Lakers at Suns Game Preview

Jeff Skibiski —  October 29, 2010

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The 1-0 Lakers head to the Valley of the Sun tonight to face a drastically different Phoenix squad than the one that took them to six games in last year’s Western Conference Finals (shout out to Ron Artest…that Game 5 winner is still fresh in my mind). That old stalwart with the long hair and perfectly arched three point shot is still around, but the pieces–new and old–surrounding him after Amar’e Stoudemire’s offseason departure remain somewhat of a mystery at this point. That said, here are a few things to look for in tonight’s road opener:

* The Lakers new-and-improved point guard tandem of Derek Fisher and Steve Blake gets its first test of the young season against an elite point guard (apologies to Aaron Brooks) in the aforementioned Steve Nash. Unlike past seasons, though, when Nash had the luxury of dumping the ball down to Stoudemire, his role has been more of a scoring point guard through the Suns’ first two games. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the pesty guard’s 26 points in Phoenix’s season opening loss to Portland and 18 points in the Suns’ win against Utah last night—both of which either led or tied for the team lead in scoring—is a rather rare feat for Nash, who only accomplished that once in consecutive games during the 2009-2010 season. As Steve goes, so too go the Suns, which makes stopping him priority number one for the Lakers.

* Though Stoudemire has never been known as a prominent rebounder or defender, he still filled the lane in a way that no current Suns player is capable of emulating on a consistent basis. Robin Lopez proved in last year’s playoffs that he has the potential to become a force down low and the offseason band-aid pick-up of Hakim Warrick will undoubtedly help some, but at the end of the day, the Lakers—Bynum or no Bynum—should be able to fully take advantage of the size disparity between the two teams. Pau pulled down a gritty 11 boards in the home opener against Houston and I’d look for him to meet or exceed that number tonight. Despite his efforts, the Lakers found themselves in an unfamiliar position against the Rockets, who badly outrebounded them 53-44. Against a larger Yao Ming-led Houston team, it makes a little more sense; a similar effort against Phoenix would be inexcusable, though.

* The Lakers have won each of their last five road openers, but these types of early season games against a hungry team like the Suns, whose crowd will no doubt be ready to take some vengeance out on the forum blue and gold, are always dangerous. As we all witnessed in the Conference Finals last season, Phoenix’s stellar outside shooting and athleticism were able to mitigate some of the Lakers’ largest strengths. Moreover, the zone defense employed by Alvin Gentry really caught the Lakers off guard and if it weren’t for Artest’s put-back in Game 5, who knows what direction the series could have turned.

* Overall, the Suns roster reminds me a bit of a Thanksgiving dinner without the stuffing and cranberry sauce. Sure, they have some talented pieces—especially with their surplus of small forward types (Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu, Jared Dudley and even Josh Childress, though he’s listed as as a two)—but their roster appears unbalanced and incomplete by today’s NBA standards. Against a team like the Lakers, who can throw any combo of Artest, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Kobe on you, one of Phoenix’s most important advantages is taken away. If you’re Phoenix, where is the stuffing needed to fill the lane against the physical rosters of the league’s elite teams?

* The Lakers will have had three days off by tipoff time, which for most teams might be considered a little counterproductive at this time of the year. The Lakers aren’t in that category, though, with several players—most notably, one Kobe Bryant—still recovering from injuries. With Tuesday night’s emotional ring ceremony and last minute victory behind them, tonight’s game should be a good gauge for where this team’s mental state resides early on in this 2010-11 season. Ideally, it would be great to see the Lakers take a focused, business-like approach to tonight’s game, keeping their feet on the pedal and extending their early season momentum.

WHERE YOU CAN WATCH: ESPN and KCAL at 7:30 p.m. PST or 710 AM ESPN Radio.

Jeff Skibiski

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58 responses to Lakers at Suns Game Preview

  1. Two Warren

  2. 3 peat for Warren

  3. I just thought I’d point out that tonight is the first match up of what could end up becoming a nice support group: Cleveland vs Toronto

    The first game of the year where, regardless of the score, both teams still end up as the losers.

