Preview and Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Ryan Cole —  March 18, 2013

Records: Lakers 36-32 (8th in the West), Suns 22-45 (14th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.8 (8th in the NBA), Suns 97.9 (28th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.4 (18th in the NBA), Suns 105.2 (23rd in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Suns: Goran Dragic, Wes Johnson, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Jermaine O’Neal
Injuries: Lakers: Kobe Bryant (day-to-day), Pau Gasol (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Suns: Channing Frye (out for season), Marcin Gortat (out indefinitely)

The Lakers Coming in: For starters, Kobe Bryant is not going to play tonight as he continues to recover from his severely sprained ankle and the flu. While this is not encouraging news, it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. The Lakers dont play again until Friday, and three days of rest will surely be helpful in the Mamba’s recovery process, as well as getting needed rest from the wear and tear of an 82-game season.

The Lakers come into tonights matchup off of two quality team victories. This past Friday they went to Indiana and worked together as a unit to beat one of the quality teams in the NBA on the road. Last night at Staples Center the Lakers hosted the Sacramento  Kings, and they continued their collective cohesive play at home in a 113-102 victory (now have won seven straight home games) . More than the anything, the one thing that stands out about the Lakers in these last two wins is that they are playing like a fully functioning basketball team. In Antawn Jamison’s post-game interview last night he stressed that the established sense of urgency in the locker-room has been they key factor in the team’s succes since the All-Star break (11-3 record).

Aside from the injuries, it is obvious that the individual parts are starting to come together for this team. Steve Blake has found his place in the second-unit as the backup point guard, and is playing exceptional on both ends of the floor right now. Antawn Jamison is starting to show the promise of being the veteran signing that Lakers hoped he would be. Metta World Peace has found his stride again in these last few games without Kobe, and continues to play with inspired effort. And the Steve Nash/Dwight Howard combination in the pick-and-roll has been effective as of late. Despite the obvious defensive issues that are still present with this team, they are making the right strides this late in the season in becoming a factor in the playoffs as they continue to rely on working together to get victories.

The Suns Coming in: The Suns head into tonights matchup having lost four straight games and six of their last seven. Been a tough season for the Suns to say the least as they are tied with the New Orleans Hornets for the worst record in the Western Conference. They are coming off a tough game on the road against Washington Wizards in which they gave up 14 three-pointers en route to a 127-105 loss.

Despite the encouraging camaraderie in the locker-room under interim head coach Lindsey Hunter, there hasn’t been positive results yielded on the hardwood (9-17 record). And that’s not a discredit to Hunter’s coaching, it’s just there wasn’t much to expect with the hand he was dealt. Players have been in and out of lineups due to injury or performance, and some just haven’t fully bought into his principles because of the team’s losing.

Similar to the Lakers, the Suns are a flawed defensive team. Their issues on defense are more half-court based though. The Suns haven’t had the rim protection needed to stop penetration, and as a result offer lots of open shots to their opponents in drive-and-kick scenarios.They have given up 100 points or more in six straight contests, the most consecutive times that has happened to this team since the 2011-2012 season.

On the positive side, Goran Dragic has been a consistent producer for this team. The young Slovenian point guard has flourished under Lindsey Hunter by having the luxury of operating freely with their offense. His growth will be important for the Suns moving forward as they continue to try to find the right pieces to place around him.

Suns Blogs:  Valley of the Suns and Bright Side Of The Sun both do a fantastic job of covering the Suns.

Keys to game: The Lakers need to continue playing with a collective approach and with a sense of urgency. We’ve seen on multiple occasions when the Lakers have suffered really bad losses as a result of taking an opponent lightly. The last two games have been the perfect blueprint of not doing that.

It will be important that Dwight Howard gets established early. Similar to the match ups against the Pacers and Kings, it’s not so much that Dwight gets shot attempts but that he gets touches. Dwight forces every defense in the NBA to make an adjustment because of his presence. So because Phoenix will be absent of a legitimate interior defender tonight, it’s going to be key for the Lakers to punish them with Dwight.

A lot of the cohesive play of the Lakers on offense should be attributed to Dwight. More than often he forces a double team, and has shown that he is capable of making the right pass leading to quality shot attempts. Also with his new found desire to set solid screens on guards, he has helped Nash become a more potent facilitator. Dwight’s improved health has resulted in some dominant play as of late and the Lakers need to continue taking advantage of that.

