Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  December 6, 2009

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Records: Lakers 15-3 (1st in West) Suns 15-5 (3rd in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 108.1 (14th in league) Suns 115.3 (1st in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.3 (3rd in league) Suns 110.5 (25th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire, Channing Frye

The Lakers Coming in:Well, I asked for it. I said I wanted to see the Lakers tested and we got that. You can thank me later, because without that we get no dramatic Kobe bank shots.

But we should not be under the impression the Lakers played a great game. In particular, their fourth-quarter pick and roll defense was painfully bad. It’s not the kind of thing you freak out about in December, but it gives the team something to think about and work on as they start to travel a little and play some more quality teams (two games against the Jazz coming up, then there is that Cleveland team on Christmas).

The Suns Coming in: The Suns may mot play the best defense in the league, but they wouldn’t let a guy tie his shoe during the game and do nothing about it.

Phoenix comes into this game on the second night of a back-to-back, having beaten Sacramento last night (Phoenix in Sacramento then LA, they should call this the Purple Road Trip for them). The Kings put up a good fight and none of the Suns stars got to take the fourth quarter off. The Suns had lost their two previous games to the Knicks and Cavs.

The Suns have played 17 of their first 26 on the road and apparently have no friends in the NBA Schedule Maker’s office.

What’s been interesting, especially after those two losses, was the words coming out of the Suns locker room. Coach Alvin Gentry said the team seemed to lack confidence. Nash and Amare echoed those thoughts (as did some opposing players). It’s interesting and odd to hear a 15-5 team say they lack confidence, especially a Suns team that a few years back played with such swagger. Their system and style is only going to work if they play with that kind of confidence, and apparently that is lacking somewhat.

Blogs and links: A couple good Suns blogs out there, Valley of the Suns and Bright Side of the Suns.

The quote of the day comes from Get Banged on (via JE Skeets): “If Brad Miller jumps … does he really leave the ground?”

Also, off topic, long time reader/commenter here AusPhil is coming out to Los Angeles from Australia for a few days starting later this week. He wants to attend a Laker game or two, so if anyone has tickets they want to sell to the upcoming home games (T-Wolves, Kings, just not the Cavs on Christmas) shoot me an email and I’ll try to hook you two up.

Keys to game: We tend to think of the Suns as the run and gun squad, the Lakers slowing it down and getting the ball in the post. But so far this season, the Suns average 0.3 more possessions per game more than the Lakers — the two teams play at almost the exact same pace. Part of that is that the Lakers do push the ball off turnovers and Bynum/Gasol run the floor well and get early position down low and score quickly that way. (Plus, other teams are working hard to slow the Suns down.)

The Suns are shooting well from three as a team, 43.8%. They get good looks from their the same way they generate all their offense — via Steve Nash’s great decision making. Bill Bridges did a great breakdown of the early season Suns last meeting and his description of how they get points is still spot on:

1. Nash penetration. Usually to his left. Swing out with his left hand to the right corner 3. Or a further swing from the corner to the key and wing for open 3’s

2. Kick out from left block by Richardson or Hill after a double. Usually to the right wing to Frye/other shooter for open 3

3. PUJIT – no need to say more

Unlike most right handed players, Nash tends to penetrate going left. This is function of two factors,

– Amare tends to pick to Nash’s left – this naturally leads to his rolling from the right side or popping for a shot on the right and Amare is a strong right-handed player.

– Nash has a deadly jumpshot off the dribble to the right. He is not nearly as comfortable shooting over his right shoulder.

So force Nash to the right to discourage penetration and live with the jump shots.

In the past we have called this the “Steve Nash treatment” which is to let him dribble (no player in the league holds on to his dribble better) and make him the shooter. He’s a pretty good shooter, there is a price to pay, but better Nash scores 25 and has 7 assists than if he scores 14 and has 14 assists, that is when the Suns are dangerous, when the whole team is flowing. The Lakers did a good job with this last game, and Nash got frustrated and frustrated with the officiating (remember he made the glasses gesture to Violet Palmer?).