  4. Unheard of 4-peat for Warren

  5. dammit – fivepeat for warren.

    i hate peer pressure.

  6. I hate to break up Warrren’s party here…

    But one of the interesting subplots of this game is the fact that in past seasons we’ve always discussed “the Steve Nash treatment” where we force Nash (and any other assist heavy PG) to be a scorer rather than get the rest of his team going by getting loads of assists. Well, it looks like with the diminished inside talent of the Suns and how the P&R just isn’t as deadly when it’s Hakim Warrick or Robin Lopez diving to the hoop rather than STAT, that Nash is being forced to take on a greater scoring burden. I’m not yet sure if/how this will affect the Lakers game plan against the Suns, but I’m interested in seeing this game just to find out. I mean, will Phil try to make Nash a passer so that Phoenix’s bigs have to try and score against the Lakers’ front line? Will the Lakers, knowing they have wing defensive depth, want Nash to pass to his SG/SF’s so that the Lakers can try to shut those guys down and not let the normally super efficient Nash have the type of scoring outburst that can keep Phoenix in the game? Anyways, just thought I’d mention one of the things that I really plan to focus on tonight.

  7. MICHAEL ZARABI aka ZERB October 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    #4 … that’s just really sad … thank god Im a Lakers fan

  8. While waiting for the Lakers game, I’m watching the Magic vs. Heat @ http://atdhe.net/26850/watch-orlando-magic-vs-miami-heat

    Does anyone have a better link? I watched the Heat vs. Lakers game on a high-quality Veetle feed. That was nice.

  9. Sorry, I meant Houston Rockets vs. Lakers. Looking forward to Heat vs. Lakers, obviously.

  10. #9. You can watch the game at ESPN3 at this link (very good feed):

    http://espn.go.com/espn3/index?id=52551

    And, for those wondering, you can watch the Laker game via ESPN3 was well at this link:

    http://espn.go.com/espn3/index?id=52557

  11. So, has Sarver basically abandoned all attempts of putting together a great team? I’m sure the remaining players would argue the point publically but Nash and Hill have got to be thinking they’ve been sent out into the wars with a squad that’s built to punt.

  12. Watching the Heat-Magic game here as well, while making dinner and preparing for great nice Halloween weekend.

    I confess that I feel a bit bad for Steve Nash at times. He seems like a very nice guy, but in addition to that, the man is a warrior in every positive sense of the word. He is relentless, hard working, highly competitive, a strong leader, and a fantastic ball player. He has given the best part of his career to the Suns, and now, at his age, they are practically starting over rebuilding around him.

    The only thing that stops me from being happy for him at the thought of him winning a championship, is that it would come at the expense of the Lakers. But if ever there was a non-Laker I wanted a ring for, it’s Steve Nash.

  13. On other news, Rondo with 21 assists and counting..

  14. Artest with the steal and one

  15. how long before Phil is forced to start Blake, i say january 22

  16. Early on, the Lakers are scoring well in the paint but not getting enough shots from in there. They’re also pushing the pace on offense, but not getting a lot out of it. Defensively, they’re switching a lot of screens – especially the ones that Fisher is not involved in. This is where the versatility of Kobe/Artest/Odom/Gasol on defense comes in handy.

  17. Just from watching these first two games, the ball moves soo much better with blake in the game

  18. Pau is killing them. Now if we could only get some stops…

  19. David St. Hubbins October 29, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve Blake, but I am going to miss Hubie calling Farmar “Farmer”

  20. the bench looks so much better than last year

  21. Lamar with 9 rebounds already!

  22. David: You’ll have to make due with Hubie callling Gasol “Gasal”;)

  23. Playing in the FIBA World Championship was the best thing to happen to Lamar Odom’s game

  24. I guess this is going to be a loonnngggg year, I just seem to want our World Champion Los Angeles Lakers, who just repeated as champs, to be blowing the opposition away, no matter who they are.

