5 keys to the Suns-Lakers series

These five points will go a long way toward determining who wins the Western Conference Finals between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers.

1.  Defending the Lakers’ length

Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom will give the Suns fits with their length and skill inside. How big of a fit they give the Suns may well determine the winner of this series.

The Suns just don’t have the kind of defenders to match up with all of them. It would help to get back Robin Lopez — Alvin Gentry is cautiously optimistic about his availability — but we don’t even know what kind of shape he’ll be in or if he’ll just turn into a foul machine since he’s been out for so long.

Then there’s the question of if Kobe will try to take games over himself and ignore his big guys down low.

In any case, limiting the effectiveness of the Lakers’ bigs is the Suns’ biggest key to winning the series.

2.  Rebounding

This one goes hand in hand with the first one. The Suns have shown a propensity to yield offensive rebounds in bunches at times this seasons, and they lost most of the games in which they did that.

But the Suns have been the third-best rebounding team in the playoffs — behind Orlando and Boston — averaging 2.8 boards per game more than their opponents, and they’ve been a much better rebounding team with Lopez in the lineup this season. That differential is kind of surprising considering the Suns played a pair of teams in Portland and San Antonio that know how to rebound the basketball.

If the Suns can keep the Lakers’ bigs off the boards, they stand a legitimate chance in this series.

3.  The bench

The Suns’ biggest advantage in this series comes from their bench. The Suns boast arguably the deepest bench in the NBA, a unit the Lakers just can’t match.

When both benches are in the game, this is a time when the Suns could be able to make a run. Also, if the Suns’ bench can buy time for the starters by playing the Lakers’ starters tough for stretches like they did against San Antonio’s starters, that would be beneficial as well.

In the San Antonio series, except for in Game 1, a different Suns reserve came in and starred in every game of the series, the kind of contribution the Spurs just couldn’t match. Will that hold true in the Lakers series as well?

4.  Chemistry

One of the biggest advantages I feel the Suns really possess is in the chemistry department, and at least Bill Simmons agrees with me if nobody else.

I can already see the Lakers fans’ comments I will get for this one. I know that chemistry is an intangible trait that doesn’t have any physical bearing on the series. I know that chemistry isn’t going to be able to guard Pau Gasol or Kobe Bryant.

But still, you can’t watch this Phoenix Suns team and not know that their supreme chemistry is a big reason why they’re charging into the Western Conference Finals fresh off a sweep of the Spurs. These guys genuinely like each other, they play hard for each other, and one of the biggest reasons this team has been better defensively is because their rotations have been so crisp since they’re typically on the same page.

On the other side, are the Lakers dealing with the Disease of More?

As Simmons recently wrote about that affliction, “You win a title, you get soft and everyone wants more: more shots, more money, more minutes, more everything.”

The Lakers are more talented, so if the chemistry Suns knock off the Dieasese of More Lakers, this could be a big reason why.

5.  Win Game 1

We know that the winner of Game 1 wins roughly 80 percent of all series.

But what’s even crazier is that a Phil Jackson team has never dropped a series after winning Game 1. That’s in 46 series all-time, too, so the sample size is huge.

It’s not like the Suns will just stop playing if they drop the first one, but their odds of pulling off the upset will significantly decrease from a historical perspective. Meanwhile, if they win that first one in Staples and regain home-court advantage, this is anybody’s series.

  • Mark


    couple typos

    "Phil Jackson team has never dropped a series after *winning* game 1"

    from a historical perspective*

    i think the biggest key is the rebounding. Gasol will probably get his usual points, but bynum plays inconsistent and has a bum knee. if we can crash the glass and create second chance opportunities, i think the suns will be in good shape. one other point… we need to attack attack attack…be the agressor and sustain that mindset throughout the series…lets take it to the champs and have them back-pedaling.. Go suns!

  • http://hotmail.com ever

    i have the suns in 6. only if thet win game 1

  • thisgirlsballin

    …and Stevie..one cool dude


  • jon

    kobe will just cry as usual when it dosnt go his way.

  • Stacy

    Simmons is a Laker hater. He is not balanced about them so it doesn't help your argument to quote him.

  • Ron Hopson Jr.

    I've been a phoenix suns fan since 06 when they had Joe Johnson and Shaun Marion. I believe they have a 60% chance in winning the championship this year. I haven't seen the Suns this motivated in a long time. It will be a 7 game series against the Lakers and the Suns will pull a big upset. And if Boston or Orlando make it to the finals, Phoenix bench and starters will run them off the floor. If cleveland can get pass boston and orlando which I doubt, Phoenix will be screwed because Lebron's roster is full of huge talented men like Jamison, Shaq, Ilgauskus, and Varejao.

  • chris13

    yes kobe wants it so bad… to be like mike he tries too hard to be michael jordan he is a great player no doubt but personality wise he sucks!

