Lakers/Suns: Second Unit and Size Overwhelm

Darius Soriano —  October 30, 2010

Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill (L) and Channing Frye (R) try and block out Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol during Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference finals in Phoenix, Arizona May 29, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Scuteri (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Well, that looked familiar.

Using their advantages inside and that Kobe Bryant guy on the wing, the Lakers took down the Suns on 114-106 on Friday night.  Extending their road opener winning streak to 6 straight seasons, starting their season 2-0, and earning Phil Jackson his 1,100th career coaching victory all in the same evening (the quickest coach to ever get there, by the way).  All in all, a pretty good night I’d say.

Really, this incarnation of the Suns doesn’t have too much of a chance against this specific Laker team.  Their margin for error against a team with as much size, as much skill, and that executes as well as this Lakers team is just too slim.  Phoenix would have to play a nearly perfect game.  We saw that last spring in the western conference finals and we saw it again last night.

Phoenix played with heart and they executed their sets.  Steve Nash, while relatively contained individually (8 points, 9 assists), still captained a terrific offense by pushing the ball and getting his players the rock in their sweet spots.  Countless times he hit Robin Lopez with pin point passes as he dove to the hoop on P&R’s.  Other times he threw the ball ahead to Grant Hill to work off the dribble in space and shoot his (still) killer mid-range jumper.  When Nash went to the bench, Goran Dragic seamlessly replaced him by executing nearly as flawlessly, continuing to keep the Suns in the game with his ability to create off the dribble to either score or set up his teammates.  Really, the Suns played a very good game on offense ending the night with an efficiency rating of 109.6 (a bit below their standard set in year’s past, but still very good).

But it wasn’t enough.  Not against this Laker team.  This Laker team just has too much talent.  Kobe Bryant is like a bull that sees red when he travels to the Arizona desert.  He may not yet be 100%, but he’s inching closer to that mark and last night showed how close he is.  #24 shot 9-19 from the field, scored 25 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and tallied 3 assists.  He showed excellent lift on his jumper (for the most part), and again showed comfort backing down players from the extended wing to earn the good post position that set up his turn around jumper.  Last night, Kobe was looking more like Kobe again and that’s something that opponents should start to worry about.

But the real difference makers in this game were the Lakers big men.  When Gasol and Odom see “Suns” on the schedule they must get giddy.  Even before Amar’e Stoudemire became a Knickerbocker, the Lakers bigs have had their way on the Suns’ interior.  But now that the remaining bigs are Robin Lopez (who had a very good game last night and continues justify his draft position in his 3rd season) and Channing Frye, the Suns have virtually no shot of slowing down the Lakers big men – especially if they’re not going to battle for position, show any defensive variety with half or full fronts, or use any other tricks to disrupt the comfort zone of LA’s big men.  Pau narrowly missed a triple-double on the night with his line of 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists while Odom beasted his way to 18 points (on 12 shots) and 17 rebounds with 5 dimes.  The assist numbers for both players is especially staggering as they dissected the Suns defense by hitting cutters diving to the hoop and wide open shooters spotting up on the perimeter any time the defense over-helped in any way.  There’s just a gulf between the quality of big that the Lakers offer and that of the Suns – a gulf that will only widen when Andrew Bynum returns.

To top off this game, the Lakers bench again showed that they are a unit to be reckoned with.  Blake, Barnes, and Brown are all playing high caliber ball and have been since early in the preseason.  They’re showing a chemistry on both offense and defense that this team hasn’t seen from its reserves since the great run of 2008.  They’re all playing so well that it’s really difficult to even single one of them out as being the key player for the unit.  Blake is obviously the general of the group, showing poise and a feel for getting players the ball that everyone benefits off of.  While Brown (who still has some gunner in him) is proving a quality bench scorer that may well average double digit points off the pine this season.  And then there’s Barnes who continues to do all the little things like he’s a SF version of Lamar Odom.  He hits the glass hard and just finds ways to the basketball either when it’s loose or when by slashing to the cup to make himself available for a pass.  Many are clamoring to find this group a nickname, but handing out monikers really isn’t my deal.  For now, I’ll just call them difference makers and leave it at that.

Two games into the year and the Lakers have two wins.  It’s to be expected, but I’m still excited nonetheless.  This team is showing grit and flair.  It’s business-like and still having fun.  The starters and bench are showing a rapport both while playing on the court and when cheering each other when off it.  This is a team, a great one at that.  Even the guys that aren’t getting much burn seem engaged on the bench and ready to contribute if their number gets called.  And, again, Bynum isn’t even back yet.  The journey has only just started but I can already see that this team has the makings of something special.