  25. David St. Hubbins October 29, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I’m glad it’s not a blowout…this is a REALLY entertaining game so far (as long as the good guys win in the end)

  26. I don’t care what kobe says he is NOT close to 100%. he is missing a lot of shots at his sweet spots especially on the lane. his knee may not be bothering him but he’s not getting the normal lift on his shot. I don’t think its long term concern but it may not be the normal kobe until bynum comes back in December (hopefully)

  27. Lamar is playing really well as a starter. Sometimes its a shame having so much depth in the front–we never get to see the full individual talents of our players.

  28. worst 4 mins of defense ever

  29. artest been open so many times

  30. ShanWOW!

    Okay, I know… but it was fun to watch. :)

    I still very much enjoy watching Steve Blake and Matt Barnes play. They have next to no nerves, they know what to do and how to do it, and in a sense it’s a great relief not to have any loose cannons out there.

    This is a god game. I’m enjoying this.

  31. Ahhh, going from the best team to an even better team is so satisfying. Was there ever a point last season that we shot 50% from deep?

  32. David St. Hubbins October 29, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    The improved chemistry so far from the bench is a HUGE upgrade.

  33. This Lakers bench is good

  34. It feels good to have a bench again. Can’t wait till Bynum comes back and allows Odom to rejoin the second unit.

  35. David St. Hubbins October 29, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Ball don’t lie! Joey Crawford is not my favorite ref

  36. So Barnes got a technical for walking with his knees up high? The new rules are a joke.

  37. Lakers are just OUTCLASSING the Suns in the 4th quarter…

  38. brian wilson’s beard. October 29, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    agreed. it’s one thing to police arguing, complaining and disrespect to officials but players should still have the right to disagree with calls and respectfully voice the disagreements.

    what barnes did was basically a non-verbal way of saying “hey i don’t agree with the call but ok, i accept it, here’s the ball.”

  39. Gasol and Odom have been AWESOME tonight, the passing has been beutifull

  40. That was more about Crawford being an idiot than the rules themselves though.

  41. Ho hum, purely professional win from the Lakers. Blake and Barnes are huge upgrades over Farmar and Powell. HUGE.

    Repeat the mantra with me: “No injuries. No injuries. No injuries.

    Nice start to the season, for sure.

  42. wow, so far so good. it’s hard to believe that we still get to add one of the most talented young centers in the league to this team. health permitting, we are going to be scary good once drew’s back. it’s a good time to be a laker fan.

  43. Very good game from the team tonight. The bench continues to show that they can be difference makers…such a departure from last season. I’ll have the recap up either laaate tonight or early tomorrow morning. But, very happy with the win.

  44. I liked how the team shared the ball. I like that Phil left the bench in for a while in the 4th. I liked that Brown seems to have improved some on D. I liked Kobe at 34 miuntes.

    I didn’t like Odom and Gasol at 40 minutes. Ratliff isn’t giving the Lakers much.

    I’ll also join the chorus praising the bench and hoping for a season free of injuries. I’d love to see what this team could do if healthy.

  45. Just loving the bench mob part 2,I have not seen the Lakers bench obtain,extend and sustain a lead since 2008. Good times!! Also a little bit worried about Gasol minutes,but hopefully that will be an issue just until Bynum comes back!!Woo hoo,saturday morning here in Croatia and the Lakers won,its gonna be a great weekend. Cheers until Sunday!

  46. The Barnes phantom call was definitely strange, Crawford didn’t even seem to be looking at him. I think the league’s just trying to soften up players in the leadup to negotiations (um, lockout).

    Seems like less of a starters/bench feel tonight, more about substitutions within one larger unit.

  47. Just love what the bench brings. Another great, steady effort from those guys.

    On the subject of benches past, it’s nice to see Jordan Farmar playing well for the 2-0 New Jersey Nets. I couldn’t help but notice Jordan is 10 for 10 from the free throw line so far this season…does anyone remember him ever making 5 in a row, let alone 10, in a Laker uniform?

