Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Suns

Darius Soriano —  December 23, 2013 — 69 Comments

The Lakers coming in: The Lakers had an interesting last few games, going 3-3 in their last 6 contests, including a feel good win over the Wolves after learning that Kobe would be out 6 weeks and a thrashing at the hands of the Warriors just one night later. Both games showed the potential of this team. When the shots are falling and this team is having fun, they can compete with a lot of teams, even winning on the strength of an active defense. When the shots aren’t falling and the other team cracks the code of the Lakers’ pressure schemes, they can look horribly over matched. Of course, you can pin at least some of that on the team’s health (against the Warriors the team played without Kobe, Pau, Farmar, Blake, and Nash) and how that affected lineup construction and how Mike D’Antoni had to deploy his players in a workable rotation.

Tonight against the Suns, some of that will be normalized. Pau Gasol is feeling better after an upper respiratory infection kept him out of the Warriors’ game. However, with Pau back, another shift in the starting lineup has occurred with Jordan Hill once again going back to the bench in favor of Shawne Williams. Many will disagree with Williams inclusion with the first five — I for one would start Hill regardless of match ups — but if I had to guess why D’Antoni is starting Williams against the Suns it’s related to a combination of match ups (the Suns play stretch 4’s throughout the game and Williams’ defense on them will be useful) and what the team’s lineup data is telling him. When Williams is on the floor, the Lakers have a positive net rating (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) of 6.4. This mark is second on the team (behind Jordan Farmar — get well soon) and reflects that the team seems to perform well with him in the game even tthough is individual stats are nothing to write home about. Again, I’d start Hill and still give Willaims his regular burn, but I’ve no doubt D’Antoni is looking at some of these numbers and rationalizing putting Williams in the lineup.

The Suns coming in: As I wrote when teh Lakers played the Suns earlier this month, there may not be a more surprising team in the league than this team. Many had them “tanking” for a high draft pick this summer, but instead they are 6 games over .500, 2nd in the Pacific Division, and a firm playoff team. They’re 7-2 in their last 9 games with their only losses coming against the Grizzlies on the road and the Spurs in Phoenix. They continue to be paced by their dynamic backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, both of whom are threats to score 30 points or dish out 10 assists on any given night. Add to that their ability to defend well and it’s not a stretch to say they should be considered one of (if not the) best backcourts in the league.

There’s more to this team, of course. The Morris twins seem revitalized playing together again. Channing Frye’s return from his heart surgery last year remains one of the feel good stories of the year, not to mention he’s been productive when on the floor. P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green are also showing flashes, providing shooting and defense in solid minutes. All in all, then, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this team has the record it does. Rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek is pushing the right buttons and has these guys playing hard and mostly smart basketball.

Keys to the game: I could  try to fill this portion of the preview out with a bunch of stats and strategy, X’s and O’s and coach speak but in reality this game comes down to only a couple of factors.

Defensively, can the Lakers slow down Bledsoe and Dragic? In the last game these teams played the Suns’ duo combined for 49 points and 14 assists, essentially carrying their team all with until Marcus Morris also doing his share of the heavy lifting down the stretch. If Dragic and Bledsoe come anywhere close to approaching those numbers tonight, the Lakers will almost certainly lose. How they accomplish slowing down such a terrific tandem is another story, but it will be up to Xavier Henry, Jodie Meeks, Wes Johnson, and Nick Young to play strong defense up high while Pau, Williams, Hill, Kaman, and Sacre show the necessary help on the back line to contest shots at the rim. The various layers of the  Lakers’ D must work in unison when either guard has the ball to try and make their lives difficult.

Offensively, the Lakers must establish the paint while making a strong percentage of their outside shots. The team will need Pau, Kaman, and Hill to finish in the paint and will need at least two (and like three) of the Henry, Meeks, Young, and Johnson foursome on the wing to have strong shooting nights. If this sounds like a lot, it is. But it will be what’s needed for the Lakers tonight if they hope to keep the game close and be able to win by the final buzzer, especially on the road. Anything is possible, of course, but this will be a tall task considering how well the Suns have been playing in December. But the Lakers would love nothing more than to exact a little bit of revenge for the last game in Staples while also building some momentum heading into the Christmas day game against the Heat.

