, got a replacement deer, and kicked Lamar off the sleigh.

    Laker fans are hoping that he’ll reappear in Staples by gametime with those long shots out of his system.

  6. the other Stephen December 25, 2007 at 10:56 am

    murr charismas. i’d like to think we discriminate pretty hard against unwashed suns fans too.

  7. I just hope the lakers get the W tonight, just to piss off d’antoni some more, and prove that they have indeed taken that next step to the upper echelon of nba powers. I hope that guys 1 thru 12 treat this as a statement game.Merry Christmas to you all!

  8. Merry Christmas to all.

    5. Drrayeye… Hilarious! But you’re right, we could use Lamar on this one…

  9. Sorry if this is wrong spot,but I’d like to address a few points from Knicks game.
    In NY game,the Knicks are surging,the crowd is going nuts,the Lakers are struggling and Phil inserts Crit. I’ve seen some questioning why and I believe it was Phil’s way of giving the young player an experience of playing in Play-Off type atmosphere. Phil may need Crit later on and it was a great time to give the kid a learning experience.
    Thought it was significant in last 2 minutes Phil replaced Fisher w/Farmar. More for defense,true,but I think any trade proposal that includes Farmar is DOA.
    When late in 4Q Kobe made several Js in a row,I thought it strange they didn’t try to keep feeding the hot shooter.
    There seems to be a pattern developing. In past 2 seasons Kobe has started season dealing w/injuries that have limited his explosiveness-altho he still manages to play at an incredibly high level-and the Lakers offense has looked very good. Last yr when Kobe regained his explosiveness and started driving at will and dominating games,the rest of the team’s offense started to crumble. Perhaps it was just the injuries,or the Smush effect.
    I wonder if the Lakers aren’t better off w/Kobe staying on the perimeter for the first 3 Quarters and then taking over games in the 4Q. W/Kobe on perimeter the rest of the team moves and cuts and Kobe passes to the open player,resulting in a more flowing offense. When he drives he looks to score and only passes when he has no choice and his teammates tend to stay in place watching and waiting for spot-up shots. Just my opinion-and I know it’s counter to conventional wisdom that players should drive and pass out. I just think Kobe is so focused on the basket and the defenders in the way that he doesn’t “see” the rest of the court.(His career 3-2 assist to turnover ratio suggests he doesn’t have the best court vision or passing decision making ability.)

    Merry Christmas to all,have a happy New Year’s and I wish all here a great 2008!

  10. Mike in the Mountain West December 25, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Trevor Ariza is starting in Luke’s place, huh? I like it!

    We’ll see how he responds. My guess is with a big game.

  11. what a dunk by ariza! sure the call could’ve gone the other way, but still definite highlight reel right there!

  12. Holy freaking crap that was a dunk!

    I was waiting for one of those Ariza rim rattlers!

    Good show by our bench while Kobe’s on the bench.

  13. Once the pace of the game increased, the Suns closed the gap… Our defense isn’t showing up.

    Plus, our attack-defense transition is non-existent. I hope that come playoff time Phil has the problem solved, otherwise we won’t be able to win.

    X’s and O’s on transition defense once the game ends.

  14. man, ariza misses an open 3… they go right back to him again and bam, another dunk. i love it. i love it.

  15. what a game, what a TEAM win. Great confidence builder for this young team.

    I think we belong if we just improve our transition defense a little bit. What do you guys think?

    Congrats to a great game, Lakers!

  16. I think that Hollinger is correct!

  17. THAT was a great Christmas present.
    nice move starting Trevor, he will become a great addition as he gets more familiar with the team, love his athleticism. Fish had a great night too, but we’ve got to give it to young Andrew, career high 28 pts. I really enjoyed seeing him hop up and down after he slammed over Amare, almost like he didn’t believe he had that in him, like he surprised himself.

  18. LOL drray, except that part where he predicted Houston to win it all. They are groping to be in playoff form even!

  19. I am starting to believe. I loved the Ariza trade (more UCLA guys, baby) and Bynum looks like a different player, although his lateral movement and defense still needs work.

    Great win. I have no issue with the Suns, but I like it when the Lakers beat D’Antoni.

    I was pessimistic before the season, but I may have been wrong.

    Happy Holidays to all.

  20. Can someone give some insight on what if anything is being done to get Kobe signed so he cant opt out. It sure would be a great lift for the team if something could be done to say Kobe and Bynum will be here for awhile. I dont think he will be traded unless it is a sign and trade in the summer of 2009 if he clearly wants out. Magic Johnson got it right, just keep him and see what happens. Great win today.

