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.”