Kobe Bryant and the (6-4) Los Angeles Lakers conclude their 3-game homestand tonight by hosting Steve Nash and the (4-4) Phoenix Suns. Several people prematurely counted out the Lakers in the pre-season and predicted a disastrous season. Saying that the Lakers could be in peril this season would have been more accurate, but you can say the same for all 30 teams.
The above-mentioned point, proven both emphatically and painfully last season. No team has played more in this season’s first two weeks than the Lakers, after dropping their first two, have won six of eight. The first two-day break for L.A. will not happen until next week. The Lakers are a work in progress and still learning Mike Brown’s system.
There was never a doubt that the Lakers could score, but the benefits of Brown’s system defensively has been evident from day one as it has kept the Lakers in every game this season. The Lakers beat the Grizzlies behind Kobe Bryant’s 26-point, 9 assist effort and 51 points from the front line.
The Lakers won last year’s season series versus the Suns 3-1. The Lakers have taken four season series from the Suns. The Suns not only won a game in the season series, Phoenix pushed another to three overtimes in the process of overcoming a 21-point deficit before losing by two. The Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10 games versus the Suns. The purple and gold are 17-7 all-time against the Suns at the Staples Center.
The Phoenix Suns are a talented team. Tonight’s game marks the return of former Laker Shannon Brown. The Suns are not the same run and run team of the past. Like the Lakers the Suns are also on a two-game winning streak and coming off their best effort of the season shooting 55.8% from the field in the win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
In 53 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 26 points per game. In the last 19 games versus the Suns Bryant is averaging 30.6 points per game and L.A. is 14-5. The Suns have improved defensively, holding opponents to 91.5 points on 42.4% shooting.
The Lakers have to do a solid job defending the pick-and-roll-play and stop the dribble penetration of Steve Nash. Nash is one of those players that force you to pick your poison; it would be wise to turn him into a scorer to limit his impact as a facilitator.
L.A. has to control the tempo, defend, get back in transition, limit the Suns to one shot per possession, rebound and quickly rotate out to open shooters. The Suns have several players that have proven that they can knock down open shots. The Lakers have to start their offense on the inside and establish both Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol in the painted area.
Andrew Bynum started the season dominating, averaging 22 points and 17 rebounds. It is understandable that his scoring total has lowered in the last two games. Bynum is still dominating on the boards averaging 15.5 rebounds. Opponents have adjusted to Bynum’s offensive domination and are double-teaming him aggressively; it has resulted in Bynum shooting 8-23 with nine turnovers. Bynum is a good passer that has to get accustomed to recognizing the double-team finding the open cutter and passing out of it.
The Lakers will more than likely face a zone defense tonight and have to be patient using better ball movement and player movement to beat this tactic. The Lakers bench has to become a factor. The Lakers have to continue to develop their young players to reap the benefits down the road.
Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, M. Barnes, P. Gasol, A. Bynum
Suns: S. Nash, J. Dudley, G. Hill, C. Frye, M. Gortat
Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST
- Los Angeles: FS West (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
- Phoenix: FS AZ (Gary Bender & Eddie Johnson)
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
- Phoenix: KTAR 620 AM (Al McCoy & Tim Kempton)
- Derrick Caracter (Torn Lateral Meniscus, Left Knee) Out
- Kobe Bryant (Torn Lunotriquetral Ligament, Right Wrist) Probable
- Pau Gasol (Sprained Right Shoulder) Probable
- Josh McRoberts (Sprained Left Thumb & Left Big Toe) Doubtful
- Matt Barnes (Bursitis, Left Hip) Day-to-Day
- Marcin Gortat (Slight Non-Displaced Fracture, Right Thumb) Will Play