Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Darius Soriano —  January 10, 2012

Records: Lakers 6-4 (6th in West), Suns 4-4 (8th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 103.2 (14th in NBA), Suns 104.3 (12th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.0 (6th in NBA), Suns 100.6 (12th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Marcin Gortat
Injuries: Lakers: Josh McRoberts (out), Derrick Caracter (out); Suns: Michael Redd (out)

The Lakers Coming in: I’ve been waiting for this team to get on a roll and with two straight wins, the momentum is building. It helps when Kobe is playing like it’s a combination of 2009 (all around great play) and 2006 (effective gunning) with Pau and Bynum controlling the paint (and the glass) on defense and taking turns either bullying the block (Bynum) or burying mid-range jumpers (Pau) on alternating possessions. As Kobe said, he’d put the Lakers’ Big 3 up against any other team’s and when all three have it going, the Lakers will be in that ball game.

What helps more, though, is when one or more role players step up and give the Lakers that 4th (or 5th) guy that pours in some points and sparks the offense, giving the big three a reprieve. In the past two contests that’s been Matt Barnes, who scored 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds (combined) against the Warriors and Grizzlies. That type of production, while not expected nightly, goes a long way in helping the Lakers find some needed balance on offense, while also making the defense pay for devoting so much attention to the Lakers’ main weapons. If Barnes (or Blake or Murphy) can chip in a bit every night, this team is very dangerous. Maybe that’s too much to ask, but it’s certainly what’s needed.

The Suns Coming in: Most of the parts look the same (Nash, Hill, Frye, Dudley, Lopez) but these aren’t the same Suns. They’re playing at a slower pace (down to 20th in the NBA) and defending much better (they’ve shaved 10 points off their defensive efficiency from last season), and it’s led to them winning 3 of their last 4. Whether or not this is an episode of small sample size theatre remains to be seen, but with good size up front (Gortat, Lopez, and Frye) and aggressive wing defenders in Hill and Dudley, this team has a shot to keep it going on that side of the ball.

And with Nash finally back healthy (he’d been bothered by a rib injury) the offense looks like it can get back on track as well. I’m not sure they’ll ever be the breakneck SSOL team again, but Nash is still capable pushing the ball and the shooters still have the green light to fire away. Where the team’s a bit different is in Gortat’s presence and how his ability to score in the paint off P&R’s and some post-ups has given this team a more balanced attack. Marcin leads them in scoring and is shooting 63% from the floor, so his presence alone has changed the dynamic from years past (especially since he’s a much different player than Amar’e).

The Suns are still a team that will have to battle to make the playoffs, but if they continue to offer balanced scoring and stay healthy, crazier things could happen than this team making one more postseason push.

Suns Blogs: Check out Valley of the Suns for great insight into this team.

Keys to game: The same trends that go into every Laker win will be important tonight. Kobe’s jumper will need to fall and he’ll need to work well off the ball against both Hill and Dudley to free himself up to the point that he can attack from his preferred spots. Kobe has a history of lighting up the Suns (the 2010 playoffs come to mind) but in those days he did a lot of work in wing isolations with his jumper falling consistently. And while that’s been a recipe for success in the last two games as well, he’s also done a lot of work in the post and at the elbow and getting him to those spots will be just as key tonight as they were against the Dubs and the Grizz.

As for the Laker bigs, something to watch will be how much Gasol works the post tonight against Frye vs how much he’s providing spacing for Bynum to work the block against Gortat. Bynum’s had a rough go of it the past couple of games but Gortat offers a bit less girth than Kwame and Marc Gasol, so he should be able to get better position in this game. However, the better post option tonight just might be Pau against Frye and it would be nice if Pau got a few more left block touches this evening than he has in recent contests. Maybe Coach Brown will utilize Pau more with the 2nd unit in this game if Bynum shows he’s not quite yet ready to score at the clip he was when he first returned from suspension. Either way, I’d like to see a few more jump hooks from Pau, rather than the silky 16-foot jump shot he’s been knocking down lately.