  • sunset

    lakers will sweep the suns hahaha

  • http://stacktv.stack.com/video.aspx?videoID=26627202001_571&ref=athlete387 thisgirlsballin

    Stoudemire’s a stud..

  • thisgirlsballin
  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Ryan C

    The suns vs LAKERS bench will not be that big of a deal in the series because Phil does not play the entire bench at the same time. Shannon Brown and Lamar or Farmar will be in the game with a least two starters. But I will agree Phoenix does have the better bench but we have KOBE enough said. And do not think KOBE has forgotten about what happened in 06….

  • liberalvirus

    “But what’s even crazier is that a Phil Jackson team has never dropped a series after losing Game 1. That’s in 46 series all-time, too, so the sample size is huge.”

    This is a meaningless stat and I’m amazed at how frequently it gets parroted. If anything, the sample size is a giveaway — the current sample (core group of players) has nothing in common with the sample from say ten years ago.

  • CornFlakes

    @Ryan C

    Forgotten ’06? This is the Lakers third straight trip to the Conference Finals, and they’ve made the last two NBA Finals, winning one of them. There’s nothing to remember. Kobe has been tempered by winning that championship; the Disease of More, my friends. Don’t even think of underestimating the drive the Suns have in winning this series. They want it. Badly.

  • Mark

    any chance we see earl clark this series?…he could be another big body inside if needed…i’d rather give him a chance than continue with collins

  • Alex B

    Here’s hoping the Suns can get there. Position by position preview: http://stacysdad.blogspot.com/2010/05/sunslakers-too-close-to-call.html

  • shawn

    Just going to quote the article… “The Suns boast arguably the deepest bench in the NBA, a unit the Lakers just can’t match. When both benches are in the game, this is a time when the Suns could be able to make a run. Also, if the Suns’ bench can buy time for the starters by playing the Lakers’ starters tough for stretches like they did against San Antonio’s starters, that would be beneficial as well.”

    Suns need to continue to play as a team and come out fired up, play for every possession then anything can happen. Lakers aren’t gods and there is no reason to bow down.

    Suns in 6.

  • Lakeshow

    lol – the consensus seems that Suns win in 6 (according to their fans anyway) or lose the series…the assumption being I guess they take game 1. Anyhow, I think the rest benefits the Lakers more than the Suns.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Ryan C


    Yes 06 Kobe has not forgotten about that year or 07 and it will drive his motavation for this series. And nobody wants it badly than Kobe NO ONE!!!!! nobody playing the game of basketball wants to win more than Kobe. You know that, I know that, Steve Nash knows that. The Suns had a good year, you guys finally beat the Spurs but you guys will fall short this year. We have already been down this road and we know how to win. Do not tell me Channing Frye and Dudley want to win as much as KOBE…. you might need to go eat some wheaties for that comment

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    @Mark Fixed

  • http://lakers.com LA FAN

    Lol suns fans are comical….you guys are the second most ignorant fans behind the jazz fans who booed fisher like idiots…the suns crowd the only crowd ive ever heard chant "kobe sucks"…u dont have to like the guy but do u ever hear La fans chant "nash sucks"? no because we actually know about the game and arent ignorant fans….lastly you think the guys from the 06 and 07 team forgot? hahahah please they interviewed lamar and kobe and they both said it was the number 1 thing on their minds…if we took you clowns to 7 in 06 when we shouldve won with kwame brown and smush parker…LOL wut r we gonna do with pau, fisher, and drew added to this team…J rich will be locked up by ron artest…who is gonna guard kobe? PLEASE DONT BRING UP GRANT HILL…great guy…no chance….dudley will get schooled… j rich will get toasted..u have no1 to guard kobe or pau…phil will only play 3 ppl off the bench so that advantage you have is minimized greatly…i advise you loser suns fans to just enjoy your first win over the spurs cuz you wont have much more to enjoy in a while….man revenge is gonna be SOOOO SWEEEET

  • John181818

    The chant is "Beat LA".

  • martinez

    if the suns take a page out of the OKC series they could give the lakers more than they can handle becuase the fun game killed LA in that series they got lucky off a young teams mistake of not boxing out the suns have the athletic ability to fun and the talent to score and hold on to leads but lets see what happens its going to be a great series

    GO SUNS!

  • martinez


  • Carlos


    Kobe and Odom don't forget….

  • Carlos


  • Tony L

    liberalvirus – that stat is extremely relevant. it shows just how good a coach he is. even at elite levels, players need coaching and the biggest problem for players is that it’s so easy to lose focus. phil jackson has been better than any coach in modern times, even better than scotty bowman and joe torre, to communicate effectively to his players and get them motivated to concentrate on winning a series. that 46-0 when winning game 1 stat is the concrete proof of jackson’s elite status as a coach and team motivator. fear the purple and gold suns fans. even if the lakers lose game 1, they will win in 7. if they win game 1, this series could be over in 5.

