Preview: Los Angeles Lakers (13-14) vs. Phoenix Suns (16-10)

Posted by on December 23rd, 9:00 am

Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSA

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Steve Nash was supposed to benefit from reuniting with Mike D’Antoni. Pau Gasol and his coach were supposed to be over a riff from last season. Kobe Bryant was supposed to be back. It hasn’t happend.

What has? The Los Angeles Lakers are finding themselves with the Dwight Howard mess in the past and the roster having a summer to be constructed for D’Antoni and not Mike Brown. That’s happened, but the Lakers have done that without Nash and Bryant and without smooth sailing from the Gasol-D’Antoni dynamic.

Kendall Marshall being Nash’s replacement is the only thing that’s happened the way it’s supposed to … only it’s happening in Los Angeles and only because of desperation and the Phoenix Suns officially giving up on the second-year guard before the season.

The Suns host the Lakers on Monday with the confidence from a two-game winning streak, and though things haven’t gone how they were envisioned in Lakerland, it’s not all bad.

These two teams are fun to watch and despite playing with relatively lesser talent than some other NBA squads, are dangerous. The Lakers are coming off a loss to the Golden State Warriors but previously had beaten Memphis and Minnesota, two teams picked to finished ahead of them by season’s end.

How does Kendall Marshall look?

The former Suns point guard that was waived by the Washington Wizards and picked up after a brief D-League stint debuted for six minutes against the Warriors and hit a three to go with four turnovers. The law of averages says he plays a bit better against his former squad.

Marshall didn’t fit with the Suns, but he certainly got a bad reputation with Phoenix for fair reasons. He still could turn into a decent NBA player if he grows to understand the gravity of his situation. He’s an elite passer who could still develop a fine jumper, and his set three isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be. If he takes his development seriously despite the quick second chance, he can turn into a fine floor general.

The fit in Los Angeles works well simply because D’Antoni won’t yank Marshall for defensive inability if he’s producing on offense. Right now, the Lakers just need a body and there’s no risk for either party to see how this works at this point.

Can the Suns score in the paint?

The Lakers didn’t have Pau Gasol because of a respiratory infections against Golden State, and though they have Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman available, they’re still prone to giving up a lot of dribble penetration. The Suns should look to attack off the bounce before relying on the three-point shot, even though the deep ball has been falling of late. After all, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe will be facing the likes of Xavier Henry and Marshall, and it’s not as if those two — or anyone on the Los Angeles roster — has a good shot of staying in front of the point guard duo.

If and when they penetrate, the Morris twins and Miles Plumlee need to put themselves in position to score off passes from the guards. And Channing Frye will, in all likelihood, be ready to keep gunning from deep.

Can Phoenix avoid playing into the Lakers’ hands?

Against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, the Suns played perhaps one of their best offensive games but still gave up 108 points. It was a feeling that they didn’t need to play defense with a decent lead, but they can’t let a freewheeling Lakers team get confident in their chucking.

Though it’d be fine to see the Suns play great on both ends, it’s better news if they make Los Angeles look uncomfortable and apprehensive. How Hornacek and Co. aim to do that will be an interesting thing to observe.

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 Preview

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 EBJM // Dec 23, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Hey Kevin, with the Suns only a loss away from having home-court advantage in the 1st rd of the playoffs and Okafur already a Sun, they actually issued him #50, I think many would be interested in his current status.

    I found this article which was pretty interesting as I’m sure the Suns management was fairly sure they were heading to the lottery after trading Gortat:

    http://arizonasports.com/41/1673044/New-Phoenix-Suns-big-man-Emeka-Okafor-to-continue-rehab-in-New-York

    Okafur would look pretty good with the 2nd unit and I’d think he would really relish whatever opportunity he could get to earn his next contract this summer.

    Any chance you could find out? Any guy who makes his living in the post with a career average of 12/10 and 1.7 blocks could potentially make the Suns bench one of the toughest in the league paired with the Morri and Green.

  • 2 Foreveris2long // Dec 23, 2013 at 10:05 am

    I am not confident Marshall will ever develop a jumper. One , he cannot jump very well and two he is not quick enough where defenders are fearful of him blowing by them giving him extra space to get a jumper off. Additionally IMO he is just way too mechanical in the half court set. I guess anything is possible but I think his game is so flawed he reminds me of the basketball version of Tim Tebow.

