Preview and Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Darius Soriano —  November 16, 2012

Records: Lakers 3-5 (13th in the West), Suns 4-5 (10th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (9th in the NBA), Suns 104.1 (14th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.3 (12th in the NBA), Suns 109.3 (29th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Darius Morris, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Suns: Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Nash (out), Steve Blake (game time decision); Suns: Markieff Morris (doubtful)

The Lakers Coming in: Mike D’Antoni will not be on the sidelines tonight so the Bernie Bickerstaff era continues for at least one more game. That said, D’Antoni did run his first practice on Thursday so we may start to see a subtle shift in the types of sets the Lakers run. D’Antoni was quick to point out in his introductory presser that the shift to what he likes to run will be a gradual one, taking some of what the team is doing now and integrating it into what he likes to do until this team is completely up to speed. Considering this team didn’t have a training camp with him, this makes total sense.

Besides the new head coach, the only other meaningful news is on the injury front and that’s not saying much. Steve Nash remains out with the fracture in his leg. It’s been two weeks since he was injured and there are whispers he could be back soon but that’s no guarantee. The original timeline for Nash was that he’d be reevaluated after 7-10 days with the potential he could be back soon after. And while those evaluations did occur, he’s clearly not ready yet so we continue to wait. As for his back up, Steve Blake is a gametime decision with his status beyond that not known. He did drill work in practice yesterday but spent a lot of time on the sideline doing individual work. If he doesn’t play, expect Morris and Duhon to get similar minutes that they did the last game.

The Suns Coming in: If you haven’t caught any Suns games lately you’ve missed out on some pretty entertaining basketball. They’ve been cardiac kids of sorts, staging late game comebacks in multiple contests to pull out victories. One such game was last Wednesday against the surprise Bobcats (who have been playing well) where our old friend Shannon Brown knocked down six 3 pointers in the 4th quarter to help bring the Suns back to win. While this is extreme, it’s close to what the Suns have been doing this year in living on the edge and coming up big late in games.

It should be no surprise the Suns are a bit uneven to start the year as they have several new contributors on their roster. Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, and Luis Scola are all new to the team that have been inserted into the starting lineup. Dragic, their key off-season signing, leads the team in scoring and assists while Scola has provided his typical solid play as the team’s second best scorer and rebounder. Beasley has been quite inconsistent, shooting a low percentage overall and playing the fewest minutes per night of all their starters.

Of the holdovers from last season, Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley have been pretty good for them. Gortat leads them in rebounding (and is 3rd in points per game) while Dudley has brought solid shooting from the floor (though his three point percentage isn’t what it was in season’s past). The Suns’ record is a bit better than it should be at this point but overall  they have a nice amount of talent for a team that’s clearly rebuilding after losing Nash and Grant Hill this off-season and Channing Frye for the year to a heart ailment.

Suns Blogs: Valley of the Suns is a very good site for all your news on this team. Give them a read.

Keys to game: Despite the Suns’ superior record, their efficiency ratings and differentials tell the story of a team that is over performing. For the Lakers, this means a win is there for the taking, especially at home.

To get it done, however, they need to stick to the game plan of pounding the Suns inside via any and every action available in their shifting playbook. Be it P&R’s with Dwight or Pau, post ups for the bigs and Kobe, or penetration from the wing that leads to points at the rim and offensive rebounding chances the Lakers are best served living in the paint against this team. After Gortat, they get thin up front in a hurry, so getting him in foul trouble or making him defend without fouling should be part of the plan the entire evening.

Defensively, the Lakers must protect the three point line first and worry about the paint second. Dragic will try to create in the pick and roll for himself and Gortat but the drive and kick game remains a key to their offensive attack. In Dudley, Beasley, Shannon Brown, and Dragic the Suns have capable shooters that can hit the long ball should they be left open. The Lakers’ rotations must be sharp and they cannot get caught ball watching on the weak side on drives or post ups and let their man slide into open space for kickout passes.

The other key will be bench play. The Suns don’t have a lot of talent stockpiled on their bench but the freedom that their reserve unit plays with can inspire points to be put up in a hurry. Brown is their third leading scorer on the season and Telfair is showing a solid floor game as a backup to Dragic. These two will test Duhon and Meeks on the defensive side of the ball and they must be ready to track them all over the court.

Offensively the Lakers bench must also start to produce. Jamison has been showing more life lately but Meeks needs to find his stride soon or he’ll end up back on the bench. In the last game he tried too hard to create shots off the dribble against closeouts and was, to say the least, unsuccessful. He needs to get back to being the catch and shoot threat the Lakers signed and move the ball on to the next man should he find that he’s not open.

