The Showdown at Sundown!
WOOH! Get yourselves ready Lakers fans because this game is going to be HUGE! Shaquille “The Big Cactus” O’Neal will make his Suns debut against the Lakers tonight and I got to say – I’m excited! I know you’re excited! Whose not excited?
The other eight teams playing tomorrow… Why?
Because everyone’s going to be watching the Lakers – Phoenix rivalry kick it up a notch, baby, that’s why.
You all remember the last two playoff series between these two teams. Remember the Lakers surprise of 3 wins to 1 over the Suns a couple of years ago, then their collapse in game 7? How about the Raja bell “clothesline?” I recently heard that Raja’s move has been adopted into Kimbo Slice’s daily sparring routine.
Tank Abbot vouches for it.
And unless you’ve been living under a rock, (or in Fargo), you know about the Shaq vs. Kobe debate. You know; the one that says that Kobe was the one who got Dr. Buss to get rid of Shaquille “Big Toe” O’Neal, and that Kobe can’t win a championship without him.
Bah! Let’s just see about that!
You say you want more? Okay. The “The Saw-Shaq-Redemption” returns to the game of basketball against his former rival and teammate while playing for a team that has ousted the Lakers from the playoffs the last two years; AND the Lakers are playing for home-court! If the Lakers defeat the Suns tomorrow, they win the series 3 -1. So if they meet in the playoffs, guess who is going to have the advantage of home court (If you don’t know the answer to that, I’m sure someone on the message boards will assist you)?
And then think about the injuries. It has been quite a while since “The Diesel” has played after injuring his hip on a dive for the ball against the Utah Jazz on December 22nd. He did come back on January 16th, but then went down again five days later for a good long time. His hip was swollen and feeling more crippled then Timmy from South Park.
At the same time, our own number 24 is nursing a flaccid digit that might cause him serious damage in the long term if he doesn’t get surgery. So far he has opted to play for the Finals and the USA Team but what after that? It has been reported that if he does this, he runs the risk of ruining his finger for ever. Geesh!
What is going on with the Lakers? It’s like EA Sports put the entire team on the cover of Madden 2008! Bynum, Ariza, Mihm (since ’05), Luuuuuke, and now Kobe. Someone please ask a “power that be” if we can have a break please?
So tomorrow’s big questions are: Will “The Big Hip” be effective in a fast paced, “Run N’ Gun” system? We have all watched “Shaq-Fu” over the years and we know that he does NOT like to run. Will Kobe be quick enough to move his finger as all the Suns players’ swipe at it? I don’t know. So let’s get to the strategies already!?
(Oh by the way, I’m trying to break the record for the most “Shaq-isms” in an article. I believe Bill Simmons has the current record with 135 or so)
What the Suns will want to do: On offense the Suns want to try out their new “Shaq-centered” (I’ll count that one) offense. Using ball movement, outside shooting, and Nash driving and dishing to get “The Big Fella” integrated. O’Neal says he has 10 plays memorized, but I don’t think that will matter knowing that a lot of the time, Nash just pushes the ball up the floor and dishes a dime before the defense has been set. One thing to look for is Amare Stoudemire. He was a beast at center. But now that he can play at the 4, look for him to absolutely over power Lamar Odom. This will be a key.
On Defense, well, the Suns have never been known to have defense, however, this might be a point of change now that they have the “Shaq-a-delic” one to clog the middle. I think the Suns will try to force Kobe and the Lakers into a jump shooting team, then defend the perimeter in order to get them to force up treys. And we all know what that means; fast break points while Shaq waits on the Lakers side of the court. (Just like old times!)
What the Lakers will want to do: On offense, the Lakers will use Gasol’s quickness and shooting ability to move “The Big Confucius” out of the key, freeing up points in the paint and possibly getting O’Neal in foul trouble early. Look for Kobe to attack and dish, possibly preserving his pinky. Above all, look for the Lakers to pass the ball. Kurt Rambis, Lakers assistant coach was asked how a fan could tell if the Lakers were using the triangle right. Kurt answered, “When you see them passing the ball, that’s when they are using the triangle right. When they don’t pass, the triangle breaks down, and then we are in trouble.”
On Defense, look for P-Jax to employ the same strategy he always does against the Suns; force Nash into a scorer. Yeah, it’s that simple… What?!
Suns: Steve Nash / Raja Bell / Amare Stoudemire / Grant Hill / “Shaq-a-lacka” (this counts too!)
Lakers: Derek Fisher / Kobe Bryant / Vlad “Rad” / Lamar Odom / Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol vs. Shaq “Big Aristotle” O’Neal
Steve Nash vs. Derek Fisher
Amber’s Game Prediction: Lakers!
Mack’s Game Prediction: Shaq “Kazaam” O’Neal will get to the Laker’s side of the court TWICE. Lakers Win!
Next 3 games: @ Clippers, @ Sonics, Blazers
Game Preview Questions for Discussion:
1. Can Shaq be effective in the Suns offense?
2. How will Amare adjust to his new role with Shaq in the lineup?
Extra Credit: Let’s see how many “Shaq-isms” we can come up with? I’ve started you all off with 14.
Game Time: 6:00 PM Lakers Standard Time
Local Broadcast: KCAL HD
National Broadcast: ESPN Score
Radio: KLAC & KWKW