    As for the Lakers they have a bunch of young guys looking for a bigger payday.When you factor in the Suns are a better team than the Lakers, they beat the Lakers in LA and I think they lost two straight, they are definitely hungry. Gasol has recently raised his level of play since the Lakers were considering trading him. It should be a fun game but Suns let’s jump on these guys early and often, putting them in a bad mood for their Xmas TV game. Maybe next year the Suns will be featured on Christmas.

  • 3 Al // Dec 23, 2013 at 11:33 am

    17-10…C’mon. Phoenix better not have a lapse and lose this one. Time to beat the new Marshall in LalaLand.

  • 4 BCrayZ // Dec 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Back to all of the Green (“GG 14″) hype.

    That last game of his was no more than just ok. Most often our bench scores tons but gives up even more

    Case in point, this last game vs. the Mavs: sure Green scored but was one of the worst players on the Suns (of all who played 10 minutes or more) along with the twins, with a plus/ minus (+/-) of only plus 1 for Green and plus 4 and even minus 1 for the twins, while the members of that former “killer bench unit” were tops for the team, as Gogi (Dragic) was plus 23 and Chinga (Frye) led the team (and the game) with a plus 24. Frye not only led the team where it counts most, but even on a back end of a back-to back game, “old man” Frye (like Old Man River) helped the Suns normally poor rebounding beat the Mavs on the boards, with the most rebounds, not only for the Suns, but for either team, outrebounding Dirk, whom he guarded, while holding Dirk in check from outside the arc as well with only 1 of 6 from 3-point range, while Channing made a game high 4 of his 6. Then, when it counted most (in the 4th quarter), Frye scored 10 of his 18 points (most again for either team). So while GG 14 (Green) had an ok game, it did not even touch the contribution of “Chinga” Frye. Must seem that all I do is crow about Chinga, but that is because no one else on this blog does. So, let me now catch all of you up, since I’ve been quiet lately, so we can see see just what he continues to bring game after game. Many among you think that all he does is fire up a trey. This could not be farther from the truth. Most of his shot attempts come from up close. Kerr asked Frye to become a 3-point shooter to strategically space the floor for the other four guys. Frye had never been an outside threat before. So, just like with our other starting forward PJ, Frye’s outside shot has been a work in progress, needing lots of practice & hard work. Last year, all of that had to be put to rest. Life & death was last year’s issue, with his heart condition. This year, he has steadily been showing us a better & better shot. Frye has hit 16 of 25 from behind the arc over his last five. That is a 64% rate. This percentage cannot last. Even Kerr himself could not match that back in his Wildcat glory days. Ryan Anderson & Dirk have been the best outside shooters among big men in the game. Frye is still on an upward trajectory & may already be up there with them. Someday, he may even be as good as Bird. Suns are reaping the rewards of his return this year. They are also benefitting from the continued progress in play of Gogi Dregic, the other remaining member of “that killer bench unit.’ Have you noticed that Louis is starting to get less playing time off the Pelicans bench? Even so, he has been averaging 14 or more rebounds (per 36 minutes). Suns could use that interior strength & tough as nails D. They may be able to get the Pelicans to give him away. Also, let us not forget about Barbosa. He is now ready to play. Will let our medical staff confirm this. What a lift he would bring if reunited with Chinga & Gogi.

    MUST reunite “that killer bench unit.” Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • 5 john // Dec 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Blaspheming the name of Tebow with Marshall’s name?

    Hey, Tebow might not be Tom Brady, but at least he did some respectable things in the league.

  • 6 EBJM // Dec 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Hey BCrayZ this is only conversation, I’m not trying to cause any negativity with this BUT Frye was a sweet outside shooter long before he came to Phoenix.

    His outside shooting is what earned him a starting job in New York. Sure Frye looks like he is making more of an effort inside the paint BUT for a guy 6′-11″ and a starting PF grabbing only five boards per game is rather pathetic.

    Again, I acknowledge that he is trying to defend the post but he is a very svelte 6′-11″ & 245#. He simply doesn’t have the body type or strength to keep stronger PFs or centers off the block.

    After only two seasons in New York he lost his job to David Lee and then was traded to Portland for Z-Bo both of whom have twice the career rebounding average of Frye despite not really being better defenders.

    After two dismal seasons in Portland and being banished to the end of the Blazer bench the Suns signed him specifically as a stretch-four because his outside shooting is essential in D’Antoni’s SSOL. That and the fact he only cost Sarver $3.8 million over two seasons.

    Frye is actually grabbing LESS boards than Tucker, 5.3 to 5.4 and is ranked #80 in the league. Frye’s BACK-UP, Markieef grabs 6 per game.

