Preview: Los Angeles Lakers (18-12) at Phoenix Suns (12-19)

Posted by on February 19th, 12:20 pm

Phoenix Suns 102, Los Angeles Lakers 90

Lakers

Suns

The Phoenix Suns lately haven’t had a tad bit of the Los Angeles Lakers’  Kryptonite.

The Lakers’ size is too much to handle, their firepower too much to overcome and even when things aren’t going right, stopping Kobe Bryant has been impossible for Phoenix, who has lost to the Lakers in four consecutive meetings.

Facing them for the second time in three nights doesn’t lend much evidence that anything will change tonight, when Phoenix hosts LA in US Airways Center, but let’s paint a perfect scenario that might give the Suns a chance to pull off an impressive upset.

First, however, we must analyze what happened on Friday night, when Los Angeles blew out Phoenix 111-99 in Staples Center. That one came as every problem the Suns have with the Lakers — and arguably every problem they have themselves — came to a head.

Allowing the Lakers to shoot 53.1 percent, the Suns were clearly at their mercy, as the Los Angeles offense set itself up for good look after good look at the bucket. But pointing to the inside presence of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol isn’t necessarily the reason — at least not directly. The duo shot 11-for-26 from the floor, not bad by any stretch, but also not the most dominating of performances.

Instead, it was Bryant and bench-igniting former Sun Matt Barnes who took advantage of poor interior defense. Bryant was 10-of-14 from the rim to nine feet out, while Barnes went 5-for-5 in that same range, according to HoopData.com.

Bryant attempted 11 shots outside that range, only hitting four en route to 36 points in 35 minutes played. He went 7-for-9 from the foul line, just two makes short of Phoenix’s 9-for-13 overall free throw shooting for the game.

So as the Los Angeles offense that’s ranked 15th in the NBA in offensive rating revolves around Bryant, it’s important to realize that the Suns allowed that offense to work ever-efficiently.

Meanwhile, the Lakers forced the Suns into 15 more three-point attempts. Where’d those 15 shots end up on Los Angeles’ end? In the 3-9 foot shooting range, where Phoenix went 0-for-6 and Los Angeles shot 13-of-21.

For the Suns, all of that is cause for concern. How can they turn things around?

Three keys for Phoenix

Crowd the paint. There’s no excuse to give Kobe Bryant any amount of air space on the perimeter. Even if you’re in his grill, the Black Mamba can still get off a shot, but considering he’s been blowing by Suns defenders and getting into the paint, perhaps it’s time to bait him into some long jumpers. He’s gotten better at it through the years, but there’s still an itch to toss up an off-rhythm jumper early in the shot clock.

It’s not a good idea to lay completely off of him, obviously, so Phoenix must rely on help defense behind guys like Grant Hill. But since Bryant is likely smart enough to dump it off to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol should help from Phoenix’s big men arrive, it’s especially important Phoenix’s guards and wings are ready to help and at the very least, get their hands in Bryant’s face and into the passing lanes once they collapse.

Give Morris the rock. The Suns don’t have the manpower to beat the Lakers off the dribble and attack their big men with much success. With few paint opportunities in the last game outside of Nash finding Marcin Gortat for layups, they need a new strategy. Rookie forward Markieff Morris, who scored 14 points in 24 minutes against the Lakers on Saturday, might be the answer. His developing post game at least gives Phoenix a way to soundly challenge Gasol and Bynum, and getting even one of them in foul trouble could go a long way.

Use the fouls. Old-school in thought but always effective, laying down the lumber  – legally and safely, mind you — as opponents attack the bucket can send a message. The Suns’ just might be one of the softer teams in the league because of their phobia of fouling with purpose, and the thought here is that’s a correlation with their poor defense in the paint. Especially with two viable centers on the roster, Phoenix has enough fouls to make the Lakers think twice about chugging down the lane. If they realize it and are aggressive in stopping drives, maybe a couple inside attempts for Los Angeles don’t fall.

And 1

Bob Young of The Arizona Republic searches for the reason Kobe Bryant really, really hates Phoenix.