Where you can watch: 6:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710 AM.

Darius Soriano

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69 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Suns

  1. Interesting happenstance. Go Lakers!

  2. Thank you Warren!

    Go Lakers!

  3. Guys as Lake Show TW blasting starting Williams. Pointing out Fry doesn’t ‘t box out and Hill comes off 14 and 10.

    Often MD seems clueless.

  4. Lakers! For Pete´s sake clamp down on Dragic & Bledsoe this time!
    Give ´em hell boys!

  5. If we employ the same method as last game early, putting Wes Johnson on the opponent’s top point guard (this team has two) we would have relative success. We just need to find the consistency to match up which with which because the Suns have 2 really quick point guards.

    Xavier’s size can bother whoever he’s guarding with his size, but his footspeed will be suspect. Wes can most definitely cover PGs.

    Go Lakers!

  6. Your 2 best rebounders sitting. Zero offensive rbs on court.


  7. Xavier with 2 quick (questionable) fouls. Not good.

  8. Ugh looks like a long night, looks like 0-3 during the Holidays, merry x-mas to me lol.

  9. I take that back nice quarter closing, were in the game

  10. Nice recovery. Keep Shawn of the Dead on the bench please.

  11. Trying to figure out how LAL is in this game after one with the foul-fest and zero interior “D”–unbelievable. Very lucky that PHX isn’t hitting its threes so far (I know–just jinxed us)

    Meanwhile–Kelly playing ok so far at both ends.

    Given the quick whistle when PHX attacks the rim I don’t understand why it’s so slow the other way…

  12. Well coached defense.

    Do Lakers have any scouts?

  13. Gerald Green is white hot. And he’s missing a finger!

  14. Suns’ commentators (via league pass) EJ and whoever are just terrible to listen to. So much hate.

  15. I have only noticed 2 things in this game:

    1. How much slower Gasol is than everyone else, especially on D;
    2. How much the Suns whine and complain to the refs after every call or no call – most of these guys haven’t been in the league long enough to complain about the flavour of the Gatorade.

  16. Thank god for Nick Young…Gasol should give him 18 million of his salary

  17. This franchise and this owner and us fans will be very embarrassed this Weds. The basketball world will see a team that has slipped to a new low in a short time.

    TW has points in their contact that forces Lakers to pay back money for no playoffs and lower ratings. Might me a bunch.

    Trust me on the contract. 100% true.

  18. Definitely not a fan of the cornball nickname, but hopefully we’re able to find a way to retain Nick Young after this season (I know that he has a players option). It’s as if the role of 6th Man was made specifically for him.

  19. You have a problem if Pau is your best player.

    This team is really sad.

    Miami might win by 50 Weds.

  20. Team has quit.

    Coach is clueless.

    It’s ping pong ball time.

  21. Capital P, Capital U, Capital TRID effort from Pau on “D” to start the third. Making Plumlee look like an All Star.

    Meanwhile, Xavier seems determined to jack shots to get himself out of his slump tonight.

    And, as a perfect example of the weird officiating in this game—-blood does not equal foul in this game apparently.

  22. So why is Hill not playing? Sacre is playing more minutes.

  23. Pau minus 20

    Hill and Kamen 6 minutes.

    Pay 4 rebounds.

    No sense playing your bigs huh Mikey.

  24. Last year I couldn’t figure out a legitimate reason why D’Antoni benched Gasol (in off season he would admit it was to cater to Dwight). This season I can’t think of a legitimate reason NOT to bench Pau. I would easily play Hill the vast majority of bigs minutes.

  25. Oh well, the Suns announcers are entertaining. No team, including Miami can run with us – lol, homers beware, your king has arrived.

  26. Joe

    Have you heard Mike Mumbles talk after games.

    Question answered .

  27. The Suns are a good team, In case you didn’t check their record before the game began, they are. This game, partly due to horrible rotations and Xavier Henry thrown off course, the Suns are also hot shooting the 3. Pair that with being at home and you got a recipe for a win.

    The Lakers have literally no PGs. Shows big time on this game too.

  28. Glad they signed Marshall.

    So he can watch the team get beat by 45 points in 2 games and not get off the bench.

    Another nice signing.

