The (47-18) Los Angeles Lakers are in the desert to face the (40-25) Phoenix Suns the first of a three-game road trip. Tonight’s game will be the last meeting of the regular season; the Lakers leads the season series two games to one.
The Lakers were able to snap their three-game losing streak with a much-needed win against the Toronto Raptors, but it took a last second shot by Kobe Bryant again; his seventh of the season. Seeing the ‘Black Mamba’ do his thing never gets old, but the fact of the matter is that the game should not have been that close.
The Lakers are still struggling to get their game back on track. The reality is that the Lakers have played a lot of games at a high level basketball in the last three years; the team is taking their opponents best shot and not dealing out their own or responding for that matter.
The above statement isn’t being mentioned as an excuse; teams will always get up for the Lakers, it is the uniform and years of success. They are a team that plays with a lot of confidence that is currently making several uncharacteristic mental mistakes.
There are 17 games remaining in the regular season, and 10 of them are on the road. This is not the time to start and point fingers, this is a time to start to get to work. The task at hand is taking everyone serious and competing as if every opponent is the best there is. They need to play every game like a must-win game.
The Lakers have to take on an ‘us against the world’ mentality, play with a sense of urgency at a high energy level on both sides of the court.
The only real change has been replacing Trevor Ariza with Ron Artest; it is evident that Trevor was content with spotting up behind the arc and shooting timely three point shots or slashing to the basket. Consequently, Ron Artest is more comfortable with a back to the basket game. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t solely responsible for the teams poor play; I like the addition of Artest on the team both offensively and defensively. Ron Artest offensively just needs to make quicker decisions with the ball.
Against the Suns, the Lakers have to slow down Steve Nash. He is getting the job done at age 36. He isn’t blowing by his opponents with an explosive first step, but what he is doing is being unpredictable and changing speeds. The Lakers have to defend him as a team and make sure he doesn’t engage two defenders at the same time. The backcourt will initially have to stop his dribble penetration. The Suns want to get out in transition and run, the Lakers have to play solid defense and control the tempo.
Lakers need to establish both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol on the inside the Suns don’t the size to slow them down.
The Purple and Gold have to use excellent ball movement and excellent player movement, making sure the swing the ball to both sides of the floor forcing the Suns to defend in the half court set. They have to play better defense, get back in transition, eliminate the turnovers, out-rebound the Sun, rotate out to open shooters, and do a better job of chasing opponents off of the three-point line.
Tip-off: 6:00 PM PST
- Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
- Phoenix: My45 KUTP(Gary Bender & Eddie Johnson)
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- Phoenix: KTAR 620 AM (Al McCoy & Tim Kempton)
- Kobe Bryant (Avulsion fracture of right index finger, elbow & back)
- Sasha Vujacic (Sprained Right Shoulder) Out
- Luke Walton (Back) Out
- Ron Artest (Sprained Left Thumb)
- Shannon Brown (Sprained Right Thumb)
- SG Leandro Barbosa (Wrist Injury) Out
- PG Steve Nash (Lower Abdomen) Listed as Day-to-Day
- PG Goran Dragic (Sprained Ankle) Listed as Day-to-Day