On offense last meeting, the Lakers won by establishing themselves in the post, both Bynum and Kobe. Bynum really gives Stoudemire fits. But tonight the Suns can give minutes to a true center in Robin Lopez as a counter. Of course, last meeting the Lakers were without Gasol, so the Lakers have their own counter move waiting.

Hopefully this is another game where we get to see The Taco Unit.

Where you can watch: 6:30 start at Staples Center, you can watch on Fox Sports and listen on 710 ESPN radio.



104 responses to Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

  1. Shout out for Warren.

    Suns will be tougher this time around, but after the below-average play last game (except for the end lol), I look for the Lakers to set the tone early.

    Hit em where it hurts – whoever Amare happens to be “guarding.”

  2. I want to see someone step up and be our go to guy to guard PGs for the first three quarters the way Ariza did for us before

    We can only hope one of our back up guards can be that guy

  3. Phil Jackson has not hung his lights or even gotten a tree yet, your ahead of him this year Kurt on the Christmas stuff.

  4. no, they get taken down because of this

  5. any non-crappy links?

  6. Lakers are looking much better tonight and are off to a good start

  7. links?

  8. just started watching, have I missed anything?

  9. Just the crappy Freedocast ones, eh?

  10. Thanks kurt, hopefully it will be the lakers play rather than the slacking suns that will determine the game.
    little bit better but far from perfect.

  11. I love how Kobe can drives and makes it look as if he was moving in slow motion, scary awareness…

  12. dudley is deadly from three

  13. okay so today is a no show game for odom

  14. farmar and shannon ice cold

  15. sorry kurt spoke to soon

  16. Yeah, Farmar has been playing well over the past few games. If Lamar would wake up the bench would be doing alright.

  17. Rare occurence: bad post entry by Artest.

    Also, what happened to the third official, David Jones or something? Something about him going to the hospital?

  18. Haven’t been able to see all of his on-fire hits, have they been in the flow of the offense? Or a little brash?

  19. LO may be having a bad shooting night, but he is leading the team with 5 boards right now and has an assist.

  20. I think now we know why Bynum doesn’t pass. The Black Hole plays to his strengths, and hides his weaknesses.

  21. Thank you, Simonoid!

  22. He was reportedly feeling “dizzy” (the ref).

    • The third ref was feeling dizzy in the first quarter and after being looked at by doctors is on his way to the hospital as a precaution.

  23. That’s a pretty solid finish to the half. Always nice to go back to the lockerroom with a double digit lead.

  24. Thing I like best about the half is the .432 shooting by the Suns.

  25. jilab25- Farmar had 1 or 2 shots from behind the arch right when he brought the ball up the court but other than that I have no complaints. (converted on em’)

  26. Weirdness in the Cavs box score. Cavs win by 15. Somehow Shaq in just over 15 minutes is MINUS 18. (Contrast: Big Z is game-high +31 in 20 minutes to compensate. Z is a serious pro to not be complaining every day about being on the bench.)

    The Shaq Experiment is still floundering.

    • Lakers doing a much better job getting the ball inside this game. Bynum is getting his shots. And almost hit that line-drive three.

  27. couple of boneheaded plays but we’re +5 in the half…
    lakers look a little tentative..

  28. Despite the outcome of tonights game, I am positive that the Lakers will have no issues with Phoenix come May! – Dawn Callahan Kettlewell

  29. Do they need to remind us about Tim Thomas’ shot?

  30. amare can’t possible make those jumpers all night… or can he?

  31. That’s the highest I’ve seen Drew go up for an alley oop in a while. Hopefully this means he’s gradually regaining his explosiveness.

  32. does someone have another stream link? everything i try to find is down…

  33. all links just went out! anybody got a working one?

  34. @ 41 blah-

    I think that’s it. Theres always a few and once they get taken down by admins, that’s it.