  29. The Suns are an overachieving team thus far this season, but I wouldn’t expect to see them much above .500 at the end of the year. Their team is built around jump shooting. They have a number of players (hello Gerald Green) who are shooting well above their averages. It all reverts to the mean over time and it will again. This doesn’t even factor in Eric Gordon’s annual season ending injury.

    The Lakers are just a very below average team being beaten up by a hot shooting average one.

  30. sensible summary of this one so far, Warren
    though it´s certainly frustrating to sit through another game like this

  31. Eric Gordon’s

    Gordon plays for NO; PHX has Eric Bledsoe.

  32. Only 2 players plus for the game.

    Chris and Jordan .

    Mike played them 11 minutes each.

    One smart coach.

  33. If I remember correctly Ken, Mumbles was a Dick Tracy character, a thug at that:
    d´u think coach is really him in disguise?

  34. My 1st loss as a 1st poster. Even my 1st post can’t play PG for us.

  35. Well. That was painful. Several stats stick out to me.

    1) The Lakers had 12 assists total. Total. Phoenix had 24.
    2) Phoenix out-rebounded the Lakers by 23 (23!), 62-39. Furthermore, this is the 2nd game in a row in which the opposing center grabbed 20 rebounds. Of course, both of those centers are future Hall of Famers–Andrew Bogut and Miles Plumlee.

    So, think of it. If you get out-assisted by 12 and out-rebounded by 23, what are your chances of winning? The lack of assists is clearly attributable to the absence of a true Point Guard. That I understand.

    But getting hammered on the glass by a team that is NOT a great rebounding team is unforgiveable. And it was preventable. There was no excuse to not start Jordan Hill. At the outset of the 4th quarter, Hill grabbed 3 rebounds in a minute and a half–2 of them on the offensive glass. Where was he all game?

    This game was, in its own way, not winnable. The Lakers simply don’t match up well with Phoenix and they’re missing too many pieces. But it need not have been a 27-point blowout. I’ll lay this one on D’Antoni’s doorstep. I think MDA’s done some good things this year. But managing his bigs is not one of them. And the way he’s playing Kaman and especially Jordan Hill is the worse kind of personnel management imagineable.

    MDA seems to be a coach for PGs and Wings. But when it comes to managing bigs, he’s simply out of his element. I’m very disappointed. But I’ve said enough.

    End of rant.

  36. Our last two coaches (Brown and MDA) have not been very confident in their dealings with the press. I always wondered if they had trouble communicating their approach to reporters how are the players supposed to understand what their supposed to do.

  37. “I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you’re trying to accomplish on the basketball floor” Phil Jackson

  38. So Mike said on post game about the fans

    “If they don ‘t like it they can find a new team”

    Pound . That’s the sound of a nail in a coffin!

  39. “If [the fans] are discouraged, you know, find another team to root for. ”
    Hey Mike – we have been around a lot longer than you and we will be here long after you are gone. So don’t tell us what to do. And just when I said you can finish the year, you make yourself completely intolerable.

  40. MD does not like Hill, never has. He had Hill in NY and got rid of him. He can’t shoot the three and he wears down like most human beings on this earth who give 100 percent his whole time he’s on the floor. Same thing happened with Uncle Earl. I miss Earl Clark. Heck I miss Phil Jack and winning on a consistent basis more though.

  41. Right on Robert. Perhaps Mike should read the TW Contract which calls for pay back of money with lower ratings.

    Your employer might not want its employees calling out the fans.

    Guy going to get run out of two biggest and historic basketball states in 3 years.

  42. IMO, Busboys is correct on Hill, as I have said many times. Since they are committed to D’Antoni, I think they should probably consider moving Hill.

    As to the comment about the fans:

    a) I wouldn’t overreact to it.
    b) That said, sarcasm and leadership don’t mix well, as I said when MDA ragged on Pau. I never liked that side of Phil, either.
    c) Calling out fans is never a good idea, for either players or coaches.

  43. D’Antoni on discouraged Lakers fans: “If they’re discouraged, then find another team to root for. We’re not going to give up.”

    Nothing wrong w that aside from tweeking the thin skinned ones. This team is what it is until guys get back healthy. nothing wrong w the coach backing his guys.