  21. That win more than made up for the stares that I got for being late for work.

    Just like Warren, pushed myself out of bed just to be able to catch the game shown live here in the P.I. at 6:00 in the morning. The game was officially over by 9:00. 30 minutes past the time when I was supposed to be at work.

    But it is a trade-off I was willing to make and I am glad I did it.

    Good game overall. Except for the transition defense, I think the guys gave a little something extra to bring us good cheers for the holidays.

    Merry Christmas to everyone!!!

  22. Great game. The Lakers played good Defense in spurts, and their transition defense which was pretty bad if not non-existence in the first half, improved in the second half. But that is OK against the suns because they do not play defense at all. PHX has some serious problems to address. The main being defense as usual. But they do not have a bench, they are playing Grant Hill to many minutes (I really doubt he can keep playing that many minutes without getting injured), and they don’t have a back up PG. Barbosa is a good player but he is a shooting guard not a PG. They are really bad when Nash is not on the court.

    The best part is that the new lab tech that was just hired in my Lab is a PHX Suns fan so I get to rub the win in his face.

  23. Is it just me or do Kobe and Ariza have a friendship going on?

  24. Christmas is merry in laker-nation!!! Yea! that was the “statement win” I was talking about!!! same with pgblooded and warren, got up at 6am to catch the game (and my christmas present from the lakers), and it was sooooo worth it! Some thoughts on the game:

    -it seems kobe has rcovered from his groin injury. as evidenced by that cross over-hesitation-reverse jam and overall great game

    -The PG play of fisher and farmar is SOLID! its a full 48-minute solid performance of offense, defense, hustle and leadership. I long for jason kidd but i think they should find a way of keeping farmar in case the trade goes thru

    -baby bynum is now Andrew “the Beast” Bynum. what a great coming out party for him. monster monster game! I’m kinda pissed he’s not even being considered for the most improved award

    -Ariza may be the missing link of this team. in a couple of seasons, he will be our ron artest (but more athletic). give him a few more starts and he will fit in nicely. With his great promise (especially as the lockdown defender), I think luke will have to go. (keep vlad for his shooting)

    -Odom thrives as the “third option”. Did anyone notice his double double? I feel he plays his best when he is not the focal point or even the second option. Much like Marion. Lets accept him for who he is. i think Bynum will easily fit in as the second banana

    -50 wins, here we come!!!

  25. 24. I think Vlad is more likely to go than Walton. I think Vlad has more value than Walton at this point, and Vlad still doesn’t have positive value…

  26. Sorry for the double, but the ‘slow down cowboy’ thing messed me up))

    Also, Coby Karl was recalled from the D-League. For what reason? Insurance? Or is there a further explanation….

  27. 24. It’s too early in the season for people to talk seriously about “most improved”, but today was Bynum’s national coming out party, It was a game people will remember (being nationally televised on Christmas and whatnot) and Bynum was a beast. In ten years, people back east will recall this game as the first time they realized that Bynum was an emerging force. He’s still got a long way to go, but I would bet money he will get serious consideration for M.I.P. at the end of the season.

  28. Fabulous game. While it’s great to visit family on the east coast, I was bummed to have had to sell my tickets to today’s battle. Since I’m kind of a glass half-empty sort of guy, there are still things that concerned me despite the outstanding team effort this afternoon: (1) Lamar’s jump shot is erratic at best. What was he – 6 for 18? Lamar should have to put money into a jar every time he takes a three-point shot. Maybe any kind of shot outside of 5 feet. (2) Lakers let the Suns take too many unchallenged 3-pt shots. They were just fortunate that no one was hitting them aside from Bell and Nash. (3) While the ever-changing starting line-up no doubt is partially to blame, the decreasing output of the bench is becoming more noticeable. (4) Turiaf’s productivity has precipitously dropped since his concussion.

    Do you really believe Phil that he might bench Andrew once Kwame is ready to return full time? Or is he just playing mind games to insure that Drew’s head doesn’t swell and that Drew continues to “earn” his role as a starter? It’s hard to believe that the team would benefit from appreciably reducing Drew’s minutes given his recent break-out play.

    Does Luke even have any real trade value at this point? Unless something breathtaking drops into the Lakers’ lap, I’d like to see them stand pat and watch if and how they continue to develop as a unit.

    Despite my concerns, great win. Particularly enjoyable that D’Antoni was shut up.

  29. Warren (19),

    The Lakers are now up 2-0 vs. Phoenix and Denver, have split with San Antonio, Utah, Houston, and Golden State. The Lakers haven’t played Dallas or Portland yet, and they’re 0-1 against the Hornets. In the East, they’ve already defeated Detroit and Indianapolis, but lost to Cleveland, NJ, Milwaukee–and really got clobbered by Boston. Those are essentially the “numbers” that allowed Hollinger to project the Lakers #3 in the NBA–and #1 in the Western Conference.