Defensively, the Lakers know the formula for slowing this team effectively, but as mentioned above, Gortat’s presence changes things up a bit. For the first time since Amar’e left for NY, the Suns have a viable roll man threat in the P&R with Gortat diving hard to the rim. This action has the ability to draw defenders to the rim (especially with the Lakers’ hedge/recover scheme), which then opens up passing angles to shooters spacing the floor.

The Lakers will need to cover this action well and a key rotation will be to Channing Frye, who Gasol will need to sag off of in order to cover the paint while Andrew is up high trying to deny Nash’s driving angle. Other Lakers will need to help cover Frye, whose ability to knock down the three pointer is key to the Sun’s space-based attack. If the Lakers don’t recover to Frye quickly and he knocks down some jumpers, this game could quickly be tilted in Phoenix’s favor, as the Lakers don’t have the outside shooting to match the Suns long jumper for long jumper. So, make the initial rotation and then rotate again to the corner to contest jumpers and make the Suns put the ball on the ground and attack the paint. If the Lakers are doing their job on D, by the time the ball is put on the ground, the bigs will be back in position to contest shots at the rim.

The other key I’ll be looking at is bench play. The Lakers don’t really have a true scorer for the second unit and have instead relied on one (or more) of their big three to provide the scoring punch that’s needed when the reserves come into the game. Tonight, though, Blake or MWP or Murphy will need to hit a few shots to make the starter’s lives easier. This is especially true since the Suns bring some scoring punch off their bench with two players (Hakim Warrick and rookie Markief Morris) scoring around 10 points each and Shannon Brown adding another 8 a game. Add to them Ronnie Price (who always seems to get up to play the Lakers) and the potential for Robin Lopez to get some put backs and some scores on the P&R and their bench could easily have a huge impact tonight.

In the end, this is a home game for the Lakers and their record at Staples is only blemished by the loss to the Bulls. If they can play to their strengths tonight, the Suns shouldn’t add to that total.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start time on Fox Sports West and nationally on NBA TV. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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121 responses to Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

  1. This one’s for Warren!

  2. Darius (and anyone else) – What do you think of Mike Brown having Drew show so much when he’s defending the P&R? Our defense on the P&R toward the latter half of the 2011 season was highly effective when Drew was hedging a little and staying in the paint, instead of showing a lot and hustling back to the paint. I think Pau is built better for showing and recovering, while Drew does well at hedging and forcing long two-point jumpers…but I guess that’s just me. I just wonder if having him hedge more would help his energy level in this accelerated regular season, plus make our team defense more effective overall.

  3. Dude, I think with it being early and still trying to get everyone on the same page, Brown might be unwilling to put in individual tweaks for now. Tough enough to make sure everyone remembers the assignments and proper rotations. But then to have them remember to adjust for a Bynum wrinkle would lead to more potential breakdowns in the scheme.

    I said earlier in the season that I thought it’d take 10-12 games for Brown to play everyone and figure out who he has, then another 10-12 to settle into a rotation. With Josh and Drew being out for part of those stretches, it makes it tougher for Brown to settle in. But I’d guess that it will take about 30 games into the season before you see some consistency and comfort from the players in how to execute the basic schemes.

    From there is when I’d expect to see some wrinkles slowly added in. Not necessarily a bad thing as that means not a lot of tape for opponents going into playoffs. Could mean some major advantages with extra days off during the playoffs and installing some wrinkles.

  4. @The Dude Abides – Initially I was just very happy with a new approach to the P&R, as it was P&R’s that killed the Lakers against Dallas last year… but the combination of fatigue problems and the downsides of getting such a big player that far away from the basket (opens up the paint, he will be relatively slow at recovering) have me skeptical so far.