  44. Thin skinned? The smart fans are the ones who think MD can do no wrong, everything is fun, and the Laker fans just don’t understand so we have to learn from Phoenix fans?

  45. Nothing wrong w that aside from tweeking the thin skinned ones.

    It is not that big of a deal, but calling out fans is dumb, and is definitely bad business. D’Antoni has always been sarcastic; it is one of his weak spots. You should just own that, rather than spinning everything he does into something positive.

  46. lol – im not saying it was smart or he’s going to make any more friends over it, but the over reaction to it is predictable. And yeah, at least he’s publicly and vociferously backing his guys – read Mctens whole synopsis and take the entire quote in context and its no where near as bad as interpreted.

  47. i think the fans are chicken manure right now. a game like tonight’s is hard to watch, but crying endlessly about it is less fun than the losing.

  48. I have previously called out Laker fans for not being vocal enough (especially in the 100 section), and never wearing free t-shirts and stuff. However telling someone to go root for another team is over the line. Odd time to call out fans anyway, as we were away. Comment was not needed. many of ours aren’t as well, but we do not get paid and part of his job is PR and handling the press.

  49. Jerke

    Wondering if you own your own business. If one of my employees said “if you don ‘t like it go somewhere else”, to a customer,he is out.

    MD has a job because us fans spend money over the years to make the team profitable. No fans, no TV, no cable, no merchandising etc.

    Under the definition of “bite the hand that feeds you” this comment has now hit national news. You can bet the quote will be played Weds with world wide fans watching.

    Not sure that’s what the Buss family needs right now. Don’t be shocked if it’s not over.

  50. MDA is terrible at speaking in public. Its easy to see why somebody would take what he said out of context. Can’t wait to hear what espn has to say about this, as if Lakers needed more drama.

  51. lighten up. it’s a game. sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t.

    at least the team is playing hard. everyone is doing the best they can right now. if it’s not good enough, too bad because this is what it is. if they continue to stink, all the front runners will go away. we can boo if that happens. right now, it’s just too serious. you can’t have a world beater right now. who knows? come June, it might be another story, or not, but we knew what the team was and how we got here before the season started, theories and opinions not needed for that.

  52. A lot of whinning here for a team that has no point guards or its best player and the pg they hired is a bonafide scrub. Horrible rebounding and no defense thats the signatures of this team, every now and then we will get one of those “fun” games but most nights we are going to get pounded, if we get healthy we might be able to do a little better but we are missing a big chunk of our offensive production, and thats fatal since this team cant defend even healthy. The audition for next season is on.

  53. How about letting Lakers play 10 games with Farmar before passing final judgement, doom and gloom, fire MDA, trade Pau, ditch Mitch etc?

    MDA may have better handled reporter question saying, “Hopefully Lakers fans see effort and commitment to win games. We battle every nite. We will string wins together”

    Folks are counting Lakers out Xmas day.
    Miami better show up.

  54. Let them eat cake, eh? It’s never a good time to make a petty comment towards the fans/customers. Microcosm of the cycle of arrogance like the bastard love child of Del Harris and Joey Crawford. The direction of this team is still a mystery with so many clashing parts. Hill, Gasol, Bryant, Kaman don’t fit the system and the system jerks with certain players. I thought that was part of the horrific arrogance of the David Kahn regime in Minn where they tried to force feed the triangle on a roster that couldn’t digest it. This season hasn’t been as disgusting to watch as the prior two but for me it’s still not fun for the most part to watch this seemingly rudderless shipwreck. It’s somewhat understandable with the amount of turmoil that has gone on in the league and the franchise recently.

  55. By the way the Lakers are going, Chris Bosh is going for a 40-20 tomorrow lol.

  56. Starting Williams over Hill.
    Refusing to play Kaman for long stretches.
    Questionable postgame comments regarding the fans.
    Is this guy for real?
    We may not be a contender this year, but MDA makes us a horrible team on too many occasions.
    Instead of countering Phoenix with Hill and Kaman, Dantoni played right into their hands.
    Half the posters on this site could coach this team better than it’s being coached right now by ‘Mike Cardboardi’

  57. By the way the Lakers are going, I could go for 40-20 tomorrow.

  58. @ Mid-Wilshire, well played sir lol

  59. Hale: “rudderless shipwreck”: Now that is funny – not just a rudderless ship but the addition of wreck really captures it : )
    mud: “lighten up” You are commenting at 2 AM on Christmas Eve, on a Lakers Board. I have been told to “lighten up” with regard to the Lakers many times, but I think this is the Gold calling the kettle Purple.
    Fern: “The audition for next season is on” Indeed
    MD: While the comment throwing us fans under the BUSS has received quite a bit of coverage, he was lucky in that Kidd and Malone threw their whole teams under the bus.