    Phoenix just played a really good game against the Lakers, with all of their key players healthy. They hit a high percentage of 3′s, Nash got a winning combination of points and assists, they made fewer turnovers and scored more points off turnovers, they shot the same number of free throws as the Lakers–but the Lakers won decisively. If Phoenix would have had the low three point % they had in the previous loss to the Lakers, they would have been blown out again!

    Phoenix has a lot of ways to decline with their limited bench, whereas the lakers have a lot of ways to improve. One could argue similarly about the other top Western Conference teams. The Lakers have already demonstrated an ability to win despite injuries through depth. There are numerous ways to improve already excellent team chemistry. They have more upside than most competing teams. They even have “trade bait” if they need it.

    Unlike Cook and Smush, who dampened team chemistry, Trevor and Jordan inspire team chemistry. Derek Fisher is there to provide veteran composure. A bigger turnaround in both performance and “swagger” than many realized.

    We all remember how he beat San Antonio with his 0.4 sec three–and his heroic 3 last year for Utah. He does not have to prove to anyone that he can score in the clutch.

    It all helps that cute oversized “bigfoot” boy turn into a real beast–before our eyes.

    Kobe has gotten better this year.

    If I were any other team in the Western Conference, I wouldn’t be ridiculing Hollinger’s rankings–or whistling in the dark.

    I’d be scared.

    I’d be very scared.

  30. My favorite part about this win was that the Lakers played with poise. They went into a nationally televised game, against one of the elite 3 in the west, and even in a very close game where the Suns played well, we seemed to stay calm and make smart concise plays.

    My second favorite part about this win was there are no excuses for why we won. The suns played great, all their major players were there, they weren’t in a back to back situation, and Kobe didn’t save the win with a buzzer beater or 60 points. We just out-friggin-played a great team. We ground the Suns down until the full 48 was played. We showed pretty handedly that this team is very capable of playing at the elite level as a team. Awesome.

    On a slightly negative note, what the hell is with some of Lamar’s shot selection?!? I mean, he chose some very tight spots to decide to emulate kobe/fish with a transition pullup dagger. He can’t make those and frankly, we don’t need him to make those anymore. We have other guys that can more than handle the transition shooting. Lamar, you can’t shoot.

    Did anyone notice in the last post when I predicted Lakers 124-116? Preeeeeeeeeetty close…

  31. Not too much to add other than: Super Duper. Seriously starting to think we might be able to win the Pacific Division and guarantee a top 4.

  32. No wonder the suns aren’t any good..they haven’t played a game yet!

    According to the preview:
    Records: Lakers 17-10; Suns 0-0

    I love that there is one mistake in each preview, its kind of like Lakers Where’s Waldo ;)

  33. There is no way that we win the pacific division. Just like Kobe emerged from his recent slump to shoot well in these last two games, the suns will get out of their funk and start racking up the wins. They will get at least 55. I’m not saying we can’t beat them in the playoffs, but they are better designed to win them in bunches against all the mediocrity in the association.

  34. Kobe was a huge factor in this game. He integrated himself well into the system. This is how I want him to play against Phoenix (against everyone, for that matter).

    I remember commenting (not sure if it was here) that Kobe’s much like Lamar. They both play in seperate tones. Lamar is either ‘aggressive’ or ‘passive’. Rarely do I see him as an aggressive playmaker. Kobe is either ‘ballhog’ Kobe or ‘playmaker’ Kobe. This was made evident in the Phoenix series of the last couple of years…. Kobe tried too hard to play as a ‘team’ but he didn’t let the offense revolve around him…I don’t know if that’s Phil’s fault or if it was just inexperience…. but there is a way to play the game right, with a superstar in the middle.

    It’s up to both players to take a step to integrate both aspects into their gameplay.

    Kobe’s taken that step…looks like he’s starting to ‘get it’. Now its Lamar’s turn. It is time to prove himself worthy. I hope that lone star on the back of his head doesn’t represent Kobe.

    The Lakers will have a legit shot at going deep in the playoffs. The Nuggets, Suns, Warriors, they’re the main up tempo threats, and we’ve shown that we have a shot at beating any of them. The sun ain’t so bright in Houston either…this Adelman team has bust potential. Chances are we either face one of these teams, or the big guns (Mavs/Spurs). A 6th place finish seems likely, and a 3rd place Suns finish seems like a possibility. The Nuggets could finish in the 4th/5th spots, as could the Warriors and the Rockets…if we finish 4-6 I think we have a fair shot at making it to the semi’s.