As Mike D’Antoni said on Thursday, the Lakers need to start winning games to claw themselves back into the race. It’s early in the season yes, but this is a home heavy part of their schedule that requires them to pad their record with some W’s. If the defense that showed up against the Spurs is present tonight, the Lakers should find themselves getting the stops they need while noticing that the Suns defense doesn’t offer nearly the obstacle that San Antonio’s did.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sports Net. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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79 responses to Preview and Chat: The Phoenix Suns

  1. How good would our bench be under Mike D’s offense if the bench still had Barnes, Brown Sessions?

  2. I would love to see single-digit turnovers for a change :)

  3. Barnes thrived under Gentry in Phoenix and is tailor made for this system. Shannon is a great fit as well because you only have to make one decision when you get the ball – do I shoot or pass. Which makes the game infinetly more simple (especially for less cerebral players). As D’antoni says – the ball finds energy, so the guys that are active, moving and spacing will find lots of easy shots or at least in rhythm where they can score. Also more shooting and less complicated decision making on offense cuts down significantly on turnovers. Lakers will have nights occasionally where they shoot and miss lots – but rebounds (especially when howard, hill, and Pau ) are effectively become 50/50 balls. Which is so much better than trying to slow things down and force the issue. High fga’s also promotes energy – and if they’re having a bad shooting night – helps buoy a team and keeps them willing to dig in on defense.

  4. JB- I was just going to link that article. So happy that the trade went down! I have to give it to Jim Buss for trading Bynum even though he was “his guy”. I really feel bad for ‘Drew though…. I hope that he gets healthy and has a monstrous year.

  5. Turnovers will indeed be a very important stat tonight. The Lakers are last in the category, while the Suns are 2nd. Single digits might be tough mouse, as the Lakers average 18 per game.
    Those lamenting previous bench players that we should have kept, should not forget Shannon, as he is playing pretty well for Phoenix.
    We need to start a winning streak tonight, as this is a team we should beat with any coach, any offense, and especially at home.

  6. Well, obviously he wasn’t Jim’s guy if he got himself traded, now was he?

  7. Very cool event on TW for Kareem Statue unvalling.

  8. at least drew got his hair fixed.

  9. FB&G did not put up a thread special for the Cap.

  10. I am not so sure about D’Antoni as a head coach. I would have gone back to Phil Jackson. Jim Buss doesn’t know what the hell he is doing…

  11. What era will we see?

    The 7 seconds or less/17 seconds or less era?

  12. I agree that MD said Lakers got to score 110 pts a game. In theory it’s right, Lakers have to be high-scoring machine if Lakers want to get out of the West , but how do we do that with this roster ? MD will show to us . Kobe said that MD is offense genius and everybody on the Olympic team knew that, if Lakers with the current roster get to NBA Finals, i will call him offense genius too.

  13. The Lakers should brutalize Phoenix on the boards tonight.

  14. Do you think Mike Brown is at home taking notes on how to run a offense!

  15. Apparently Pau was just waiting for D’Antoni to show up before he started hitting that shot again.

  16. Pau Gasol 5-5 to start the game, his jumper is falling tonight.

  17. Just not seeing it with Morris. D or O.

  18. Will be interesting to see if the Lakers can play at this pace for the entire game.

  19. There’s some atrocious defense going on in the 1st quarter here. Lakers bad in transition. Suns poor on ball screens and rotations.

  20. I just said WoW! The new system will be very fun to watch. They just need to maintain it for a whole game both O and D.

  21. @ Ko:

    Not so good on his first shift tonight–other than the early steal. But after a pretty good showing at times on “D” against SAS the other night (the Spurs, not Stephen A) I’m willing to take a “wait and see” approach with him….I still think the ceiling is higher with him than with Blake/Duhon

    Jordan Hill really is struggling at the rim so far this season…he’s missed several bunnies…

  22. Dwight’s not his old self. Will he ever get back to that guy. I hope so.

    Not even a quarter and you can see the offense will be virtually unstoppable but they’ve picked up old D’Anotni’s defensive habits.

  23. Dragic is a real headache.

  24. I like Pau’s aggressiveness today. Not even thinking, just looking to chuck away.

  25. At this pace, reaching 110points would be easy.

    That KAJ statue looks sweet!

  26. Lakers scored on every Suns turnover (5) in the first quarter with 10 points

  27. Now this brutal ref who didn’t want to call JO for swing at Howard is going to call anything resembling contact. Where do they find these guys?

  28. Usually my only complaints about officiating are (1) flops (yech) and (2) when the game is called “uneven” i.e., weird, as opposed to unfair….however, right now it’s being called “uneven” and I DO mean unfair…

  29. Gasol’s pitiful D cancels out anything resembling O that he brings.

  30. The lakers look crazy right now.

  31. I swear, I’ve never seen a team go thru more droughts and give up more runs than us. Unbelievable.

    And can Dwight please stop getting stripped?!

  32. Joel: They look like the old Suns teams. Good offense not nearly enough defense.

  33. @ Zirk

    Dwight has had his problems with that (one area that Drew is better at for sure—keeping the ball high at all times), but in this game, it’s a result of a “look the other way” approach by the stripes on the hack-fest D12 is experiencing under the boards. O’Neal looks like he’s trying to play “hack a Dwight” and they just won’t call it….

  34. Ahh this is much tbe same defense I saw for 8 preseason and 4 regular games under Brown.

  35. Gasol may have high basketball IQ on offence, but his defensive basketball IQ…not so good.

  36. Gasol just sucks at defense. Hes too slow to recover and anybody can beat him off the dribble. Sometimes I see him standing near the rim and letting guys get easy layups.

