Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  December 10, 2008

NBA Finals Game 4: Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Records: Lakers 17-3 (1st in West) Suns 13-9 (8th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.5 (3rd in league) Suns 109.6 (6th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.1 (3rd in league) Suns 109.3 (24th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Suns Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Matt Barnes, Amare Stoudemire, Robin Lopez

Live Chat Tonight: We are going to be doing a live chat for tonight’s game against the Suns. This is the system we used last time, with comments flowing and a fast pace, so grab a winter brew and swing on by. The chat tips off at 7:30.

Lakers Note In all the hand wringing about the loss to Sacramento, one thing has not been mentioned around here — the Kings hustled. They wanted it. They earned the W. Yes the Lakers are more talented and should have played harder, but credit the Kings for doing just that. Good on Theus and his squad.

Lakers Suns Rivalry Think about all the great games in this series recently.

April 30, 2006, Kobe just can’t be stopped in crunch time. He hits this running/floater shot with seven-tenths of a second left in the fourth quarter to force overtime, then drains the 17-footer to give the Lakers a 99-98 win. At that point the Lakers are up 3-1 in the Western Conference playoffs. I don’t remember what happened after that…..

Or May 10, 2000, another Kobe game, but he was just 21 at the time. Clock running down he dribbles it out in isolation, then hit a 15-foot jumper over Jason Kidd to seal a 97-96 win. Lakers go up 2-0 in a playoff series. I remember what happened in the rest of those playoffs.

Before that was a regular season game where Magic hit a fade-away jumper to win by two. There were a series of great games in the 1980s when the Suns were a top team and the Lakers were led by Magic and Kareem — and one game where the ball went into Kareem, who passed out to Norm Nixon for a patented 15-foot fadeaway that won the game.

Everybody kind of sees the Lakers as a rival, but few teams have that many rivalry games with us over the decades.

The Suns Coming In: Our condolences go out to Shaq on the loss of his grandmother.

He would have made her proud last night with a vintage performance – 35 points, 10 boards and he just dominated the game the way he used to. He’s still good for that now and again, but he will not be in the lineup tonight.

Amare has wanted to get the spotlight, and he has been the best player on the Suns of late, averaging 21 and 8 in the last 10 games. He also has been picking up fouls at a fast rate, getting five in the last three games prior to the win over the Bucks.

Raja Bell has been cold of late, shooting 25% in his last three games but he is shooting 46.8% from three in the last 10, so best not to leave him open.

Keys To The Game: With Shaq out these are going to look a little more like the old Suns than the new ones. That means the overall strategy has to be make Nash the shooter, don’t let him dish out the assists. When he scores 30 the Suns lose, but if he scores 18 but has 15 assists they become tough to beat.

The Lakers have been, um, crap at defending the pick and roll lately, and it is something that plays to the weaknesses of the Lakers aggressive defensive system. But they are going to see a steady diet of it until they start playing it well, and few teams run it as well as the Suns with Nash and Amare. The Lakers need to be focused, show out hard on Nash and not let him dictate everything.

What the Suns are doing now is turning the ball over a lot — 18% of their possessions end in turnovers, highest rate in the league. The Lakers should be able to create turnovers tonight, but unlike last night they need to take care of the ball for that to matter.

Farmer vs. Barbosa, a fun matchup that could determine the battle of the second units.

Both teams had games last night, although the Lakers should have an advantage as they clearly did not expend much energy during the contest.

Where you can watch: You can choose Fox Sports here in LA or ESPN here and everywhere else. So, Mark Jackson or Stu Lantz?