Darius Soriano

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41 responses to Lakers/Suns: Second Unit and Size Overwhelm

  1. Great wrap-up-you pretty much hit all the major points.

    One thing that didn’t get touched on too much was that I expect the Lakers to be a much better 3 point shooting team this year. There’s no way we’re finishing 24th in the League this year in that category. Also, it’s great to see the bench group sustaining or building on leads. All any team asks is for their 2nd unit to play teams evenly, and we are getting way more than that to start the year. I also expect Sasha and Ebanks to have their moments at some point during the 82 game grind.

    Finally, I think the biggest thing to take away from this game was the emotional balance you alluded to. The team just has a sense of calm and togetherness right now that is really cool to watch. As with most Laker fans, it’s my default setting to get a little jumpy when we are not cruising, but even as this was a tight game almost wire to wire, I just wasn’t that concerned. these guys have been through so much, there’s no way they’re gonna be rattled. They love playing with each other, and that poise is even seeping over to the new guys, a true sign of a tight team.

    2-0 is just 2-0, but this is a very exciting 2-0 start imo……

  2. Randy in Winnipeg October 30, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Nickname for Blake, Brown and Barnes?

    The Killer B’s.

  3. I agree with Killer B’s. Heard it on the radio the other night and I like it.

    Can you imagine how deep the Laker bench is when Bynum comes back and Odom is the first guy off the bench. And lets not forget Luke Walton may at some point get healthy.

    Note to Sasha, perhaps you should bring some wedding planning books to the games because I don’t think you will see much time this year,

  4. looking at some of the numbers, the Ls were outscored handily on fast breaks (15-21) and in the paint (42-50!?) – so where did the W come from, you may ask? in part, more 3s (12-9), for nine points!!

    as to the Killer Bs, it’s a bit trite, smacking of WWE/F Smackdown; but it maybe would work for our B.

  5. excuse the double post, but I didn’t find this within my allotted edit time:

    maybe Blake and Brown could use the Masked Confusion trick..

  6. Randy in Winnipeg October 30, 2010 at 11:36 am

    You’re right about the Killer B’s being a bit trite, we need something that reflects the professionalism with which the Lakers have dispatched (doesn’t that sound cold-blooded?) their victims.

    Blake, Brown & Barnes: The Firm.

  7. I say the B Unit. It captures the B part of the name but also has a play on word that they’re the second group of guys, the b squad. The B Unit. Hey, it also works that they’re united together. Okay, I officially am championing The B Unit. I just came up with that, should I trademark it? LOL!

    I really love the unity that I see from the whole team. It comes across that everyone supports each other. The camaraderie is just awesome.

  8. Along with the apparent comraderie, it just seems there is not a lot of drop off when the subs come in. Blake for Fish (in some people’s mind) is an upgrade. Barnes for Artest is not much of a drop (more a change in styles). If and when Bynum is back, Odom is not going to be a drop off either. The only place there is a significant drop is Kobe to Brown and if Brown keeps playing the way he is, his quickness actually brings a little different up-tempo dimention to the team.

    As for a nickname – it ought to be original. Bench Mob was great – original and descriptive. For now I am just calling them The Professionals because that is what they have been. Each guy just steps up and does his job. There is emotion and enthusiasm, but also an expectation that each one will do his job and do it well. At least that is the vibe I get. They seem to respect each other all the way up and down the bench.

    I loved Kobe’s quote on his pass to Blake in the Houston game. He expected Blake to come through. I also loved Barnes’ quote last night about turning over a new leaf. I think that is just the culture of this team. I even see it in the rooks. This could be a special group.

  9. B UNIT!!!!!

  10. The above picture is great – they’ve got the wild eye!

    I like #7’s B-unit… or even flipping it to Unit B.

  11. yes B-unit. however, blake will be starting soon, so the real question is what to call the Fisher-Brown-Barnes unit.

    I suggest “the killer B’s and fisher”.

  12. I love the composition of the second unit right now. I’ve always felt that the Lakers had too many young role players: Farmar, Brown, Sasha, Bynum, Mbenga, etc. We needed some veterans in the mix, players who weren’t trying to establish themselves and would accept their roles willingly, and could also be relied on to do their jobs consistently. Barnes, Blake, and Ratliff fit the bill, and I think guys like Brown, Ebanks, and Caracter will benefit hugely from having some experience on the court with them.

  13. C3BO (but only when Caracter plays and Odom is back with the 2nd unit)

    h/t Silver Screen & Roll

  14. I am SO GLAD the season has started again.

    This Laker squad will be beyond scary when they hit peak form.

    I recall over the summer some discussion about how the Lakers were going to look from beyond the arc- I’d say from these two games so far, much better than last year.

  15. ‘Cellblock B’… for their lockdown defensive play and for Shannon’s criminally athletic skills.

  16. Randy in Winnipeg October 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    “Cellblock B” rocks!

    Regarding the Lakers’ excellent play thus far, I wonder if they face a bit of a dilemma when Bynum returns: If Odom keeps delivering, why reduce his minutes?