  48. #48. As someone that was hard on Farmar during his time with the Lakers, I’m happy to see him playing well. He was always miscast as a Triangle PG and would be much better in a P&R and/or isolation heavy attack. It was time for him to move on, what with his questionable fit and desire to be more than a spot up man in the corner that’s relegated to organizing sets and playing off the ball 80% of the time. Wish nothing but the best for Farmar. And, it must be said, am very excited about his replacement on the Lakers.

  49. About the call on Barnes…the NBA said they would be calling that particular tactic of walking up to the ref and handing him the ball as a way of dissing the call. The players have to adjust – as do the fans.

    I believe Ratliff has a sore knee and that is the reason for his reduced minutes and Pau & Lamar playing 40.

  50. 50. Yeah, I watched the game on KCAL as well. Stu and Joel discussed that Barnes technical. What a joke. You can’t walk up to the ref and hand him the ball after a call against you. You can’t leave your arms straight up for a couple seconds after the whistle to show your arms went straight up. You can’t make a slight chop to your forearm to show you were hit on the wrist. Stupid overreaction, just like when school districts suspend or expel a kid for bringing a couple ibuprofen tablets to school.

  51. Darius,
    as always I love the insight. But its getting harder and harder to find things to worry about with this team. Yes Im worried about the minutes Gasol and Odom are going to have to play till Bynum gets back. But it is hard to be mad at these Lakers… two championships… 3 straight Finals? They acquire two guys to play with the 2nd unit in Barnes and Blake who both started for playoff teams last year? And that isn’t too bad. But this isn’t a year to worry if you are a Lakers fan. This is a year to appreciate one of the finest basketball teams the NBA has ever seen. In a game where Lamar and Gasol played brilliantly… old Kobe Bryant just put up another good game. My friends around the country would always wonder why us Lakers fans always felt closer to Kobe over Shaq. Maybe its because we saw this 17 year old kid play like a hardened professional since the day he played his first preseason game? Maybe its because we saw a giant be handed a gift from the genetic gods only to eat it away and only do so on company time? When guys like Alan Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Vince Carter, and Tracy McGrady fizzle out in their early 30’s Kobe Bryant on one leg is still dominating the NBA. Maybe us crazy Laker fans knew what we were rooting for all along? So in a meaningless 2nd game of the NBA season… here is to Kobe Bryant… proof that sometimes… you get what you need.

  52. We’ve often talked about wins that were ugly. This one was just the opposite–one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen. Nearly everone who played, on both teams, gave us an opportunity to see why they were in the NBA. It also showed that small margin that makes the Lakers the NBA champs.

    The saddest thing about the game was that someone had to lose.

  53. drrayeye, completely agree, very fun to watch, nice passing on both sides. And less than 30 free throws combined for both teams, which made the game have a nice flow to it.

    The Lakers could have had that game in the bag when they busted the Suns’ zone with beautiful spacing in the 3rd, but they played such terrible transition defense in that stretch that the Suns easily stayed in it. But I guess the defense will take a few months and increasing stakes to get to play-off level again.

    Offensively, there was so much to like. As Brown said, Gasol NEVER misses a cutter. And Odom fills these lanes perfectly. On a related note, I like how balanced Hubie is – pitting our Pau Gasaul against their Hakim Warwick.

    I also thought Kobe struck a pretty good balance tonight and created some good weak-side looks for spot-up shooters.

  54. drrayeye,
    Doesn’t matter whether it is NFL or NBA, if there is little defense the game tends to be beautiful.

    While I agree with you that the individual players are much more beautiful in a game like last night, I do think game 7 last June had its own kind of beauty, may endure in our minds longer, and probably was more lasting to the players – largely because it was so hard fought and somewhat savage.

  55. Great start to the season! Nice to see that Jordan Farmar, Josh Powell, DJ Mbenga and Trevor Ariza are all undefeated as well…

  56. Dish and Fox have reached a deal…. and there was much rejoicing….