  5. #2. TDA,
    I think the Lakers found out the hard way aganist the Mavs the limitations of a soft show that enables shallow penetration to a guard that knows what he’s doing coming off the screen. When you get a tentative guard and the other team can’t space the floor well, I think that approach is fine. When it’s the opposite (as Barrea showed us) it can be a nightmare as the big man cedes valuable territory (the paint) in order to contest a jumper that may not come. Meanwhile back side rotations get out of whack as wings dig down and ball movement picks you apart.

    Also, while I think the scheme was good for Bynum, it didn’t fit anyone else and thus the Lakers ended up reacting to P&R’s differently based off who the big man was. LO and Pau were trying to show, Bynum was sagging down, and that only created more confusion by the back line rotatators that had to respond differently based off personnel.

    In the end, I’d much rather prefer the team play the P&R one way, try to master that way the best they can, and let the chips fall where they may based off how they do. Right now, the hard show/recover is fine save for the big man trying to recover back to a shooter in the opposite corner (especially when that big is Murphy). But if that’s the shot you give up, so be it. It’s truly hard, without super athletes at ever position, to cover the entire floor once the D gets in scramble mode. LA couldn’t do it last year and won’t this year either. It is what it is.

  6. On the hard show: But I wonder if Nash will be able to expose both Pau and Drew, either by splitting or threading perfect passes through the double to a slipping Gortat. I doubt that they will be able to bottle up the old fox. Should be an interesting test in that regard.

  7. Dude,
    Mike Brown is not having Bynum show everytime. It’s about 70/30. You need to mix it up and that’s what the lakers are doing.

  8. Darius –
    100% agree with your assessment here, “It’s truly hard, without super athletes at ever position, to cover the entire floor once the D gets in scramble mode. LA couldn’t do it last year and won’t this year either. It is what it is.”

    And that’s why it is my feeling that we don’t have the personnel to run Mike Brown’s style of defense. My question is, do you feel that management feels the same way? And if so, wouldn’t that mean major changes are or should be coming?

    I’m just worried that we’ll end up winning enough to make management think we have enough to win a championship.

    Your thoughts?

  9. @3 – 8: Interesting points. I must say that having Drew show more on the P&R isn’t really hurting us. The team’s D has been really solid in the half court. The problem so far has been our transition D, especially after our countless unforced turnovers or bad shots. Hopefully, the play of Fish, Blake, and MWP can improve to the terrible level, instead of the gouge-your-eyes out horrific level it’s been over the past year.

  10. Rudy,
    Your question really has less to do with Mike Brown’s system than any defensive system.

    What I mean is, all systems will require back end rotations where big men end up having to cover a lot of ground to the perimeter (or from the perimeter back to the paint), it’s just the way NBA defenses work due to the high frequency of P&R’s run and the fact that most teams want to space the floor with shooters.

    The Lakers have capable defensive players, but not the quickest ones that can always make that rotation easily. So, when they face a team like Denver (who played Al Harrington a lot at PF) or Phoenix (who have Frye) or Orlando (Anderson) they may struggle getting to that man if he’s in the weakside corner and they have to help in the paint.

    But, again, this isn’t unique to Brown’s system. Under Phil the rotations were the same way and it will continue to be that way since the team decides to start a 7’0″ PF in Gasol.

    All that said, what’s being ignored here is that a player like Pau does something better than most of these other PF’s can do: he picks up the diving big on the P&R and is able to effectively challenge shots at the rim because of his sheer size and length. Fans get on Gasol a lot for being soft (and I see fans on twitter saying he should do more in these help situations) but he’s actually very good in this regard.

    With the personnel the Lakers have, they’ll give up certain things. That’s fine. However, what every defense wants is to give up the things *they want to give up* and, I think, the Lakers are doing a pretty good job of that this season (except for the blow-by’s that happen on the perimeter, but that’s another topic entirely).