  17. Blake, Brown, Barnes, the “Better Business Bureau” or “Better Bench Bureau?” Wow, that was rough.

    Or, we can just collectively call them the “Matt Barnes Will Kill You” Bench.

  18. If there are no major injuries this is going to be a phenomenal season with a “2nd team” of Odom, Blake, Barnes, Brown and Walton and Theo as backup size, that will allow everyone to be rested come the playoffs. This is a second unit that will more than hold it’s own. I can see some blowout games this year where starting unit players play less than 30 minutes.

  19. Andrew will return on the bench before getting ahead of Odom. This makes it four B’s. My vote even more so goes to “Killer B’s”.

    The Killer B’s plus Theo (Bynum, Theo, Barnes, Brown, Blake) could stifle defensively most units, and even score efficiently with in&out game between Drew and the 3B’s. They may end up as the best +/- bench in the league.

    Darius, your description of Barnes as a smaller Odom, was brilliant. Had you heard it before? (no pun intended)

  20. The Firm? Sounds like we’re fielding a group of sleazy lawyers. Cellblock B sounds sick but I’m not sure Matt Barnes would like being a part of that.

    The B-Unit is simple, I like it.

  21. Forget the Killer B’s. Reminds me too much of the Dolphin’s defensive secondary the year they went to the Superbowl (1985?) and got trashed by the 49ers.

    I do like the B-Unit as a moniker, tho’.

  22. The B-Team or Plan-B could work too, although we have quite a few other B’s that are not part of the ‘B’ench – Bryant, Bynum, Buss, Brian (Shaw), Boobah… uhm, yeah, Boobah…

  23. @19. I’m skeptical of that happening, as I think Phil will want to integrate both Drew and Lamar ASAP with the lineups each will be playing with. They might keep Drew on a minute limit for the first couple weeks, though.

  24. Check out my NBA season preview and player grades for Blake Griffin’s first game

  25. I’m as pleasedwith the play of the bench the against phoenix and especially the rockets but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and crown them the best in the league. phx bench outscored the lakers bench by 8 and really kept them in the game against our starters in the first half.

  26. While I can see Bynum spending a few games on the second unit to bring his conditioning up, that won’t last for very long.

    Bynum is a very good defensive center, and that makes a big difference.

    As to what to call the second unit…

    For the first time in a long time I think we might be best served calling them, “The Lakers”.

    Nice to have depth that is very, very, very good.

  27. …as for the nickname, “The Difference Makers”

  28. >…as for the nickname, “The Difference Makers”

    as pointed out by Paul, that won’t always be the case – at least not in a positive way. for right now, we’re still missing the donut hole.

  29. Forum Blue and Gold: Where we’re so bored of winning, we try to outdo one another in nickname invention.

  30. Randy in Winnipeg October 30, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    I don’t see boredom (or dead people), I see Laker fans just having some fun. And maybe following in the footsteps of Riles by trying to coin a phrase that sells millions of t-shirts, LOL.

  31. Phil just called them “The Renegades”. Very fitting. 🙂

  32. If we decide on the B-Unit we will need a picture of them like last years Taco Unit

  33. Okay, I feel where everyone is coming from about the Killer B’s being trite, but I think that we should all look a little bit closer. A while back, someone blogged about how the Lakers are analogous to the New York rap group Wu-Tang Clan. Now, Wu-Tang is ostensibly the most talented rap group ever assembled, and each MCs talents peak when they’re on the record together. A lot like this Lakers squad. We could argue for days over which player is Method Man or Ghostface Killah, but, there are other worthwhile facts to consider. For example, Phil Jackson and RZA clearly play the same role in their respective squads. But they also happen to have an uncanny connection to Buddhism. Kobe is GZA and Ron Artest, ODB. Which brings us to our “Killer Bs”. “Killer Bees” is one of the clans many aliases, which may be reason enough to keep our B’s nickname. I spent too much time thinking about this now. Halloween hangover. One more night to go.

  34. Let’s call them the killer-‘b’s

  35. We could call them the New-B’s 😉

    Anyway, not much to do til we’re handed our first loss…

  36. So far I like “Plan B”; it’s succinct and professional. It rings of an assassin using one of his many tools to eliminate his target.

    I just hope that we can avoid being bullied into some wordy, politically-correct message-moniker, like the Breast Cancer Awareness Reserves. Not to mention that pink sneakers wouldn’t really strike fear into our opponents’ hearts.

  37. Randy in Winnipeg October 31, 2010 at 8:29 am

    How about the Justin B-bers?

    {running for cover…}

  38. The Bench. [full stop]

  39. Laker Kev (36),

    I hope you realize that “Plan B” is also the morning after pill

  40. Juevetunes (39),

    Good point, “Breast Cancer Awareness Reserves” is starting to look pretty good. 😉