Defensively it’s going to be key to contain Goran Dragic. How effective he is factors a lot into their offense (which is one of the worst in the league). It is likely that Phoenix will try to place Dragic in the pick-and-roll to take advantage of Nash’s defensive woes, so helping and recovering is going to be important. Also the Lakers should make a conscious effort to not let Michael Beasley get going. Some of Beasley’s best games this season have come at the hand of the Lakers, so it’s essential that the Lakers force him to take tough shots and be a decision-maker rather than a scorer. Finally the Lakers are going to have to make an effort to get back in transition. Phoenix is not very successful in the half-court, so they make it a priority to push the ball in transition when possible.

The continued contributions of Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison are going to be needed again on a night like this. Mike D’Antoni only played seven players last night, and we should expect him to do that tonight, so again, production from multiple guys is going to be a necessity.

All in all tonight is a game that the Lakers should win even on the second night of a back-to-back without Kobe and Pau. Playoff teams dont lose games like this.

Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Ryan Cole

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97 responses to Preview and Chat: The Phoenix Suns

  1. My concern with this 7-man lineup (9, if you include Kobe & Pau) is how it can hold up during playoffs. Darius (or anyone), what are your thoughts on this rotation being solid (even deep?) enough when it counts?

  2. He’s also a (the) coach. Hope Dwight’s ready to smash tonight, or at least have enough energy to force the doubles early.

  3. I think the rotation should be fine in the playoffs given the fact that Pau should be back and the time off in between games. Here’s a cool story on the Lakers coming together check it out.
    http://www.wetheopinionated.com/editorial-a-superhero-approach-to-figuring-out-the-lakers.html

  4. @Albert: Most teams and coaches run with a shorter lineup in the playoffs. The combination of no back-to-backs (though there’s often one in the first round due to TV schedules) and hugely reduced travel means the players get a lot more rest between games. I’d be more concerned that he’s playing such a short rotation right now (injuries, fatigue, etc.) than in April/May/June.

    I get why it’s happening, since injuries have made fewer useful players available, I’d just like to see Nash playing 30-32 minutes a night and Howard 34-36, as opposed to last night’s 35 and 40, respectively. However, it was an oddly close game for an 11-point win until the last 50 seconds or so.

  5. Man, espn might have the worst commenters in basketball sports.

    Just glad I’ve found this blog.

    37-32, as Popovich said, seedings is not important as long that we’re playing great.

  6. Dwight on pace for about thirty shots. Hopefully he can start making more than 1 out of every 3.

    The results aren’t there yet tonight, but good overall energy for the second night of a back to back.

  7. I question Meeks BB IQ. Has he ever made the right play on a fast break?

    Dwight looks so much better of late.

  8. Ha-Ha-Ha, I thought most people here are watching the Heat-Celtics game. Few comments only in this thread LOL

  9. Wow, Meeks is making all the wrong plays, in good news everyone else looks pretty good.

  10. Meeks kills the team the moment he takes the court. Terrible! Let’s go with a 6 man rotation.

  11. Is Steve Blake experiencing the “D’Antoni factor”? I mean Blake looks as good now as he ever has his entire career – but significantly better than he ever has for the Lakers.

  12. Derek Fisher to Meeks: damn son, learn to finish at the rim!

  13. Have to admit, I’m watching MIA-BOS and witnessing the clutchness of LeBron.

  14. Lebron passed out of single coverage, that was a mistake.

  15. @harold

    Why did Lebron passed that ball to Wade?! That was clutch time…

    Damn, LBJ with a clutch 2 later. Thats what I’m talking about!!!

  16. D12 back! Need to shore up our play. Such a sloppy game so far. Both teams really.

  17. Lakers perimeter D is non-existent right now.

  18. Man, someone is watching Heat-Celtics game behind me and I’m watching LA-PHX game.

    This is awesomeness LOL

  19. You can’t play 7 guys when 2 are over 36 in back to backs. Basic basketball 101 there Mike.

  20. Feel bad for Dudley, ref called a weak foul on him because he let an obvious foul on Haddadi go.

  21. There you go, Heat win their 23 games in a row. Now, we can focus on LAL-PHX game.

  22. Dwight is hoisting like Kobe on a bad night, someone remind him that he is nearly 7 feet tall and should be dunking over anyone the Suns put on him.

  23. I think im the only one who was hoping for the miami heat to lose.

  24. @Gary – I hate the Heat more than Boston, but gotta respect Lebron’s skill. Mostly hating on Wade and Bosh who are riding Bron’s coattails.

  25. @joe Oh believe me i defintely hate wade and bosh more than lebron. I actually hate the miami heat ever since they won the championship in 2006. Dirk should have won that year.

  26. Seriously, is MDA even going to try Ebanks at shooting guard or is he going to keep throwing out Meeks who hash been pretty awful. Ebanks won’t be worse (might not be better but can’t be worse).