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

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Tags: Los Angeles Lakers · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 shazam // Feb 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    ok

  • 2 steve // Feb 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I really wish we could have managed to get JR Smith. I know he’s pretty “meh” sometimes, but at least he can be exciting at times as well.

  • 3 Scott // Feb 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    I saw a game today in which the crafty all-seeing PG threw tons of assists, the big man at center inhaled rebounds, and the jump-shooting PF, the perimeter-shooting wings, they all hustled and played with energy. And they beat the Mavs.

    I wish my team would play like that. Unfortunately, the Suns are playing slower and with less energy than the Knicks do, and consequently, they’re losing.

  • 4 Zak // Feb 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I doubt they could have gotten JR Smith in a Suns uni without a max or near max value contract. He played quite well for NY today even without having any practice time with the team before the game.

    I’m afraid that with the present attitude in the NBA, Phoenix will have a hard time attracting any proven quality FAs in the near future. If they get lucky in the draft and find a gem to build around, that could change. IF.

    Nash is a great player and a high class guy who won’t request a trade but you have to wonder if he would be willing to come back next year if he didn’t see some sort of hope for a better season for the Suns. He’ll be a FA at the end of the season and could easily decide to move on or maybe just retire. Same for Hill. Imagine how bad this team would be without them. That could be the Suns next year.

  • 5 Tony // Feb 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Hahahaaha Steve,

    you wish we could have signed JR Smith?? Oh sure, he would just love to sign with a horrible team run by a horrible owner! Face it Steve, no free agent who has any worth and cares about winning is signing with the Suns anytime soon. The type of free agents the Suns will continue to get will be of two caliber: 1) players who haven’t established themselves in the NBA and think playing with Nash will boost their numbers so they can get a nice future contract, ala Shannon Brown or 2) old veterans on their way out of the NBA who believe the Suns exemplary training staff can turn back the clock for them.

    As far as the Suns game tonight, I agree with Kevin that the Suns need to use their fouls to show some physical toughness. I’m sick of the Suns players and Gentry treating Kobe with such deferential treatment acting like he’s superior to them. How about a hard foul on him once in a while? Not to hurt him, but just to send a message that he’s not going to have it so easy anymore.

    I disagree about going to Morris in the post. First off, Morris will have a heck of a time trying to get his shot off the Lakers bigs. Secondly, he’s a better mid-range shooter than post player. I would like to see some pick and pops with him, especially if Frye isn’t shooting well.

    Gentry needs to do a better job coaching tonight. That means if Frye is struggling early, pull him and bench him. With Frye, if he starts poorly, he’s going to finish poorly as well. He’s not the kind of player to adjust his game and figure out how to be effective while struggling with his shot. Next, especially with the second unit, Gentry needs to be quick with the timeouts. Don’t wait until the game gets out of hand before he calls a timeout.

  • 6 jiimy johns // Feb 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    FanSaloon NBA Daily Fantasy Rewind

    Last night was a very very productive night for daily fantasy NBA. We had several high scoring nights which meant good high scoring games at FanSaloon.com. Kobe Bryant put up a ridiculous 58 daily fantasy points last night. On most nights that is enough to carry a daily fantasy team to victory, but not on Friday. That is because there were many, many more high scoring performances Friday night. Dwight Howard topped the 50 point daily fantasy scoring mark with 51. Read More – http://blog.fansaloon.com/2012/02/fansaloon-nba-daily-fantasy-rewind/

  • 7 steve // Feb 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I love how you can both see the future and speak for all NBA players…

    Why do you bother breathing? And, more importantly, why do you bother posting your crap on a Suns fan blog?

  • 8 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // Feb 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Actually, right now, Tony is right. No free agent of worth is signing in Phoenix right now. Also, would you really want JR Smith? That guy is a headache and if you thought Shannon Brown was bad…

    Also, stop comparing the Knicks to Phoenix.

    Not only do the Knicks still have young talented players, but they also have superstars on the roster. Two on offense, and one on defense. Phoenix has one and he is a liability on defense. It’s not the same.

    The offense, while similar, is also not the same.