  11. I go back to a comment I made in an earlier post comparing us Laker fans to Barcelona fans in the sense that nothing short of a championship is a complete failure. I think we need to face the facts that a championship may not be in store this season – and that’s ok. We have a new coach, new system and lots of new pieces. Plus, I think if we temper our expectations, we will enjoy the post season more if this team performs better than expected rather than being miserable for not being able to achieve unrealistic expectations.

    Having said that, I’m against the FO making any moves for the sake of making this team marginally “better.” Unless we are talking about a top 10 player, I say let’s stand pat and see where this season takes us.

  12. I want a championship every season, I don’t expect a championship every season. I think it’s just unrealistic to win every year and I would think ultimately very unsatisfying. But that’s just me.

    What I do expect every year is for the team to fulfill it’s potential and play hard. That too may be unrealistic but I think is easier to come close to attaining.

    I like seeing teams jell and bond. I like seeing growth and teams becoming a team. There’s a certain beauty in team sports when everyone is on the same page and executing in harmony. When you see world class athletes doing that, it is absolutely breathtaking to me.

  13. >>>I think we need to face the facts that a championship may not be in store this season – and that’s ok.

    Kobe/pau will be 1 year older next year, we are likely in a win-now mode.

  14. Rudy: With regard to your last statement in #8: I do not think the FO will feel this way. I love to criticize Mitch/Jim – especially when they deserve it, however they are professionals and they have clearly come to the conclusion that moves are required. The question – can they execute?

    Manny: You can temper expectations; others of us will not : ) That being said we agree on one thing – the top 10 player is needed and that is what we are after.

  15. The Lakers arguably have three all-stars in their starting lineup. I’d venture a guess that there has never been a team in NBA history with three all-stars whose fans did not expect the team to contend for a title. That doesn’t make the fan “spoiled” or ungrateful. It’s merely the reflection of the fact that the Lakers have what few NBA teams have: three stars.

    With that kind of talent in three key spots (and solid role players like Barnes, Blake, McRoberts & Murphy in others), it is not unreasonable to think that with an improvement at one position (PG) this team can easily contend for a championship; and with the TPE sitting out there, it is WAY too premature to conclude that a championship may not be within reach this year….

  16. @14 – I would disagree that a top 10 player is needed. IMO, this team lacks 3 things (note that these need not be three different players):

    1. a starting caliber pg
    2. a backup sg
    3. a bench playmaker (think instant offense)

    I personally think that a playmaker is the most important thing and adding a quality playmaker for our TPE before the trade deadline is within the realm of possibility. Having said that, I think this team can compete for a championship as presently composed, just without much margin for error. Ultimately it’s the defense that’ll determine how far we go and, at least so far, it has been very encouraging.

  17. kaos: Let me clarify: Funky stated above that we have 3 all stars. I am expecting 3 All NBA from this group. Kobe #1; Drew 2nd Team (#2 overall right?); and Pau needs to revert to 2010 3rd Team form. If we have that – I could be content w/o the major move and just the peripheral moves you outline. However, if all we have is one 1st team All NBA with a couple of other good, but not quite elite players – this is not good enough, and that is where we make the move. In a nut shell this is Mitch’s quandry. BTW: Our new offense needs a name – post triangle – perhaps your screen name would be good : )

  18. Some more food for thought: ever since Drew returned, MWP has rarely gone down to the block on offense. Remember how effective he was on the low post in our first four games? He simply overpowered the lighter SF defending him, creating easy hoops for himself or scoring opportunities when he got doubled. Shouldn’t he be down on the block whenever he’s in the game and Drew’s on the bench? He’s been atrocious on the perimeter so far this season, even worse than Fish (and that’s saying a lot). I’d like to see him down on the block every single offensive possession when he’s in the game. I don’t think he’s been there more than a handful of times (cumulatively) in the past six games.