  35. Trevor Ariza’s body type and style of play really reminds me of the Toronto Tracy Mcgrady. The type who Feasted on dribble drives and follow-ups.

    If I remember correctly, Tracy then never really took much jumpers but he really excelled penetrating and slamming it home.

  36. Trevor WILL get better offensively – that is the way he looks at himself. The great advantage he has over the young Tracy McGrady is his defensive prowess. That started with Ben Howland and has been the thing that has kept him in the NBA. Now, with Kobe, Lamar, Bynum around him I think he can relax and just play ball. That is one reason for his breakout this season.

  37. jellosjigglin’ December 26, 2007 at 1:17 am

    what a christmas present! i love it. another big win for us, another huge game for the big boy. we should carry this momentum and beat the faltering jazz on friday to set up a huge throw back grudge match against the celts. i cant wait.

  38. Haha, I was revisiting some old posts and I found this Bynum quote:

    ‘“I want to bring back the skyhook, which Kareem left behind there. That’s one of my favorite shots.”

    Then do so, big fella!

  39. Great win. But tense. I still don’t feel THAT confident against the Suns in the playoffs or otherwise. We’re within one game of them for the lead of the Pacific, but we aren’t going to catch them anytime soon. The Suns play the clippers twice, Sacramento and Seattle in their next 4 games. We play Utah, Boston, Philly and Indiana. We can’t get too satisfied with this win. But hopefully we can get some health back to rejuvinate our bench in the 3 days off…

    Merry Christmas, everybody.

  40. ian is right about that fact that we have little chance to win the Pacific division. The Suns are, by design, made to blitz teams during the year and just by their style of play (and the fact that they do it so well) they’re guaranteed 55 wins. The Lakers, on the other hand, are not, and I doubt they’ll get that far ahead. This was one of the best games I’ve seen them play all year and it was mainly because of three reasons:

    1. Kobe shot very well this game. And it wasn’t really the Suns defense fault because he made some tough shots. He also committed (unlike the last few games I’ve watched where I was really displeased) himself to going to the basket and getting to the line 14 times this game which is more than twice as many as he had been the last few gamems.

    2. Bynum has learned to use his length to play above the rim and beat shorter players. Bynum still has little ability to take the ball on the post, make a move an dscore, by my count he made only 1 shot this way. His other 10 makes? By my count, 4 on alley-oops, 4 on interior passes where he got a layup, and 3 on offensive rebound putbacks (he had 8 ORebs this game). He did much of this on Skinner and Amare who are both 6′ 10”….if he can consistently tower above shorter players, he can shoot a very high percentage every night and get 16/game.

    3. They didn’t rely on the three. Only 12 shot this entire game which constrast the 26 thrown up again the Knicks. Then consider we shot 32 FTs this game rather than only 20 in the Knicks game and therein lies the better offense.

    The only thing this team needs is for Odom, Walton, and VladRad to work to define their roles–Odom did an OK job this game, though, if he’s not going to be efficient, 18 shots is too much. VladRad and Walton are inconsistent, I think because they haven’t defined their roles–the other guys on the team need to help them. Starting Ariza should be a consistent thing (a strong defensive lineup around Kobe is always good)…which also leads me to thinking that Kwame should get his starting job back…though that leaves little scoring in the starting 5. But we shall see……great, solid win though, the Suns played well, we just played better.

  41. the other stephen December 26, 2007 at 3:02 am

    30.

    “On a slightly negative note, what the hell is with some of Lamar’s shot selection?!? I mean, he chose some very tight spots to decide to emulate kobe/fish with a transition pullup dagger. He can’t make those and frankly, we don’t need him to make those anymore. We have other guys that can more than handle the transition shooting. Lamar, you can’t shoot.”

    seriously, man. every time he does that, it’s a dagger to my heart. if he spends just one offseason working on his jumper, then maybe i’ll cut him some slack. maybe he should put in some time on his days off..

  42. So, why does Brian Shaw wear sunglasses at games?

  43. great great win..this was a perfect Suns floor game..high scoring with a blistering 3 pt percentage..and we won..the Laker fan in me rejoices but i was also pretty curious to know how we won with the Suns making 10-24 3 pt shots AND Nash going off for 14 dimes WITHOUT the usual Kobe explosion to save the day..While Drew was dominating,the real difference maker was the charity stripe…We were at around 85% for the night from the line while the Suns were around the mid 60′s % wise..Both those stats are not gonna get repeated too many times guys and we know it..May I humbly suggest that we temper our celebrations just a wee bit and chase those goddamn Suns snipers off the 3 pt line instead of hoping that they miss freebies again???