  35. atdhe is back up

  36. I like this Kobe guy, i think we should get him an extension 😀

  37. Ron Artest is a menace.

  38. I enjoy watching Gasol play, he is a very good passer and at finding the open player

  39. Farmar for dunk contest.

  40. Nice defense

  41. No Joke, these announcers seem to really love our lakers. Their pre commercial segment featured Ron stealing the ball and feeding JFarm for the dunk… awkward to say the least.

  42. Can we have a semi-taco unit of Bynum, Odom, Farmer, ShanWOW, and rice with meat?

  43. shannon struggling a bit

  44. Miss Cleo just told me she can see a plethora of cheap tacos in the near future.

  45. Ugh, no one bothering to run the offense, Kobe included. Everything is outside jumpers or one on one moves.

  46. so will they fail again in the fourth quarter?

  47. Seems the taco unit (or semi-taco unit) have a tendency to showboat and try fancy stuff that often leads to turnovers and miss-opportunities.

  48. At least it isn’t one of those Live By Kobe Die By Kobe nights (LBK/DBK?).

    The outcome does not seem to be in question much, but was hoping there’d be PT for A/S combo…

  49. I thought we were at the bottom when it comes to team 3 pt shooting…

    … and it’s morning again! AM checking in 🙂

  50. The taco unit?? lol…

  51. Ron Artest doing all the dirty work. This guy is a force for sure

  52. Artest 5 steals, that is great for him and the Tacos are safe, I believe.

  53. I don’t know how I feel about Brown- forces some ugly shots- then hits two threes in a row.

    Yes, Artest is a menace. A championship calibur should have a guy like him on the floor. In your face, aggressive enforcer- lovin it.

  54. Taco Unit!

    Mbenga & Vujacic just in!

  55. TACO UNIT Time!

    sadly taco unit time is only for home games right?
    what happens if we’re blowing opponents out during road games? Do they have alternative names 😛

  56. Taco Unit in force!

  57. Is it telling that a Machine sighting has become what a Sun sighting was last year?

    62 – I sometimes worry that Brown’s time with the garbage unit is bringing on bad habits. This taco unit still plays too individualistically.

  58. Kobe with 36 minutes tonight. Still getting too many minutes. He’s playing the SF spot a lot when Ron goes to the bench and Farmar/Brown make up the backcourt. Hopefully when Luke gets back, he soaks up some of those SF minutes and Kobe gets back to the low 30’s or less in blowout gmes.

  59. got to give it to the suns play by play guy, he’s done his research and the most unbaised commentry team ive heard in the league

  60. “He shoots like a T-Rex”. Does Phil ever run out of one-liners?

  61. Just switched to gamecast of Cleveland and Milwaukee since the PHX-LAL one is kaputt, and thought it was Christmas already…

    But hrm, espn sure isn’t updating…

  62. much better effort and job by the Taco Unit tonight

  63. The box score looks beautiful. Just great balance all-around. Love what our backup guards are doing – although defensively, I think Aaron made a great point: Shannon is most devastating at the point, where his size and athleticism is truly unnatural. But the problem is Farmar can’t guard 2’s so we lose a little WOW and pick up a little Farmar when they’re on the court together. Either way, they’re both playing well.

    I agree with J. 36 minutes isn’t bad, but for a 20-point rout I’d like to see Kobe with less minutes. I’m not worried or anything (best conditioned athlete on the planet), but the man deserves some rest.

  64. Odom is shooting 41% from the floor and 54% from the line for 8.4 points a game.

    All career low’s.

  65. reggyray69- who was pj referring to?

  66. Jeremy: D.J.

  67. I am so impressed by Pau’s D on Nash. He is truly a PG in a 7’0 body. He was moving his feet, doing a solid job. They left him on an island 3-4 times (at least) and Nash converted one jump shot. That’s defense.