  37. Again, maybe we can give Pau just a little more credit? Scola thus far is shooting a good percentage on very few shots. He’s not that relevant on Phoenix offense yet tonight. Yes, the team’s defense is ultra ugly, but Pau isn’t the only one to blame.

    Anyone else notice that Dwight doesn’t quite look his usual chipper self today?

  38. Dwight has -6, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. The same goes for +8 for MWP.
    I think this 15-0 run was because we have started thinking two much again and also there was some Dwight isos that resulted in consecutive turnovers. Why should you beat a triple-team? You ain’t superman yet.

  39. A game without defense is All Star Game or a playground basketball. There has to be a defense in a NBA team to make it a Championship contender. So far only Peace is the only one playing D which is really slow motion defense. It leaves a lot to be desired when you compare them to the other teams that played the other night.

  40. Starting to question Dwight’s BB IQ,

  41. Pau is just passive on both ends. Take him out, Bernie,

  42. I think the shooting percentage of players we leave wide open is lower than when Pau tries to cover them.

  43. Ugh I take back what I said. Scola is schooling Pau.

  44. I said this last year and got blasted.

    Scola is a all around better player then Pau.

  45. Pau 6 rebounds. Dwight 6 rebounds.

  46. Good thing they don’t have a back-to-back. They are going tired going at this pace.

  47. Our rebounding totals are skewed by the fact that we are allowing the Suns to shoot like 175% from the field or something dumb like that.

  48. Can somebody call Mitch right now. He has some job to do, call Atlanta Hawks’ front office. >.<

  49. Can we somehow bottle Jordan Hill’s hustle?

  50. Nice block by Jordan Hill.

    Kobe with the steal and layup

  51. My,my,my, just another day in the office for Mr. Bryant.

  52. Jordan Hill really deserves every penny the Lakers are paying him for.

  53. Jordan is a +20—-overused stat sometimes, but I don’t think it’s an accident tonight….

  54. At the rate of how Jordan Hill is improving, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Lakers traded Pau for Josh Smith and Kyle Korver.

  55. Kobe just subbed himself in, classic.

  56. Minor redemption for Meeks tonight, played okay in limited minutes.

  57. Nice move by Kobe for the layup.

  58. This offense could really score if they started Hill and used Pau off the bench. Think Good Mike has the guts?

  59. John Ireland just said that Nash will miss at least five more games.

  60. Gasol has literally done nothing since the 1st Q other than his imitation as a human pylon.

    Meanwhile, Dwight quietly put together 16 and 11 with 4 blocks.

    Last I checked Drew was in street clothes and rocking some sort of Rocky Horror Picture Show hair-do.

  61. What a great pass by Pau Gasol to Howard for the slam dunk.

  62. yah. that pau guy so soft. O board and beautiful assist to DH12. lets trade him to atlanta because Josh Smith can make that pass…

  63. Hey Phoenix is finally under 50% shooting for the game.

  64. Same team. Same players. Brown will never coach in the NBA again.

  65. Time for the human victory cigar – Earl Clark

  66. I see whipping boy status has shifted from Mike Brown to Pau Gasol. Kind of laughable that folks are on Pau so hard when he played just fine. D could have been better, sure. But he spaced the floor wonderfully on offense, scored efficiently and rebounded well enough considering how well Phoenix shot the ball. I know fans have high standards, but this level of criticism is pretty foolish.

  67. Lakers only 11 TO’s and 25 assists. A expected win against a possible lottery team after 2 days off. Metta and Hill played great hopefully they can be consistent.

  68. only 11 turnovers. yay.

  69. exactly, Darius.

  70. It would’ve been nice to see LA sub out the starters when Phoenix did, instead if running them for an extra 2 minutes. But – good win. I’ll take it! Looking forward to seeing how MDA goes with the rotations.

  71. Im looking forward to seeing how Mike D’Antoni going to fix the defense. Dragic was just carving up the lakers defense looking like steve nash.

  72. I agree with Darius – the Pau bashing sure does get tiring. He’s not a perfect player, but he brings a ton of elements to this team that could help make it special. His passing, his ability to stretch the floor, and, probably most importantly, his ability to stay healthy and play consistent minutes.

    He just needs to stop being the big involved on the high P&R, and to stop switching onto small/fast pg’s at the 3 point line.

  73. Dragic looks like Steve Nash pretty often, remember, he scored 23 points in the 4th qtr against San Antonio in the playoffs. And you can’t say that Popovich is a bad defensive coach.

  74. Oh how I missed that “we want tacos” chant. It’s good to be awesome again.

    And as for Mr. Bryant, he leads the league in scoring. .

  75. Darius Morris with 6 assists – career high. Very quietly.

  76. We really may need to average 115 ppg this year… Our defensive rotations leave a lot to be desired. Good win though!

  77. Jjerke…

    Your comment at the top of this thread really resonated with me. Yes, the game should be simple… Pass or shoot. Only really creative players like Kobe, Nash or a guy like CP3 should try to dribble and orchestrate the offense. The best way to defeat a quick, switching defense is with quick ball movement. I’ve yet to see a player that can outrun the ball on a regular basis.