  44. After their great win against Phoenix, Hollinger Power Rankings (12-26-07) have the Lakers the best in the West!
    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/playoffodds

  45. 42. He just had eye surgery. The glasses are temporary.

  46. There are three Western Conference teams just a hair behind the Lakers: Portland, Golden State, and New Orleans. While the Lakers have been getting more than their share of sudden respect, at least from Hollinger, the others lurk in the shadows. Meanwhile, the supposed upper eschelon drops down closer to Earth.

    Portland was supposed to be one year away from the playoffs, two years from serious contention, and then things could get scary. Well, 11 wins in a row means they are way ahead of schedule. They are already ahead of Utah, and 1/2 game behind Denver in the standings. Hope they cool off by February, when we play them.

    The Warriors victory against Dallas in last year’s playoffs was thought to be one of the great flukes of all time. This year, it doesn’t seem quite as much a fluke any more. Barring a team collapse, the Warriors could be a bigger playoff problem for the Lakers than Phoenix.

    New Orleans has never been taken seriously. They didn’t even play in New Orleans or make the playoffs last year. We already know that they are for real. The only team to beat the Lakers more convincingly was Boston. How could New Orleans possibly be in it when they are in the same division as Dallas and San Antonio? They’re not quite where Portland is yet, but stay tuned.

    Houston, a preseason favorite, is already in the dumps. Utah is falling like a rock. I hope that continues for at least one more game. Dallas is not running away from everyone this year. We’ll find out why when we play them next year. San Antonio is still San Antonio, but a few key injuries show how vulnerable they can become.

    Those of you who are already several rounds into the playoffs in your thinking better hold off. The top teams in the West may be playing more musical chairs than you expect–and some might not even be there!

  47. I must agree with Anand and temper my celebration with caution about our 3pt defense.

    With that said, Xmas was a statement game. Notice that the only two bench players that got much run time in the 4th were Farmar and Sasha? Phil decided to show the country how to avoid losing in the 4th. I was wrong – Bynum apparently can play 40min, but I still wouldn’t want to do it on a nightly basis unless I had to.

    Also, I think we have found our starting lineup against the run-and-gun teams.

  48. Of course the Suns FT% was horrilbe. That’s b/c the Lakers kept sending Brian Skinner to the line. Hey if your going to foul make sure its the right guy!

  49. Just a few comments regarding the game:

    - I understand Lamar is not a great shooter from 3, but, he shoots about 50% from the floor, including from 3. He’s not a bad shooter, but if he didn’t have that abysmal 22% from 3, imagine where his shooting percentage would be.

    - I’m torn on the Bynum/Kwame starting position. I might lean toward starting Kwame and going to Bynum about halfway through the 1st quarter, so Bynum could help a little with the scoring with the 2nd unit. Kwame definitely needs 15-20 a game though, whether at the 3 or 4, so Phil has a tough decision ahead of him as far as line-up shuffling goes.

    - Loved the way Phil took Kobe out earlier in the 3rd so he could start the 4th. Having Kobe and Lamar or Kobe and Bynum to start the 4th is going to stop those mini-runs teams seem to go on from the end of the 3rd through the beginning of the 4th (see Cleveland and NY games for example).

    - The Lakers collapse on the paint too much and help on guys they shouldn’t help on. This leaves wide-open shots for the guys at the 3pt line. They need to stop helping when it is not necessary.

    - love the Ariza move more and more each game as he brings something to this team that was lacking before. And to think he’s only 22. If he ever gets a jumpshot, wow.

    Other than that, LA has been playing great. There are times I think they get complacent with a lead, but I can live with that for now.

  50. Sorry for the double post, but, I meant to say Kwame needs time at the 4 or 5 and not the 3 or 4.

  51. Kurt – Thanks for the quote, hope you and yours had a merry X-mas.

    Funny, whenever I post pre-game analysis it always gets torn apart by the game itself. Kurt, good analysis on the Nash pick-n-roll. He started hurting the Lakers with his 3 range and PJ changed the defense a little to mix things up.

    The bench did not have much of a chance to play (poor play anyhow sans Farmar); Bynum played well by shadowing Stoudemire, the Lakers did not fall in love with the 3 (only hoisted 12), and they got strong performances from their starters.

  52. 28) Scot:
    “Do you really believe Phil that he might bench Andrew once Kwame is ready to return full time?”