  • vemos

    Kobe is a ballhog and a moper who cannot win the playoffs without several bigs or one Shaq. Kobe will make himself irrelevant. Suns will win 1 and 2, he will pout and blame his teammates, the officials, whatever. Advantage: Suns.

  • rizzo

    Michael Schwartz, just because you want the Suns to win the series doesn’t mean they WILL win the series.

  • Lakeshow

    I don’t see the point of attacking/ insulting the players. geez. Anyhow, I personally really like Steve Nash and Grant Hill – get the sense they’re just awesome guys. Now Amare and J. Rich I will be honest, I can’t stand.

  • pussycat

    it’s called a team you idiot!

  • http://www.suns.com MikeF

    A lot of you need to settle down. This series won’t be won or lost in the comments section of an ESPN affiliated Suns blog — It’s going to be settled on the court!!! May the best team win… by which I mean the SUNS SUCKA, YEEEEEAH!!!

  • John181818
  • Carlos

    I’m pretty sure Kobe will remember very well what the suns did to them in 06 & 07. Especially 06, the Lakers were up 3-1 and still lost. I’m pretty sure that’s a taste that comes up pretty quickly when you’re looking for motivation to beat Pheonix. I know Kobe and Odom will remember.

    The Lakers will see the Suns redemption against the Spurs as another reminder as well.

    As for the “More Disease”, you can believe it as much as you want but when you have the world’s best closer and cold-blooded player on your team who ever since winning on his own without Shaq has risen his confidence to the level of where he’s planning as going down as the one to challenge MJ’s legacy, I wouldn’t be worried of him letting his team get complacent and lose their thirst.
    Proof- Look at his monster stats against Utah and his supreme closing abilities.

    Artest is the same here- his thirst for a ring in practice and games is another reminder to the defending champs to keep fighting.

    I also love how the playoffs for the Lakers has been a growth tree where round by round they play harder opponents that push them and allow them to be refined for the next, even tougher opponent.

    The Suns are a legit team that is going to push and even win if the Lakers don’t watch out

    Bottom line-It’s going to be an awesome series!!!! Great competition and no more of those lame boring sweeps!!

  • Carlos

    The Lakers have closed out the last *FOUR* playoff series’ on the rode. That’s a championship team.

  • suns68

    Anybody know if Dwayne Jones will be roster eligible for the series when Lopez returns? We haven’t seen a lot of him since he was signed, but I liked the little we did see and I guess he was a rebound machine in the D-League. A 6-10, 250-pounder with fresh legs might be helpful in some spot duty against the Laker bigs.

  • Emeka

    Quoting Bill Simmons about the disease of more is very IRRELEVANT. Look at the entire piece and see how wrong he was everywhere. He predicted the Celtics would lose in the first round, he predicted the finals would be CAVS vs. MAVS, he predicted Boston has chemistry issues etc etc/

    More importantly that article was published April 16th and since then, Bill Simmons has written another article saying “he was WRONG” about thinking the disease of more would affect the Lakers!

    That article was published before the Lakers ever played a game against the Thunder

  • Lakeshow

    Yep, Suns should watch OKC games on how to beat LA. be young, athletic
    Maybe the lakers should take a page or two from the Blazers (without Roy).
    The Suns beat a depleted blazers team that was without their best player (playing with one leg when he was there) 4-2, while the Lakers beat a young, healthy, athletic team (w/ best scorer in the league) 4-2.
    The Suns swept a spurs team that had a legit 6 man rotation with banged up Parker and shell of form Duncan, while the Lakers swept a Jazz team without their center but everyone else healthy.
    I really don’t see how anyone can say the Lakers have been playing inferior teams than the suns. Call it even but don’t act like the Suns have had such a bigger challenge than the lakers.

  • jandrew

    SUNS ALL DAY!!!!!!!!!! they are going to wrap it up in six games

  • turdfergusen

    If Robin Lopez can get back in game condition QUICK Phoenix has a chance to make it an interesting series. If not the only chance is to play like they did in the D’antoni era–outrun the slower Lakers and hope they are shooting good.

  • ron

    Agree with Mark. Why the heck are we playing Collins? Clark and Amudsen are both better defensively and offensively, maybe collins gives you better rebounding. I could not count the amount of time collins fumbled easy passes last series.
    Yeah Lakers fans you have Kobe, I hope he just try’s to take over games and neglect LA’s biggest advantage of the bigs inside. Kobe is weak, he will never guard the best player on the other end, he will probably guard hill instead of J-rich. We need to make bryant work on defense. I would run him into screens everytime the suns are in the half court. Suns I hope will play alot of zone, and pack the inside and allow, artest on odom to shoot from the outside.

  • ron

    Lakeshow, the Jazz were missing two bigs, which left Boozer to guard gasol. All the sudden gasol is a god because he can put up big numbers on Boozer.