  27. I counted 8 point blank misses by Dwight. Dies he realize he has the touch of a hammerhead shark.

    Does this coach realize his 7 players are dead tired? Why have a bench if you refuse to use them?

    Very stubborn man.

  28. Lucky we’re only down by 3. LOL

    OT:

    Lebron’s time is now in his prime, he will his moments like this.

  29. These games are life or death for the Lakers they are going to have to suck it up, there is no margin for error we need our best players outhere every single night. If the Lakers were on a cushy playoff spot by all means rest away but not on this situation. They can rest when they dead. They dig this hole so they better crawl out of it, no time for end of bench players nowadays

  30. @Gary Lakers/Detroit 2004 finals nothing was a foul on Shaq or Kobe. 2006, after game 2 Wade averaged almost 18 FTs a game, 15 for the series. Jordan averaged at most 11.5, once in the 96 finals, once in the 98 finals. No way Wade was getting fouled more than Jordan. The 2006 finals were highway robbery – 2004 was just bad ref’ing. 2006 seemed fixed.

  31. Boston wasted a once in a lifetime performance by Jeff Green. You can see the whole team was pumped up in the first half but when its crunchtime with the Heat closing in, they were nervous and forced bad shots/long jumpers. Lebron is so ahead of its players now that it isn’t funny. The guy deserved all the respect he gets.

    Now breaking the Lakers’ 33 game streak seems possible..

  32. A chance to tie Houston for 7 seed is on the line tonight. Lakers need this game.

  33. 2004 was Karl Malone getting injured and having Luke and Devean George guarding Rasheed on his prime. Wase is the kind of player that cry foul every single time, whinner to the 10th degree the refs bought onto his act on 06, but the Mavs still choked.

  34. @joe yup exactly how i feel. Dallas was up 2-0 then miami just wins 4 straight? And the whistles dwade was getting? wow..at least pretend that the series wasn’t fixed.

  35. @Fern – and Meeks hasn’t looked like anything but an end of bench player for a while. He has literally had 1 okay game out of the last 10. If he was even playing okay, then I get it. But he is playing in a way tat is detrimental, can’t hurt the team trying someone else. There is a reason the Lakers have held on to Ebanks. Dude has some game and he works on it. He has never been given the opportunity to play consistent minutes for 20+ games, good or bad. As soon as he has had a string of bad games he has been benched. He is a much better defender than Meeks, Meeks is usually a better hooter but Meeks is in a prolonged slump.

  36. Alright after all my complaining, let’s see if Meeks can get it together as MDA seems intent on playing him no matter what….so…go Meeks!!!!

  37. Team is 3 steps slow and short on all shots. Does MD see? They are in trouble with this coach tonight.

  38. Disagree on Ebanks Joe he was even a starter at a time and he didnt got the job done, missed defensive assigments all the time and is a liability on offense, he had his chance.Meeks is a better defender and he hustles his problem is that he is small, i dont like Meeks that much but he is better at both ends. Sorry but they have 3 days of rest after tonight, they need to go outhere and take care of business

  39. Coach Kobe, help!

  40. Tucker is getting away with gooning Nash, Nash should Pull his jersey over his head and hammer him, Canada style.

  41. Sweet SB .. Sweet

  42. Bench please!

  43. Why do the Suns own us this year?

  44. Well, we see what happens when you play a 7 man rotation during a back to back. Maybe ebanks or even sacre can provide some minutes.

  45. Lakers do not have Kobe in the lineup. Not surprising they are about to lose to this pathetic team.

  46. i think we are losing this game. another wasted opportunity…
    we should play more physical.

  47. As good as Jamison was last night, thus far, he’s just as bad tonight.

  48. I really wish the NBA schedule makers would’ve had us playing only teams like Miami, OKC, the Clips, the Spurs, and Denver on the road in the 2nd game of B2B’s so that we could constantly be embarrassed and lose by 40 every game to show how pathetic we are on the 2nd of B2B’s. So sick and tired of the B2B excuses. We’re down 11 to one of the most piss poor teams in the league and the reason it’s even that close is just that. The Suns freakin suck! Absolutely embarrassing. Oh wait, we’re tired. Whatever…

  49. Lakers are losing every loose ball and getting pushed around. So D’Antoni decides to give guys 2-3 minutes breathers with a guy who played 30+ minutes last night when there’s fresh bodies on the bench. Doesn’t make sense.

  50. Can you have “season ending surgery” when you have not played at all in the season?

  51. Missed free throws like that when trying to come back, just demoralizes a team. Good thing the quarter is over.

  52. New beer commercial

    “I am the most stubborn man in the world”

    Starring MD.