    I’d still rather have Pau starting instead of Frye. At least Pau could get his own shot in the paint. Pau doesn’t like playing for D’Antoni too bad he makes three times as much as Frye.

    Here is a quote from 2006 via the New York times about Frye returning to the Knicks line-up his sophmore year coming off of injuries: “A power forward with a sweet shooting stroke, Frye averaged 14.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in his first month as a pro.”

    Here is another from this season vis Yahoo: “Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye burst onto the scene as an aggressive, sweet-shooting rookie back in 2005, working with the New York Knicks during the depths of the Isiah Thomas era.

    Did you notice “sweet-shooting” in both quotes? Sure, Frye didn’t start shooting threes until he got to Phoenix but you act like he was Reggie Evans before then. Hardly.

    You are also mistaken about his shot selection; Frye takes 4.5 from three-point and 4.4 from inside the arc. Here is the most disturbing and telling stat of them all; he is only taking ONE free-throw per game, the 2nd lowest of his career.

    Markieff Morris in one minute less per game:

    ONE three-point shot for every nine inside the arc. Taking four free-throws per game.

  • 7 Scott // Dec 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    I’d like to see Marshall get a lot of time with the Lakers and with D’Antoni. See if that can get him going.

    Marshall was not a good fit for the Suns this season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fit a team somewhere under some circumstances. My original take on him, long before he was drafted, was that he could be a quality backup PG for some team.

  • 8 john // Dec 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Think of Marshall as a change of pace kind of guy. An insanely slow change of pace kind of guy.

  • 9 Al // Dec 23, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Kendall Marshall is more for a team that plays a half-court offense. Like the Grizzlies. Pass the ball to the paint and stand around the 3 point line kind of guy.

  • 10 BCrayZ // Dec 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    @EBJM

    Good history lesson.

    Thank you very much.

    Frye was not the same player at the beginning of the season that he is now. Look at recent games & you will see that, despite hitting more treys than he misses, most of his shots come from inside the 3 point line. Mark Morris has also been changing his game. He is far more efficient on offense but plays no D at all because he is afraid he might foul. Give the Pelicans the twins for Louis plus their first round pick. This is a winner for now & for the future.

    MUST reunite “that killer bench unit.” Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • 11 Scott // Dec 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    @Al -

    Yeah, that’s the way I see it right now. The Grizzlies are another team he might be able to play for.

    If he ever went to the Spurs, they’d have to do major reconstructive surgery on him, I think, but he’d better for it.

  • 12 Animan // Dec 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    I think Okafor could only help the suns as a back-up center, if I recall correctly, he was almost an all-star twice in his career and was also rookie of the year and helped the USA win bronze in his rookie year. I feel like if he were to come back healthy before Len, we would definitely consider using him.

  • 13 Lurker // Dec 23, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Why does this guy always talk about reuniting a bench squad from 4 years ago? Who else on earth calls Channing Frye, “Chinga”? And holy crap the twins for Amundsen and a draft pick???

  • 14 Jeremiah // Dec 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    @Lurker

    Didn’t realize he said that, but I also stopped reading his first post when he started talking about +/- in one game to explain why Green sucks.

  • 15 Jeremiah // Dec 23, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    @BCrayZ

    Only Dragic, Frye and the Morrii have a better +/- on the season than Green. Also +/- is a terrible stat to use when talking about a single game. Because it can be skewed by someone on the floor with you having a poor game or a player on the opposite team just getting hot and creating a run. Too many things can skew +/- when only talking about 1 game.

  • 16 vtsunrise // Dec 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Suns are annihilating the sLackers. Don’t let your feet off the gas pedal.

  • 17 vtsunrise // Dec 23, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Isn’t anyone else enjoying this anniLAshun!?

  • 18 foreveris2long // Dec 23, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    VT that was masterful. We took their heart two days before Christmas. Their lack of defense is likely going to get Antoni fired in the summer. Their very own announcers indicated injuries will not excuse the poor defensive effort. They got killed on the boards.

    Plumlee was a beast tonight.

    I bet the broadcast will have us on tv next Christmas. For what it is worth both James Worthy and everyone’s favorite R. Horry, both feel the Suns will be able to sustain their early success.

  • 19 Phoenix Suns 117, Los Angeles Lakers 90 -- Beat(down) LA // Dec 23, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    […] Here’s a look at how the 27-point victory answered Kevin Zimmerman’s pre-game questions. […]

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