Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  December 28, 2009

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Records: Lakers 24-5 (1st in West) Suns 19-12 (5th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.3 (14th in league) Suns 114.4 (1st in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.3 (1st in league) Suns 110.8 (27th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire, Channing Frye

The Lakers Coming in:No Ron Artest tonight, he was not cleared by doctors to play. This is a head injury, nothing to mess around with long term (just ask the NFL… what, they say nothing is wrong? Riiiiiight.). Get Ron Ron better, that’s what matters.

This means the Lakers will go extra big with Odom starting against the small Suns (who play well at home).

Great post from Kevin over at TrueHoop on how much you can really take from a regular season loss:

If I’m the Lakers, I want to use this loss to the Cavs to better understand why my team entered Sunday night tied for 15th in the NBA with the Houston Rockets in offensive efficiency rating. How can a team as long and skilled in the post as the Lakers have this much trouble finishing at the rim? Is there something amiss with the spacing, even though the unit operates in a system that thrives on space? Are the Lakers becoming needlessly impatient trying to pound the ball inside instead of drawing defenders to the perimeter, which would get them cleaner looks underneath? Addressing these questions over the next 50 games seems like a very doable exercise.

The Suns Coming in: After a hot start to the season, the Suns have cooled off and are a pedestrian 4-6 in their last 10 games.

West All Star staring center Amare Stoudemire (and you know that grates on Bynum) continues to play well, averaging 22 a game in the last 10 shooting 54% from the floor, while adding 10 rebounds. Steve Nash continues to play amazingly well, also averaging 22 a game in the last 10 but shooting 64% (eFG%) and 40.9% from three. Plus, he can still pass as well as anyone who has played the game.

Outside of those two however the Suns contributions have been less consistent. Channing Frye can shoot the three, Dudley has his moments, but overall the shooting of the Suns has slumped off. And when you don’t play good defense, you can’t have shooting slumps.

The Suns will have the lightning quick Leandro Barbosa back tonight.

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

Keys to game: In the Lakers two previous wins this season over the Suns, they were at Staples catching Phoenix in the second game of a back-to-back. That will not be the case tonight, and I expect this one to be closer.

The Lakers still know the secrets to beating the Suns. Just to recap in short:

• Pound the ball inside on offense, and have the bigs run the floor and get good deep position. If the Suns double, make them pay.

• Let Steve Nash dribble and be a jump shooter but try to cut off the penetration where he kicks out to an open Hill or Richardson for the three — if Nash scored 20+ but the other Suns do not get involved offensively they are not as good a team.

• Do not run with them. Take layups and attack the basket on fast breaks, but no PUJITs. See point number one about pounding the ball inside.

• Do not let Leandro Barbosa get going. That means cutting off the outlet pass to him — if you let him get the ball and a head of steam to half court you are not going to catch or contain him. Stop him before he starts.

• Defend the three-point line.

Where you can watch: 6: pm start, you can watch on Channel 9 here in LA and listen on 710 ESPN radio.

Kurt

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