  53. Hey, we are still in this game. We can pull this one out.

  54. Clark and MWP’S – 16 shots, 4 makes = 25% shooting

    Nash and Dwight – 30 shots, 11 makes = 30%

    How are we even in this game

  55. Captain Pringles is definitely sour creme and onion flavoured.

  56. Gosh Meeks is just garbage. Shooting under 20% last 4 games. Not even close. Just stupid coaching.

  57. I would put in Kobe in a wheelchair before I played Meeks again this game.

  58. The most absurd line of the night, courtesy of Billy Mac:

    “Here come the Lakers with some energy.” What? Really? What game have you been watching, Billy Mac???

  59. Amen Zirk, you get it. There is no excuse to be trailing against a terrible team on a

  60. Stupid stupid stupid. Blow your players up last night and do the same tonight.

    Stupid stupid.

  61. Captain Pringles gets the award for stubborn coaching move of the week. It is transparently obvious that the team is spent. LA is losing every 50-50 play for a reason. And yet MDA won’t acknowledge the obvious, and maybe give a few minutes to the bench.

  62. Amen Zirk, you get it. There is no excuse to be trailing against a terrible team on a 4 game losing streak that cant win at home. Being tired is an excuse.

  63. This game is all on mike d’antoni. I know the lakers bench sucks but meeks, earl, antawn are playing bad so why not bring other guys off the bench who can contribute?

  64. Scola is automatic from 18. Assassin. We’re making them all look like all stars. I hate Mike D.

  65. Earl Clark and Dwight are both exhausted. MDA is so terrible he just refuses to even try something, its not like he doesn’t have players he can try to put in.

  66. Game needed Kobe heroics.

  67. Fern, I just refuse to buy into excuses for things that are your own damn fault!

    Do we have any b2b’s left on the schedule? Cuz if we do, let’s just not play those games and automatically count them as a loss. That would help prevent all of us fans from stabbing ourselves in the eyes with an ice pick watching crap like this.

    I swear, I can pick 5 guys off this board who would compete harder than this team. And definitely shoot better! How are you an NBA player and can’t make a shot???

    And I love how the Kobe haters are nowhere to be found during games like this. *crickets*

  68. Being tired is an excuse Fern, but not having Kobe is not an excuse. Lets face it, this team can’t be relied on to win when you have no Kobe and no Gasol. Can we rely on Howard? Of course not, never have been able to all year. Can we rely on nailing 3 pointers? Nope, this team does not do it consistently. They tear it up last night and are just absolutely dreadful tonight. This team needs Kobe to win consistently, otherwise, they are just a 500 caliber team, maybe worse.

  69. Why do we have more than 7 players if we are only going to play 7? You telling me the rest of the guys are sooooooo terrible you can’t play them 5-10 mins in a game where your magic 7 are terrible.

    MDA shows no confidence in his guys, why would they have any confidence. This is why this guy has had very limited success as a coach, he is clueless without that 10 deep Phx lineup he had with prime Nash.

  70. I just switched off the TV. Why do we fans have to suffer this kind of bad coaching? The players look very tired, and MDA is stubborn to stay with the 7-players rotation. Is he here to play power trip? or to help the players win? I really wonder!

  71. Dwight can’t even get an easy rebound. Thank goodness there is no B2B in the playoffs unlike last year.

  72. yeah, this type of game when we really need KB24 to bail us out.
    we have no business winning this game.
    we should be cruising for a W when we’re playing Suns and other sub-par team. what has happened to LAs pride to win important games.

  73. Dwight didn’t even move on that last board, why is he out there?

  74. Now Ken, do you really believe this team can win a title when you have Captain Pringles as the coach? Think about it…..even a second grader can figure that one out.

  75. Joe they need Kobe and Pau for sure but i dont buy that this team even w/o those two should not be able to handle a team that is worse than the Lakers even with tonight roster, like i been saying for a while now eve

  76. How is dragic outrebounding the lakers? And scola is having a career game. So much for Dwight “defensive player of the year” Howard.

  77. Sacramento and Phoenix games mean nothing other than win and losses. Chemistry is already strong enough to sustain and roles are defined. Why overwork a veteran team on a roll. D’Anotni messed up a chance for Nash to win a game in his old stomping grounds.

  78. we’re out-coached. almost every game, out-coached.
    7-man rotation will not get it done. championship team have deep bench, look up at the previous title teams and you will see role players playing even for just 10mins or less.

    i think MDA only wants us to be there in the playoff, and hopes his 7-man rotation will get it done.
    it will be total disappointing, and Jazz is winning tonight.