  19. Robert – What you just outlined so beautifully – that we currently have 3 all NBA players on the roster – is exactly the reason I feel a big move is not needed. The talent is there, clearly, the only thing that might keep them from the accolades you mention is injury (and really no team is immune from that, even the Heat are a Lebron or Wade injury away from a lost season). There is definitely room for improvement using some of the assets available to us but the more we focus on a home run acquisition the more it distracts from the substantive ways this team can improve on the court by simply having the time to mesh and adapt to a new system.

  20. I don’t see why a top 10 player is needed. Even a PG at the level of say, Ray Felton or Mo Williams would represent a significant upgrade. Just having someone who can reliably bring the ball up, create off the bounce, and knock down a jumper (preferably while not getting shredded by every other able-bodied PG in captivity) would make a huge difference.

    Speaking of PGs, anybody watching the Wolves-Bulls game? I can see why Kahn was so adamant on keeping Rubio, he’s a special player.

  21. Anyone notice how the the 3 new guys McRoberts, Kapono and Murphy are all out with injuries or illness tonight and tomorrow?

    Wonder why all 3 couldn’t get off the bench last year on bad teams?

    Perhaps we know why they were easily available.

  22. From the Lakers Reporter twitter

    Josh McRoberts (toe), Troy Murphy (gastroenteritis) will also miss tonight’s game. Leaves LAL thin up front.

    Jason Kapono will miss tonight’s game as he & his wife Ashley are expecting twin girls

  23. Laker Injury Report:

    McRoberts: Out – Stubbed Toe
    Murphy: Out – Tummy Ache
    Kapono: Out – Wife is Pregnant

    Kobe: Torn Wrist Ligament and getting sued for 1/2 of everything he is worth: STARTING

  24. Okay Drew, C-Webb just stated on NBA TV that you’re the best Center in the A (Association). Let’s go out and have a game that gives credence to his thinking.

  25. Tough shooting start (5-15 as a team), but Matt Barnes is such a hustler. Love those offensive boards.

  26. fish couldnt being a worse job against Nash

  27. Please take Fisher out be can’t defend.

  28. Thank you Mr. Brown.

  29. I’ve been completely out of the loop the past week (curse you, new videogame!) and entirely missed the complete roster depletion. Holy cripes.

    This makes Luke Walton our third big man? *shudder*

    Though it does explain Pau’s uncharacteristic aggressive play s far. Props for stepping up when the team needs you.

  30. Loved kobes push off of nash to get that jump shot haha

  31. let shannon shoot.

  32. Kobe’s midrange game is unreal.

  33. Are people really criticizing Kapono for missing this game to see the birth of twins? I am constantly amazed by the callousness of fans.

    And KOBE.

    I really wonder, when coaches watch game tape with the team, how do they swallow their tongues over fisher’s complete lack of game. Complete. There is no facet of game he is performing… Its pretty unreal, this seniority thing.

  34. Shannon, biting on Kobe’s pump-fake, late in the 1st. Love it.

  35. kobe is feeling it so far, rest of the team needs to start hitting shots!

  36. @Kareem, 32
    Absolutely not. If anything, it proves he has his priorities in the correct order. :)

    And we get vintage Kobe.

  37. another KB masterpiece

  38. Kobe Bryant 17 points (8-11 shooting) in the first quarter. Lakers with only 1 turnover for the quarter.

  39. Amazing how the second Fisher goes out the Lakers go on a 15 to zero run! My seven year old son even figured that on out!

    Didn’t know about Jason’s birth. Congrats!

  40. Luke with the nice cut

  41. Alright, we’ve gotten a season’s worth of production out of Luke tonight already, so let’s get him back to the bench…!

  42. Thank god Luke made that shot. I thought we weren’t going to get our money’s worth for his contract.

    Hah, Phil, we’re on the same page.