    The Suns have a guard but lack finishers. The Knicks had finishers but lacked a guard to run that system. LIn has stepped up so for the time being, they have both parts. Again, not fair to compare.

    But it does go back to another gripe I have with the Suns. The Knicks gave an unknown talent a chance with major minutes and he produced. So many players drafted by Phoenix have gone without that chance and in this system, who knows? They could have been great fits.

    As for this game, who cares really. I’m hoping Channing Frye continues to be horrible so we have one less player returning to this roster next season. I hope the bottom falls out so that there is no choice but to reset and rebuild.

    It’s too far gone for any other strategy.

  • 9 Tony // Feb 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    @Steve,

    Unlike you, I am a true Suns fan because I rightly criticize those within the Suns organization who deserve the most blame. The only way to get the Three Stooges to do what’s best for the team is by fan pressure. The more Suns fans stay away from U.S. Airways in protest of the Three Stooges, the less and less revenue the Number 1 Stooge Sarver gets, until he’s forced to sell or go bankrupt. I don’t know if you follow baseball, but this one of the primary ways Dodger fans got McCourt to finally agree to sell the franchise and not continue his battle in court to retain ownership. But dummies like yourself, continue to support Sarver by putting money in his pockets. As such, any incentive he has to either improve the team or sell the team is partially negated by you and other mini-Stooges.

    But by all means, continue getting disappointed when top free agents pass on signing with the Suns, it’s comical how absurd you really are. I bet you think the Suns will sign Howard and D-Will too right? Haha!
    @Rich,

    I agree that JR Smith would be more of a distraction and a headache than he would be worth to this team anyway. Guys like him, like Pietrus, and Shannon Brown need very strong-minded coaches on winning franchises to keep them in check. Otherwise, they will forget about the team concept and just try to pad their stats.

    Also, I must have missed something, but who’s comparing the Suns to the Knicks?

    Speaking of the Knicks, why isn’t there any mention of why the Knicks were able to sign Lin but Blanks didn’t even take a look at him before he signed with them? I mean, he signs two awful pgs in Telfair and Price and yet, until the Knicks signed him, Lin was a free agent. This is yet another example in the long line of screwups from the Sarver-organization. It’s not like the Suns were set at backup pg either. They desperately needed and still need a compotent backup pg.

  • 10 Tony // Feb 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    competent*

  • 11 steve // Feb 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Making the prediction that a team WON’T sign a top free agent is nothing special or extraordinary. I would predict that for 28 teams this off-season. I just think it’s funny that you think any player puts stock in ownership in their destination decision. Each player is unique, and no one can really tell what makes player x tick. Does anyone really know who Howard will play for next season?

    Btw, I hate JR Smith as a player, but I’m just saying he’d be a lot better to watch than what we’ve got. At least he would be interesting.

    Also, you’re no real fan. You’re a pessimistic simpleton who can’t think outside the box or realize something for what it is. The fact is that the Suns will have to be LUCKY to win a ship in this league dominated by traditional big markets. Because of finnicky fans like you, phoenix teams will never have the support that teams like the patriots maintained for years even when they sucked. New York fans, Boston fans, Chicago fans, Los Angeles fans, they never leave their teams no matter how bad it gets. Phoenix (I’ve lived here my whole life so I love it to death) is the worst “big” sports city I have ever witnessed. Fans have no loyalty. No devotion. They’ll only pay when they’re happy, and they’re only happy when they’re winning. You, tony, are the reason the Suns will probably never win a championship. And you know what? I’m fine if we don’t. I love my team because they’re my team, even when things aren’t going my way.

  • 12 shazam // Feb 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    @ tony and steve keep it up this who is a bigger fan is very funny…loving it

  • 13 Scott // Feb 19, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    What if Kobe behaved like he was a dominating player, but he didn’t score points, and instead of being a top defender he was merely defensive? ;)

  • 14 B. Cray Z. // Feb 20, 2012 at 8:20 am

    What a bunch of naysayers.

    Nash & Dud & Hill are very competitive.

    Revenge is sweet & the Lakers are MUCH better at home than they are on the road this year.

    MUST reunite that killer bench unit, Let’s go SUNS!!!!

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