Lakers game perfect time for Suns’ twin towers

Posted by on January 5th, 11:00 am

Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez may finally share the frontcourt against the Lakers on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Thearon Henderson)

PHOENIX — The trio of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom historically manhandles the Phoenix Suns on the interior.

So far this season, the Lakers are shooting 33-of-48 (68.67) at the rim against the Suns, while outrebounding Phoenix 95-75 in two meetings (one loss, one win).

Gasol is posting averages of 24 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists on 64.7 percent shooting against the Suns, while Odom’s gone for 20 and 14 on 60 percent from the field.

Phoenix has yet to take on Bynum, who spent the first few months of the season rehabbing injury.

For the first 27 games, the Suns never possessed the personnel to matchup with the Lakers’ bigs, but with both Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez in purple and orange, they finally feature a pair of defensive-minded centers who can at least compete with the biggest team in the NBA.

The question is: will Alvin Gentry play Gortat and Lopez together? Gortat certainly thinks it’s a must.

“Obviously big teams like the Lakers where you’ve got two big men, you need to have two guys at the same time on the floor to protect the basket,” said Gortat at his introductory press conference. “If Coach will decide to play it like that, I’m ready.”

“Ya we believe we can fit together, playing on this team at the same time,” Gortat added.

Does Gentry agree? He said that the Suns won’t go small ball against LA like they have been with Nash-Carter-Pietrus-Hil-Lopez as the starters.

However, he doesn’t seem too sure that Gortat (9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 blocks, 57.4 percent shooting in 29.2 minutes)  and Lopez (6.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.4 blocks, 45.8 percent shooting in 15 minutes during last five) can play together, especially considering they have yet to play a single minute together through five games.

Although both Gortat and Lopez can bring defense and rebounding against the defending champs, there are concerns with offensive spacing as twe two not-quite explosive, non-jump shooting big men on the floor at the same time allows Steve Nash less room to operate.

“I can tell you something I’m not going to come up with something new and start shooting threes, that’s not what I do so don’t expect me to do that,” Gortat said.

Even though he won’t splash any triples, Gortat did play approximately 22 minutes with Dwight Howard last season and served as the screen and roll guy, with Howard anchoring the paint. He’s s a very good pick and roll player so it is feasible to have him constantly pick and roll while Lopez flashes to the ball and waits for Nash spoon-feeds.

The Polish Machine also thrives in transition for a big man, which is another reason he can play next to Lopez against the Lakers.

“That’s the first thing that comes to mind is that he runs the floor extremely well,” said Vince Carter of Gortat. “I think that will be a strength with Robin, or any other big.He’s earned the opportunity to play the four because he runs the floor, he rebounds and he’s a very good defensive player.”

While Gortat and Carter believe the Polish Machine is capable of playing next to Lopez, Gentry all-but said Channing Frye is the key to the game in terms of spacing the floor, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the starting lineup, although he’s averaged 8.0 points and 4.2  rebounds on 34.7 percent shooting in 27 minutes over the last five games. If here’s one game to break out Phoenix’s twin towers of Lopez and Gortat, however, it’s against the Lakers.

Phoenix could even play Frye at the three, Gortat at the four and Lopez at the five to combat the Lakers’ Odom-Gasol-Bynum lineup. Don’t expect that to happen, but with the Suns struggling at 14-18 and facing off against a teetering Lakers squad, I wouldn’t put anything past Phoenix.

With the way they’ve been rebounding — losing the battle in their last four games — against a struggling, but huge Lakers team, going big may be the only answer.

“Playing a small lineup against them is not going to be good from a rebounding perspective. We could go with a bigger lineup,” Getnry said. “We’ll have a lot of screens out there.”

Mike Schmitz

Mike Schmitz is a former ValleyoftheSuns writer who now works as an assistant video coordinator for the D-League\\’s Bakersfield Jam. He specialized in video breakdowns for VotS.

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Tags: Defense · Los Angeles Lakers · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Rebounding

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Zak // Jan 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    A Gortat/Lopez combo could work against the Lakers but it’s just a situational roster change. Gortat and Lopez together would help defensively against the Gasol/Bynum/Odem trio of bigs that they Lakers have. And neither Gortat nor Lopez suddenly needs to become a 3-point shooter to make that lineup effective against other teams either. If either of them can come up with an effective 12-15 ft jumper it would work. Yeah they could both possibly get into foul trouble playing together but so what. Things aren’t going that well this season anyway so what do we have to loose? And I hate to even bring this up but is anyone else wondering if Gentry’s constantly changing lineups and rotations aren’t at least partially due to worry over loosing his job? I DON’T want him gone but it is typical for teams to fire the head coach when teams don’t perform well. I’m sure that’s got to be in the back of his mind this season.

  • 2 AJ // Jan 5, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I would agree that we should play Gortat at the 4 with Robin Lopez to start the game. That being said, Gortat and Dwight Howard as the “twin towers” for Orlando is waaay different that Gortat and Lopez. I mean I don’t mean to disrespect RoLo but he is no Dwight Howard, (if anything I am at risk of disrespecting Dwight).

    That being said, Channing Frye’s inconsistency has him as more of a liability than an asset, atleast in my eyes. I mean I would like nothing more than for him to start hitting his shots as when he is, the suns are tough to beat.

    Here’s to hoping that the Suns still have something more left to give and we can turn the season around and finish strong.

  • 3 MikeMeez // Jan 5, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Haven’t been on the blog for a few weeks so don’t know what’s been discussed, but is it me or does it seem like Gortat has a bad attitude? You’d think he would be happy to finally have his chance. And yeah the team’s not playing well but they need some time for adjustment, no reason to be upset at not winning right away.

  • 4 Mel. // Jan 5, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Meez, I think that might be a valid interpretation, though the comments Gorat’s made are pretty much dead-on. There isn’t much downside to what he’s been saying: the team’s play has been terrible, he wants to contribute more, he’s disappointed about the performance of the franchise in comparison to where he came from and so-forth… I’d be hard-pressed to interpret anything he’s said about the state of the squad as being selfish or focused solely on the negative.

    The Suns are a franchise who tend to sugar-coat everything with platitudes (Regardless of whether they’re playing well or failing thoroughly), so it’s just a bit jarring to see a guy who isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.

  • 5 Kalvo // Jan 5, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Phoenix needs someone to call out their errors are they’re going to keep playing like when the season first started.

  • 6 Lloyd // Jan 5, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    They should have had Gortat and Lopez in the starting lineup from day one.

    I’m tired of the small lineups. 1-Nash, 2-Carter, 3-Hill, 4-Gortat and 5-Lopez. Or you could switch Lopez and Gortat. Just play ‘em together.

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