    I think that there are several factors at play here:
    1) PJ does not want to keep playing Bynum 40 minutes per game (probably average in the 32-35 range?)
    2) Kwame’s complete lack of offense will not mesh well with the second unit; with Kobe on the first unit that can be masked somewhat
    3) Mihm and Turiaf have not been contributing lately; I assume it is injuries
    4) As well as he has been playing, it would be considered a “slap in the face” for Bynum to be taken out of the starting lineup now, no matter what the logic behind the move might be

    If Turiaf or Mihm was healthy, I think that they would get the majority of the backup minutes at center, because they have decent offensive games, and their defensive weaknesses would be masked since they would be playing against the other team’s backup. Kwame would be used in certain situations where his post-up defense is effective.

    If Turiaf and Mihm are not available, and Kwame is, then I think that Bynum starts, but is substituted for earlier than the rest of the starters, and comes back in sooner. That way most of Kwame’s 12-15 minutes would come with the starters, so that his offense isn’t as much of an issue.

    Who the starting SF and PF are also factor in; if Turiaf is the starting PF, then he would not be as available for playing backup C.

  53. I have long thought the Lakers needed a defensive wing on the starting unit. In Chicago it was Pippen,in LA it was Fox. W/a strong wing defender keeping the other team’s top scoring threat contained,the rest of the team is able to play defense much more effectively w/out having to continualy scramble to help.
    The way I see it,the Lakers just need 3 role players to be an elite team capable of contending for next few yrs.
    I see the Laker starters next yr as Farmar,Kobe,Ariza,PF to be picked up and Bynum. Fisher as vet backup PG,Crit as instant offense combo Gd off bench,Walton to provide steadiness off bench,Radman 3 pt shooting and Turaif energy and 3rd big.
    The needs I see are a PF who can defend Duncan,Boozer and the Brands,Aldridges,etc. He doesn’t have to be an All-Star-Horace Grant filled the role admirably on two seperate runs.
    A 4rth big to play spot minutes and who can temp fill in for injury,fouls,etc.(Perhaps bringing Gasol over?)
    A vet wing who plays D-the rest of bench is too offensive oriented.

  54. a couple more points to the ones that have already been made:
    1. The Lakers are in the top 5 in defensive field goal percentage and defensive 3 point field goal percentage. For some reason or another teams aren’t hitting shots against the Lakers, it was not just the Suns, this has been all season and has been the biggests explanation for our imporved defense.
    2. The Lakers not the Suns are built more to win in the regular season because of their depth. However, yesterdays game was a good example of how depth will not be as important for the Lakers in the playoffs. Phil will have to use a tighter 8 or 9 man rotation. It is clear that Kobe, LO, Fish, Bynum, and Farmar will be part of that rotation I think the other 4 players that should be included are Vlad, Ariza, Kwame and Sasha (maybe Ronnie, not Luke)
    3. One of the things that did concern me yesterdy and was a big reason why we got blown out by New Orleans as well, is our weak-side rotations against the pick and roll. In the first half this was especially a problem, it lead to a litnay of layups for the suns. In the second half we adjusted somewhat because we started collapsing the paint, but this lead to open 3 point shots for phoenix. Against pgs like nash and paul the rotations have to be crisp and there has to be communication. This is an area we need improvement in.
    4. Me and my girlfirend were at the game yesterday (great birthday/xmas gift) and the crowd was electric. From pre-game warmups to the last buzzer there was a playoff atmosphere. That was the first time that I had been at staples center that it felt like the Forum, and the Lakers looked like Showtime.

  55. Stephen,

    What about Lamar? He is still finding his game within the triangle (please Lamar don’t create your own 20+ foot jumpers), but should be the starting PF. Farmar, Fisher, and Kobe are the only Lakers who should take responsibility for creating their own long jumpers deep in the shot clock (ideally with only 8 or less seconds on the clock).

    Comment regarding Ariza, sometimes he needs to shoot those long jumpers in order to commit defenders into “face-guarding.” This opens up the pump-fake and dribble drive where he is beastly.

  56. If Lamar is going to be the SF/PF swing person, depending on the opponent, then we are going to have to live with his periodically ‘spacing out’ during games. That is Lamar. My real concern is whether he plays big minutes in the last 5min of the 4th qtr. I say we see how he is moving and defending and only leave him in if he is defending well. We can make up for the offensive mistakes if he can stay with his man/spot on the floor.

  57. Oh man, I just got the best birthday present ever.

    1 Ticket to the Celtics game on Sunday. All I want as I turn 24 is for the Lakers to give freaking Boston a beatdown.

    Anyone else going to be there? The atmosphere is going to be nuts, I’m predicting.