  43. I can see no reason, other than the 20 pounds (and BBIQ?) he has on him, Luke should be in the game ahead of Ebanks.

    Sometimes I wish Fish and Luke weren’t on the squad just so MB would be forced to play Ebanks and Morris (along with already getting playing time Goudelock). There’s only one way they’re going to get game experience and that’s in the darn game, pardon my french =)

  44. Breaking new! Luke is no longer worst player in NBA! Congrats to the new worst. DFish!

  45. the next step in Bynum’s development is defo learning how to pass out of a double team

  46. After all these years, Derek Fisher remains blissfully oblivious to his limitations. Astounding.

  47. In honor of our Darius on FB&G and in light of Fisher’s bad play, free the other Darius (Morris)!!!

  48. We go on a 7-0 run with fish out, they go on an 8-0 run with fish in… love it

  49. It concerns me that it feels like we NEED Kobe to go for 40+ tonight to get the W.

  50. I am beginning to question Brown’s basketball IQ. Watch the game Mike.

  51. Everyone besides Kobe has been pretty much worthless so far tonight. Thanks for the help, guys.

    And that play by Drew where he tried to take it up against a double team is why I would take D12 over Bynum in a heartbeat. Figure out how to handle a double team already!!

  52. Just tuned in when it was 29-21. I was going to ask if Fish was playing as poorly as the box score indicated, but no need after reading the preceding comments and watching him brick a jumper, drive into a crowd and get called for a charge, and get burned on D :(

  53. Amazing Fisher -17 Blake +18. Starting to question Brown basketball IQ.

  54. @Zirk #51 – Yeah, that was a horrible play by Drew. He really is having trouble now that he’s getting doubled.

  55. Luke must think it’s 2006 with these minutes.

    And on that note, Ebanks!

  56. Dude, because Bynum is not as athletic and quick in his step as Howard, it’s much more imperative that he reads and reacts to the double team much quicker.

  57. Luke is actually having a decent game so far. That one play just now where he didn’t take the three was pretty bad, but he made up for it with the heads-up assist to Pau and then cutting off Nash’s layup at the other end, which resulted in a bad pass that was intercepted by MWP.

  58. Luke Walton made some decent plays. I will now gouge my eyes out with a spoon for writing that.

  59. Preaching to the choir, Anon ;)

  60. If Blake starts, then who plays back up PG? Blake is arguably our 6th man, and without him, the bench would be a mess. I think Brown has no choice but to hide Fish with starters. And don’t tell me our coaching staff or FO don’t know we have a starting PG problem: we traded for CP3.

  61. Final half numbers.

    Fisher minus 17
    Blake plus 18

    Does Brown read stats!

    Please retire Fish and run for congress.

  62. Can we please give Morris a chance? Pretty please?

    Look what Norris Cole has been doing for the Heat. Morris may not be in the same class as Cole, but there’s only one way to find out if these young guys can help us out or not; PLAY THEM. Seriously, would he play much worse than Fish is playing right now?

  63. I don’t think you’ve said the same thing enough, Ken. How about this? – we get it. You don’t think Fisher is playing well. Neither does anyone else. At this point, I’d prefer that you just quit mentioning it since you’re only repeating yourself. Thanks.

  64. Sorry. I need to go to “redundancy rehab”.

  65. DY,

    Good point, but that does not excuse the minute distribution between Blake and Fish. Fish should not be playing more than 10-15 minutes a game.

  66. LT…I wish Morriswould just be thrown into the fire. He can’t be worse than a -18, right? Unfortunately, Fish seems to be trying to prove he belongs out there. In my book, Fish has nothing to prove. It he really doesnt belong out there in a starting capacity. Until Brown feels that he can experiment with Morris, or feels he can elevate Blake without killing the bench, his hands are tied somewhat.

  67. I had a question re the Odom protected pick. I know that it is top 20 protected and the Mavs have six years to send the pick. What if they wait for six years, then in the sixth year they are lousy and the pick is in the top 20? Do they not have to send the pick at all? Or does the protection end in the sixth year?

