Thursday night was somewhat of a throw-away game, as Alvin Gentry pulled Shaquille O’Neal and Grant Hill halfway through the third quarter in favor of the reserves to try and win Friday night’s “winnable” game. They accomplished that goal.
The Lakers definitely felt the same pressure from the doubleheader, dropping their own Friday night game in Denver by 11. Phil Jackson even blamed the NBA schedule after the game for the brutal nature of some of these doubleheaders.
That being said, both teams had Saturday off, and the Suns got to stay in their own beds. We’ll see if the Lakers come in sluggish at all, and the Suns may need just that to come away with a victory.
But the biggest factor going into Sunday morning’s matchup is the health of Steve Nash.
Friday night was the first time the Suns have ever won without both Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in the lineup, and a big 45 from Shaq is the direct cause of that. It’s probably doubtful Shaq could put up 45 again, especially against a bigger Lakers team. If Nash doesn’t play, the Suns may find themselves being blown out yet again on national TV.
Gentry said Friday that if it was a playoff game, Nash might have played. This is as close as the Suns will get to that for now. He may have to play to avoid another embarrassment at home.
If not, it may not be too far-fetched to see big Louis Amundson in the starting lineup instead of Alando Tucker, who started Thursday, or Matt Barnes, who started Friday. Sunday likely won’t have the same feel as Thursday, as I expect Gentry to pull out all the stops to try to get the biggest ‘W’ of this head coaching stint so far.
One thing is for sure though: they better not be counting on 45 from Shaq again because something tells me Pau Gasol will have something to say about that.