  58. The guy formerly known as Lamar Odom December 26, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    The Lakers have been the best in the west, according to Hollinger’s rankings, for a number of weeks now. The win against the Suns is not surprising at all. The Lakers have been better than the Suns in Hollinger’s rankings the entire season. I think some fans are actually underestimating this team. I think the Lakers will end in the top 4, and perhaps they’ll end with the best record in the West. We have to remember that Kwame is still out, Ronny is not playing like himself, and Mihm is still not in shape. This team can certainly go down, but I believe it has a lot more growth potential, so I think this team will actually improve as the season goes on.. I said it before and I’ll say it again, the Lakers will go to the Western Finals this season. Aside from the Spurs, no other team looks good enough to beat the Lakers in the playoffs. And with the way things are going for the Spurs at the moment, with their injuries and extended play from their stars (Ginobili) it looks like they’ll have their plates full in the playoffs. I think the Lakers will make the western finals and perhaps they’ll win the west and meet the Celtics or the Pistons in the Finals. I don’t think this team is good enough to beat either of them, but it’s a great start to another dynasty. Lakers-Celtics will be another great rivalry these next 5 years.

  59. 81 Witness,
    It’s just my opinion,but after 3 yrs,Lamar just doesn’t seem to be able to mesh his talents w/the Lakers. I also have serious doubts about his ability to defend Duncan,Boozer,etc thru a series. He makes too much money to be a 6 Man. Note I’m not denying his talents,I’m just saying he’s not a great fit for the Lakers. He doesn’t defend the 2/3s well and he can be overpowered by smart,strong PFs. In the long run I think the Lakers would be well-advised to move him for cap relief and a promising young player.
    As to future offence,I believe Phil will go to his third version of the Triangle and let Farmar be the Initiator. Even if Ariza never developes a reliable jumper his ability to run will compensate as I see more fast breaks w/Farmar and Ariza,perhaps Kobe trailing w/outlets from Bynum and my theoretical PF.

  60. Look man, 14 points and 9 rebounds on 49% shooting from your third option is not that bad. Who in the world could you get for Lamar that would improve this team? Plus, we all know that Lamar steps his game up in the playoffs. This team is fine the way it is. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. And maybe just pray for health.

  61. Drray,

    The current West landscape has intrigued me more than Bynum’s development. I’m a “bigger picture” kind of guy and so this is something I have been keeping track of. But I must admit “Baby Monster” makes me wet my pants.

    Taking the GSW-Dal series into consideration, there are lessons to be learned in this year’s upcoming post-season. Let us remember that Dallas was too cocky to admit that Nellie ball actually bothered them. If I remember it correctly, they had 17 losses all season and four of them came from GS. Its quite clear who got the best of who here.

    This season, Everyone at FBG or almost every intermediate NBA fan placed Utah and Houston as the 2nd tier teams with LA and Denver being the “no margin of error”. As we have discussed plentily, the West’s 8th is the only one up for grabs…

    But of course we predicted the Bulls to win the East too didn’t we?

    What drives me nuts is the fact that something along the West is a hidden agenda of darkhorsing.

    Ok I’m being eccentric on my terms but this is my point – Houston is in danger of missing it. Because we essentially have 9 teams playing for 8 spots. For purposes of discussion and clarity:

    Top-tier:
    Phoenix
    San Antonio
    Dallas

    2nd tier:
    Utah
    Houston

    3rd tier:
    LA Lakers
    Denver

    Spoilers:
    Golden State
    New Orleans

    Both New Orleans and Golden State are playing better than Utah and Houston. Of course that could still change considering we are still at 1/3 of the season but it could also grow as a trend. Remember, there is absolutely 1 thing that math and science cannot predict – LUCK.

    In the current landscape, I am seeing an ironic trend that intrigues me.

    San Antonio owns Phoenix
    Phoenix owns Dallas
    Dallas owns San Antonio

    Now, assuming Houston picks up its pieces and puts them together for a mid-late run and makes seed #6-8, this is where it gets interesting. I see the Texas Triangle this way:

    Houston owns San Antonio.
    Dallas owns Houston.

    Therefore, the defending champs should be worried that the Rockets are in the bottom half. They are probably the only team in the West along with Dallas who has the Spurs’ number.

    SO if the seeds go like this:

    1 Phoenix vs 8 Golden State
    4 Denver vs LA Lakers
    2 San Antonio vs 7 Houston
    3 Dallas vs 6 New Orleans or Utah

    Phoenix wins it but they have to play at full gear. LA has Denver’s number and so the 2nd round is not a pipe.