    Happy Holidays everyone !!!

  60. MDA can say whatever he wants it dont matter, dont bother me, it seems to me that people are asking too much from an injury decimated squad like this one, but what really irks me is having 2 seventh footers and letting a 6’1 pg grab 11 rebounds and a avg run of the mill center have a career night looking like the 2nd coming of Wilt and Kareem, i know there are a lot of scrub-avg centers that are going to get paid this offseason because of how they looked against the Lakers. I mean, i know what a box out is since i was 5 years old. A -23 rebounding differential against an avg rebounding team. Im beyond really worriying about this things. Just enjoy the season for what it is an move on.

  61. People talk about Kaman this Hill that, not one of them was particualry effective on the boards or scoring numbers dont lie, i saw Bledsoe grab rebounds between those 2. Not one of our bigs remember what boxing out is. Is as simple as that.

  62. Jerke,

    He can back his guys without calling out the fans. MDA is sarcastic, and he put his foot in his mouth again. And he doesn’t have the hardware or the winning percentage to back up the talk, so he–and the organization, and the team–would be better off if were smarter about it.

    I expect the Miami game will be fairly close. Miami has had some tough games against Eastern teams lately (ATL, DET, IND) and I expect that they won’t be particularly psyched about flying out here to play what is for them an essentially meaningless game against a ho-hum opponent on Christmas. If Farmar and Blake were available, I think there would be a good chance of an upset. As it is, I think the Lakers will keep it close but lose late.

  63. darius: sometimes the most maligned people in the history of the world are the most misunderstood and unappreciated. at this time of the year, here’s to one of the most memorable..

    merry xmas all

    Go lakers

  64. rr,

    I agree. I have a feeling that the game against Miami could be close (famous last words). I’m certainly not predicting a win. But I suspect that the Lakers will be more competitive. Just a feeling.

    Happy Holidays, everyone.

  65. 2am?
    yes, that’s right. i live in LA, but my job is in Germany. 2am is 11am there.

    yep, folks acting like they would make every correct decision…again, all that can be expected of the team is that they compete as hard as they possibly can. of course spoiled brats will sit down in the middle of the supermarket and cry at the top of their lungs when they don’t get the treat they want, no matter how good mommy is to them.

  66. Hope Mid & rr are right. (though wouldn´t it be grand to steal a win?)
    Just read that Farmar´s been cleared to play, so we should be seeing him tomorrow afternoon, in limited minutes I suspect.
    as for MD´A, smh

  67. Purple: Happy Holidays to you my friend. Farmar news is good. Will “probably” not matter tomorrow, but we have a set of very winnable games after that so he could be key.
    J C: “Half the posters could coach the team better” I don’t know. I do know that if I had a billion dollars, that I could be the perfect owner for the Lakers. : ) I also know that rr would be my GM. However I am not sure I would go with an FBG poster for the coaching slot. I think I might go with – well you know – The guy with the ring on his big toe.

  68. The guy with the ring on his big toe.
    LOL! fantastic
    Thanks so much for the X-mas wishes Robert, the same to you and yours. & my friend, the tenderest-hearted metal head I´ve ever known 🙂 let me just add that I certainly hope we´re competitive tomorrow, & that maybe, just maybe, we can really celebrate a heck of a Christmas with a win!! (wait, let me get real here, it´d take some serious divine intervention! but what the hey)

  69. Robert- call me when you have the billion.
    I’ll be happy to assist any way I can.
    Re Phil
    If PJ had been hear last year we may have kept DH. Phil would have been a perfect counterpoint to Kobe’s ‘let me show you how to win.’
    Kobe showed Dwight all right- the door.
    Phil would have SHOWN Dwight his 11 rings including his big toe haha
    Merry Chrostmas gang

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