  68. @ Ken 61, Although I agree Blake is much more capable than Fish, please don’t read too much into +/- or you would be lead to believe that World Peace (currently +20) is playing better than Kobe (currently -1).

  69. Mike Brown putting Kobe to score a lot and efficiently. No problem with that. Its interesting to see how to the team adjust to PnR. It seem Bynum now a liability in PnR offense.

  70. Great defensive possession and runout to break the 58-58 tie.

  71. After this game, luke will change his name to Cash Money.

  72. lol the Blake/Fisher plus/minus differential could be ridiculous by the end of the game

  73. It doesnt help that Fish is with Bynum depending the PnR.

  74. 68-Clearly that is because Lakers starter are playing 4 on 5.

  75. drew has been a bit of a liability on D tonight

  76. Pau with the J.

  77. Blake is playing surprisingly good P&R defense on Nash. Never would have expected that, it’s like night and day compared to our other PGs.

  78. Kobe slam dunk for 40
    and then a Barnes to Kobe for the alley-oop smash

  79. This Kobe kid has some hops.

  80. Great runout by Barnes to force Hill tomiss that three-point shot in the corner. And then Luke with the offensive board and Barnes with the assist on the alley-oop to Kobe. What team am I watching? :D

  81. Wow! Kobe Bryant is really good at basketball.

    I am glad he did not rest the wrist like I suggested, it is wonderful to eat crow like this.

  82. Two things.

    1. I’m pleased with Lukes effort. Not great, but decent.
    2. Kobe is going back to Germany to get that platelet surgery on his back from the excessive work of carrying this team tonight.

  83. Best Kobe in 2 years!

  84. There goes your play/highlight of the game Darius. Kobe putting on a show.

  85. Good to see Kobe working off the ball in the end-game for a change.

  86. Drew -17

    Luke + 25

    I realize +/- is deceptive, but….holy cow.

    Walton hasn’t played perfect, but we all have to admit he stepped up tonight

  87. This f**king guy… After all these years he still has me shaking my head in awe. Incredible.

  88. Another disappointing performance from Drew. Obviously Coach Brown feels the same since he benched Bynum for the last 5 mins of the game.

  89. I guess all of us is happy now. Very good adjustment by MB with the PnR of Nash and company. Gasol with Blake did a good job depending the PnR. What a game by Kobe!

  90. Let’s start the MVP chant: And I am serious.

    Totally incredible. An absolute masterpiece

  91. Did Kobe buy a time machine. Hes been putting on a clinic in the last week. Plus two dunks in the fourth quarter.

  92. I hereby declare my man love for Kobe Bryant.

    Kobe playing within the offense is a beautiful thing, and it quiets the haters.

  93. MVP MVP MVP

    Yea it works – when it is true

  94. Wow. Holy ****ing… wow.

    My husband commented towards the end of this game, that games like this makes him wonder how great Kobe could have been if not for the triangle. I’m not sure I know basketball well enough to speculate on that, but I do know that watching Kobe play like this is one of the things that makes me happy I’m a Lakers fan, and a basketball fan.

    Tonight we lived by the Kobe. It’s a nice change of pace. :)

  95. Kobe played great and has been lighting it up the last 5 games. But game ball should go to Blake because he shut down the pnr that was killing the lakers early in the 4th. Blake was fighting over those screens and throwing nash out of rhythm for just enough time so that rest of the players could make their rotations.

  96. I hope everyone that doubted the hardest working most resilient player in basketball is eating their words right now. Kobe is the best he’s looked in 2 years in terms of scoring the ball, now he just needs a consistent team to back him up.

    Also if I were any athlete with injuries like Kobe I would definitely be flying to Germany right about now…..

  97. @Tra #90 – I would say that the bigger reason was that the small lineup was very effective, not so much Drew’s performance. He didn’t play poorly, IMO. He forced a lot of misses and blocked some shots on D, and got some tough rebounds in traffic. One of the reasons his plus-minus number was so far in the negative was that he was paired up with Fish defending the P&R, and Nash got FIVE TO TEN feet of separation from Fish every damn time when he came off Gortat’s screens. Drew had to respect Nash’s ten-foot jumper, leaving Gortat wide open.