    As I was watching, I really felt like we were giving A’mare the 17-footer all game. I remember he shot very poorly the 1st game, so maybe I didn’t realize that as much last time, but he got a lot of good looks.

    No complaints though, I’ll take this outcome. ; )

  68. reggyray- thought so! that’s who I thought of when I read T-Rex (lol).

    Anyway, anyone else feeling for the jailblazers with their center out for the season due to knee injury. (can’t help but sympathize)

  69. I’m with Phil on LO. As long as the boards and assists are there, the shot will come around. He lead the team with 8 boards tonight with less minutes than any of the starters. Also chipped in 3 assists. Only Ron had more than him.

    Wasn’t the best game for LO, but far from a horrendous one.

  70. Snoopy2006, J: Kobe’s 36 minutes were very easy, by and large. Lots of just dumping it into the post from the top of the key. As 36-minute outings go, you could do a lot worse.

    Besides, the Suns are one team where a 20-point lead is probably safe only with less than about 5:00 on the clock–not too long before Kobe did eventually go out anyway.

  71. Taylor (9:04 p.m.): Nash is nimble, but not especially fast. Lamar and Pau are both agile enough to keep him at bay. Lamar in particular–his length and lateral quickness really seems to stymie a lot of otherwise quick guards; I’ve seen Tony Parker even seem a bit confused as to what to do with Lamar.

    But I agree that Pau does have a guard’s court vision and mentality for the game. We’re lucky to have him.

  72. Woo! Another win, go lakers!

    Was poking around at the stats on for the team, and one thing we as fans can really hang our hat on is the lakers are #1 in the league at lowest FG% and 3P% given up – .426 and .298 respectively. That’s our defense right there, and I hope we can sustain that great start and be in a great position to repeat.

  73. I read an article on ESPN and read something that I thought stood out quite a bit: the Lakers will have played over 40% of their home games by Friday.

    This was followed by me glancing at their upcoming schedule and it looks brutal. The string of @’s looks very daunting. I hope the my Lakers pull through! The bench will be sorely needed so I hope Farmar/Brown keep up the good play.

    Interestingly, Phoenix is in the opposite situation: after this week, they will have played a big chunk of their road games. Look for them to surge in Jan/Feb.

    Cheers to another Victory!

  74. Watching Pau play is just beautiful. His little bounce drop to cutters is more than perfect.

  75. Mico (64),

    When they’re away, they’re the Taco Truck (I didn’t come up with this).

  76. Re: Lakers on the Road
    Lets not forget many of these away games will be against weak eastern conference teams and the Lakers scored the NBA’s best road record a season ago playing mostly without Andrew Bynum and completely without Ron Artest. I think the key stat to keep track of is the Lakers 8-0 mark playing with Pau Gasol in the lineup.

  77. KB 24 needs around at least 38 minutes to be on top form.

  78. how about a little love for Andrew’s pass to Pau when he was double teamed and Pau cut to the hoop. I replayed that one, Andrew kept his eyes open and saw the double team come and hit the open cutter, Pau, for an easy lay up.
    this is part of his growth and we should all ease up on this “black hole” nickname.

    an Artest had an excellent game, love his game last night strong D, steals, nice touch on the 3’s.

  79. sorry for the double post but I got a kick out of this sequence last night –
    Andrew gets it in the post, he gets doubled right away, he kicks it back out to kobe, (now in the past, and it was all in the press the last few days, the joke was when he kicks it back out, he doesn’t get it re-posted, ie; he never sees it again)
    well, Kobe must have read the press, cause he faked a pass to Fish on the perimeter, and tossed it right back into Drew, (who seemed surprised). not sure if he scored, but what was important to me is that he’s learning-
    1) watch for cutters
    2) when he kicks it out he just might get it back, re-posting, and these things are part of his learning to be a part of the flow of the team/game, in the end, a much better center and a much better team!

  80. Oh man, did you see this quote from Al Harrington on the Daily Dime?

    “‘The biggest thing I was saying to the guys was we can’t lose to the Nets.’

