It’s never good to overhype a regular season game during the first half of November, but if there were ever a game to deserve such treatment it would be tonight’s tilt against the Lakers in Staples.
Alvin Gentry pointed out that “it’s not going to count on the schedule more than any other” and Steve Nash said, “It’s just a game on the schedule.”
From a literal sense, they’re absolutely right, and it’s the way this team’s leaders should be thinking, especially with a young and excitable team that could get psyched out by this kind of stage. But in reality, this is a big game, a very big game, and a game that will feel like it counts more than just another November contest.
The hype machine is building. The Suns are the talk of the NBA, and after thrashing the Hornets on national TV last night, it’s looking more and more like this hot start is more than a fluke.
Beat the Lakers on national TV on the second half of a back-to-back when Los Angeles has been resting practically all week and you’re making a hell of a statement that the Phoenix Suns are back. You cannot ignore a team that goes into Boston and LA and beats arguably the two best teams in basketball in the first 10 games.
I understand that Pau Gasol is injured and that the Lakers’ front line would probably crush its Phoenix counterparts with both teams at full strength.
But if the Suns were to go in and win this game, it would serve notice that the Pacific Division is no one-horse race. Fresh off their championship, the Lakers likely think they’re a few notches above the Suns, and rightly so. A win in Staples would more than get their attention.
“Its definitely a big game for us,” Amare said. “We just need to go out and play like we have all season.”
And that’s the thing. The Suns can’t worry about movie stars or the glitz and glamour of LA. They just have to play like they have all season, as Amare said, and this will at least be a game.
I’m concerned about the bench in particular. It’s been so great all year, one of the biggest keys to this early success, but who else remembers Gentry telling Dragic just to play and not worry about mistakes in this very venue last season? How will the young guys handle this stage?
It was great for the Suns that they managed to blow out New Orleans so easily. Not only was it a low-stress game but Nash only played 23 minutes, Amare 26 and J-Rich 27. That could be an important factor considering Phoenix’s uninspiring performance in Orlando on the second leg of a back-to-back after grinding out a win in Miami.
Regardless of what happens in this contest, it’s exciting that the Suns and Lakers might be good at the same time. Suns fans remember beating up on the Lakers during the D’Antoni Era when LA was Kobe, Mr. Kardashian and not much else, and now ever since the Gasol and Shaq trades the Suns have been lapped pretty thoroughly by the world champion Lakers.
“We’re trying to establish something we had here in the past, and they’re trying to repeat as champs,” Gentry said.
Buckle your seat belts ladies and gentleman, this is going to be fun.
Tyler Lockman contributed reporting.