    The difference in Blake’s D and Fish’s D defending the P&R is night and day. Blake goes over the pick and stays right on Nash’s wallet, sometimes forcing Nash to turn the other direction and give our scrambling D time to recover to their men. Fish goes over the pick and goes into histrionics as he’s hung up by Gortat or Frye, trying to draw the offensive foul call that almost never comes. I actually felt pity watching him tonight, his defense was so bad.

  98. Since going 12 for 46 in two games, I absolutely love how Kobe has proved all the the people who said Bynum should be the number one option wrong, averaging 36ppg over the past 5!

  99. Everybody make sure you turn on ESPN to watch KobeCenter. Kobe needs another ring.

  100. Wow, what a game by Kobe. He’s been playing phenomenal lately. Just imagine what he’d be capable of if he could handle up to his normal (non-injured) ability.

    Also, great game for Luke!

  101. Damn, the Warriors came back in the 4th and have taken the Heat into OT :D

  102. Kobe might have exhausted his january quota for dunks and alley-oops.

  103. That was first for an injured hand making 48 points for vintage Kobe. To top it all, it was a compliment from Luke’s assists and timely rebounds. That’s 3rd consecutive victory and tomorrow should be the first W on the road.

  104. Kobe went retro 2006 tonight. Unbelievable. But what happens the next time he has a bad shooting game? I’m sure everyone’s going to be screaming for him to pass the ball again.

  105. This was like watching the 2006 Lakers–including Walton.

  106. @105,
    No it wasn’t. Walton was a starter that year.

  107. Kobe deserves enormous credit for his performance since Denver.

    But I don’t see this as a sustainable long-range approach.

  108. It was partly a joke, Mimsy (105 is me).

  109. Yes – Warriors over Heat in OT. Nate Robinson with 24 pts, 4 rebs, 5 assists, 4 steals. Dorell Wright with 20 pts, 10 rebs, a steal and a block.

  110. @ 99 Dude:

    Opinion respected and good observation, but even in the first half, after forcing a shot while doubled, Coach Brown benched him immediately. There was also a period in which he was obviously exhausted. Fact of the matter is, beginning with the Blazers game, Drew’s production has been declining. Hopefully he can get his Swag back starting tomorrow night ‘gainst the Jazz.

    Golden State with the victory .. Who would have thought?

  111. Tra: I will be with you tomorrow, commenting on the 2nd best big man, but it is not time for that now : ) This is time to appreciate one of the all time greats. I am still in a state of complete amazement.

  112. Kobe = The GPSP (Greatest Player Still Playing).

    A Legend. And we’re lucky enough to watch him play.

    Cheers.

  113. Kobe was brilliant tonight with 48 points and two highlight dunks.

    Walton did a good job filling in for Murphy and was active on the offensive boards and any scoring Luke does, he had 6 points, is a bonus for the Lakers.

    Lakers did a good job closing out the game by holding the Suns to 1 point over the finals 5:53 of the game. Lakers closed game on a 16-1 run

  114. @Tra – Yes, he’s not adjusting to the double teams very well. He’s hardly ever been doubled before, so there’s going to be a learning curve.

  115. Kobe- “Not bad for the 7th best player in the league.”
    Loved that line and the smirk afterward!

  116. However, Bynum being doubled way more often might be a reason why Kobe’s had so much more space to operate and shoot and go for these huge 2006-like numbers. Eventually, defenses are going to key back on Kobe and send 2-3 guys at him, and that’ll give Bynum room down on the post to dominate again. Or at least I hope that’s the case.

  117. Kobe’s burying all of us skeptics :D

  118. @robinred
    I figured it was. But the 2006 season is still painful to remember ;)