    — Knicks’ forward Al Harrington after New York notched its third win in four games” -ESPN

    How sad is that for the Nets? Even Knicks players are ashamed to lose to them.

  81. Two quick things from last night: (1) That was about the most ho-hum 20-point win over a 15-5 team I can remember in quite some time, and (2) Ron Artest has about the strongest hands I’ve ever seen in the NBA.

    I’m writing this from the Cleveland airport and hexing this town’s title hopes the best I can.

  82. the other Stephen December 7, 2009 at 8:54 am

    sasha really took out all that pent-up benchwarmer energy upon dragic, didn’t he? that last minute and a half of defense was mind-blowing.

  83. Regarding the schedule,

    There will be some tough roadies, no doubt. But these guys are battle tested. With the gamesmanship of Kobe, Pau, and Fish they will be fine.

    Plus, with Pau’s injury and integrating Ron it was good for the Lakers to have this long home stand. It gave them a chance to get their kinks out. Plus, look at that upcoming five game roadie. The only game that may be up in the air is the one at Utah. The rest are very winnable games for a defending championship team.

    Admittedly, March looks pretty brutal. But every team in the league has at least one brutal period of games on their schedule. The Lakers (barring injuries) should still end up at (or very close to) the top of the NBA in the win/loss column at the end.

  84. #93. the other Stephen,
    I had to stop watching the game and missed Sasha’s defense on Dragic. Was he really hounding him? If so, remember that they are countrymen (Slovenia) and I would not doubt that Sasha would want to go after him just to make a point.

  85. The Lakers are geting alot of points in the paint which is a good thing

    Here is a list of the league’s five most prolific points-in-the-paint scorers entering Friday’s play from ESPN’s Daily Dime. You’ll note three of them are Lakers.
    Points In The Paint (PIP)
    Name PIP PG
    Andrew Bynum (Lakers) 14.0
    Andrew Bogut (Bucks) 12.7
    Monta Ellis (Warriors) 12.6
    Kobe Bryant (Lakers) 12.4
    Pau Gasol (Lakers) 12.3
    *Minimum 5 games

  86. Remember all of our defensive rebounding struggles? I haven’t seen the numbers pre/post Pau injury, but since he’s come back it has realy seemed to improve.

  87. I am not really worried about all of the scheduled away games in the future, the Lakers had the best record playing those away games last year, did they not? Yeah, we needed these home games to get Pau back, and integrate Artest into the system. You know, now was the best time for the easy home games to be played. Wow, that points in the paint stat is great for us, that is where you want your baskets to come from, if possible, right? That was a fairly easy win over a 15–5 team last night.

  88. 97- Franky, When one the most skilled big men in the league comes back from injury, I think it is expected that our REB numbers would increase. Pau is among the best in the league at going out to help on penetration and getting back to his man, boxing out, and snatching the board.

  89. >we should all ease up on this “black hole”

    I’m not quite ready to do that; check this out:
    Drew 0.65
    DJ 0.60


  90. I think the 2 games against Utah are a nice test for the Lakers. They could probably drop one of them without too much shame (especially the game in Utah as the second night of a b2b). Every team loses some games. But if they take those 2 games (even if they lose to Minnesota as a gift to their old friend Rambis), that sends a message to the league and conference about this team. Especially going into their first real road trip of the year. But for the 2 Suns games, this win streak has been a feast on bottom feeders. They’ve taken care of business but haven’t shown dominance against any elite teams except for Phoenix. That’s the real test. As frustrating as it is to lose to bad teams, it does no good to send messages against them. Its beating good teams that grabs attention.

    Keep this in mind when listening to the Celtics for the next few weeks, too. They are on a 7 game win streak and should be heavily favored in every game until they see Orlando on Christmas (also no b2bs). They SHOULD be on a 15 game win streak by that time, or else somewhere they lost to a team they shouldn’t have.