    Dallas will get the better of either team that makes the 6th seed in my projection, but the Spurs will be in for a bumpy ride if this projection happened. They will face a “revenge-minded” team in Houston on the 1st round. They might still win it but I can guarantee it won’t be easy. Dallas then awaits the defending champs and you know they are the Spurs biggest thorn. They will reminisce about 2006 when Dallas beat them in game7 at the SBC center.

    What then does this leave us?
    Phoenix vs LA
    Dallas vs San Antonio

    Both SA and PHX will have expended so much energy squeaking past the 1st round that they might be in for a surprise in the 2nd. We have the Suns number this year and the best they could do to us is tie up.

    Sorry for the loOoOong post, just my 2 cents.

    PS. Didn’t I predict a meltdown for either Dallas or Houston? Houston just did, Dallas is next.

  62. I also forgot to add that we might be 5th seeds but homecourt is ours since we beat Denver twice already, and I think we play them 3x only this year.

  63. I actually came up with similar scenarios, Warren, that had us playing in the WCF. Scheduling quirks assigning PHX, SA, DAL and HOU in certain manners can give us a huge boost.

    I think, however, that Dallas is a better match up for us than PHX is, just because Kobe seems to own Dallas.

  64. 60. Fine points, Jones.

    Lamar is a deceptive player. When he’s on the floor, he looks like he’s doing nothing…but just watch how bad this team misses him when he’s out. He does make a difference.

    Also, Lamar does bring it come playoff time. He has shown that he has the ability to shut down a player, as he did Shawn Marion. Most of the season he coasts on defense, but when he’s focused, he has defensive capabilities.

    Honestly, I think Kidd is just what Lamar needs. It would be great to see him thrive as a third option. Heck, it’d be pretty fun seeing Bynum catching good lobs for a change. If the Lakers acquire Kidd, the Suns better hope they don’t face the Lakers in the playoffs. They are done.

  65. Guys, we are four months from the start of the playoffs, that is an eternity. It’s a little too early to predict matchups and who will be healthy. For instance, I expect at least one of Utah and Houston to put it together and start playing very well, changing the picture. But we shall see.

    And Jones, I’m not as comfortable with Odom as you seem to be, but the point that he has stepped it up in the playoffs when the team needed him the last could years can’t be denied. And he does put up good numbers most nights. You’re right, it’s going to be hard to get anyone as useful as he is (although I’d throw his name out there a little to see who nibbles).

  66. Hey Kurt, no fair making trade comments. Besides, the Lakers will play out the string with Lamar this year, and if his play doesn’t improve enough, they’ll do a sign and trade with the Clips because Brand is going to opt out.

  67. Hey, did anyone notice the Suns giving up a little early in this game? As in, no frenzied fouls in the last minute. I saw the Lakers running around as if it was coming and it never did. I think this is D’Antoni trying to play mental games, saying this regular season game doesn’t count so much. Not sure if I’m reading too much into it or if it’s an at all effective ploy, but I saw it and wondered if anyone else saw the same.

  68. The Dude Abides…

    I don’t think what I am about to say violates the “no-trade-spec” rule, I would just like to dip my pinky on the Brand situation…

    Elton Brand is being paid 15.3m this year and some 16.4m next year. This is big time money for a big time player. Brand is an excellent fundamental guy to have and we all know he is the poor man’s version of Tim Duncan.

    However, unlike Duncan, he is no 1st option and being paid superstar money warrants that you should be. Ok he is the Clip’s 1st option and they have had relative success but my point is, if Brand is not assured of bigger money and financial security for the next 5 or 6 years, there is no reason for him to opt out esp that he has not played a single game this season.

    Assuming he does, it will be for a guarantee that his new team, it being the Clippers itself, will be signing him the MAX for 5-6 years.

    Assuming the Lakers do nab him through a sign-and-trade, it would almost mean that the Clippers SHOULD consider rebuilding AGAIN. This does not hold too well for LA’s illegitimate son (sorry John R.) since they too need starpower to keep themselves afloat.

    At the other end, there is one player that is almost 100% to opt out IMO. That player is Corey Maggette. He too will seek that 8-figure pay and seek star attention.

    However, there would be more sense to it if the Clips balk at 10-11m per to their best player this year since Corey has actual BEEF with his coach – Dunleavy Sr. He will therefore use this as a motivation to earn the dough and a little convincing or two, he’s out of the Clippers for good.

    If it matters though, Chris Kaman is starting to earn his 10m. Having Brand and Kaman earn 50% of your yearly cap space with NO PG doesn’t bid too well. Well, as Kurt said, there is an eternity of basketball left to play so we’ll have to sit back and watch…

  69. Warren, good points…I’ll just say in response that it’s possible EB will take less annual money to play for a team that’s capable of winning the championship RIGHT NOW.