  79. Pringles is 3 chips short of a rock. He Should be fired for giving this game away. Not one adjustment, fresh guy or anything. What a disgrace of a coach.

  80. @Fern: what is hard to understand. Lakers are old and bad on back to backs because they are tired. This is part age, part the fact that MDA plays the same 7 guts the entire game.

    Their record on b2bs is like 2 and 12 or something like that. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

  81. Whats up with the comments here? It keeps posting even when im not finish. Anyways losing like this against one of the worst

  82. Last night, I posted a comment suggesting that playing 7 guys, 4 of whom are well into their 30s, would quite possibly bite the Lakers in the 4th q tonight, and it did.

    As to D’Antoni, the bashing is, again, over the top in some respects. The Lakers have basic roster problems. But, MDA has shown that he is mostly a system coach. He is going to have a team that:

    1. Plays at a fast pace
    2. Shoots a lot of 3s
    3. Uses a short rotation

    This shows a lack of flexibility, and that is a problem. Letting Morris and Ebanks play 10 MPG apiece tonight to get some fresh legs on the floor for perimeter defense might not have helped, but I think he should have done it.

    That said, there is a lot more wrong with this team than Mike D’Antoni.

  83. This loss is all on MDA – has he learned nothing from his irrational and ultimately regrettable benching of Jamison earlier this season. Give guys a chance and thy might just reward you.

    Somewhere Phil Jackson is laughing at the idea that anyone thought MDA was a better coach for any team than he is.

  84. Why do we have to suffer this kind of bad coaching? I will not spend money on buying another Lakers ticket as long as this stubborn coach is not fired. Seriously, the players look tired. This is how you injure veteran players. There is just no way Lakers can win a championship with this kind of stubborn coaching. What a shame!

  85. @Joe Mike d’antoni should be put into a mental institution then.

  86. 52 to 12 bench scoring. Ugh.

    rr, the team definitely has more wrong with it than bad coaching, but those weaknesses make it that much harder to overcome the bad coaching we’ve seen all too often.

    Flawed roster + flawed coach = no legitimate prospect for playoff success.

  87. Whats up with the comments here? It keeps posting even when im not finish. Anyways losing like this against one of the worst teams in the league, a team on a 4 game losing streak that cant even win at home its embarrasing i dont care how tired they are, they played that game like they were the top seed and they could toss this game away and no harm would be done. Even with the guys we are missing our roster is way better than this crap team, and if this team find it too rough to log heavy minutes back 2 back they deserve to be blown the hell out every single game. I find it really hard to take “im tired”excuses from a bunch of pampered millionaire babies. No pride at all. Another gimmie game wasted. Im embarrased.

  88. Well, big loss because Utah is currently leading against a diminished NYK team.

    Get well soon Kobe and Pau so we can start playing at least 8 guys a game.

  89. Agree with comments about going deeper to the bench. But why does MDA wait until under 3 min to completely empty his bench? Pops would have handled this situation very differently. He would recognize early on that his starters didn’t have it and responded accordingly. What started as an ugly, sloppy and poorly executed game turned into something utterly unwatchable.

    Not the first this year certainly but definitely one of the most frustrating. As a pilot you generally want to pull up on the stick if a mountain is directly in front of you but for whatever reason MDA chose to crash the plane instead. Perhaps it’s a clever Italian mind trick to get his players ready for the post-season :) A post-season that is no way assured when we get performances like this.

  90. The three old players Nash,Jamison and Metta shot under 25%. Gee wonder why that was?

  91. MD in press conference: “Wait til “Kobe” gets back.”

  92. Joe i know the Lakers are olld but thank you to remind me yet again. So how many times have they split those back2 backs against crap oposition? too many to remember,you realize that the Knicks are even older but you dont hear about this crap happening time and time again to them. Against a team like this a gimmie like this and 3 days of rest looming you have to gut it out. Pretty dissapointing barrasing loss, Kobe needs to heal that ankle asap, i thought this gimmie games would had been the perfect chance to let him heal and rest, but this team cant survive without him. Back to reality again.

  93. Mike “pringles” d’antoni says they had more legs athleticism…ummmm so why didnt you play more guys and expand your rotation? “you gotta fight through it.” yea mike, tired legs and age can be fought through.

  94. 9 points in the 4th quarter against a terrible defensive team such as the Suns is an obvious sign that the players were Exhausted. This game was lost last night. D’Antoni has to realize that, against bad teams (with Bad being the operative word) such as the Kings and Suns, stealing some rest for your starters by playing a Sacre, Duhon or Ebanks can be beneficial. Especially with Kobe and Pau in designer threads. His stubbornness and arrogance, which mind you, is well documented, is quite comical in my opinion.