The Los Angeles Lakers in their quest to win another championship have reached the NBA’s version of the final four. Appropriately, the Lakers coaching staff placed the number eight on the board in the locker room. No other words were necessary. The Phoenix Suns stand between the Lakers and a return to the NBA Finals.
The Lakers are motivated and prepared to exact some playoff vengeance against the Suns. This fact becomes much more evident with every ridiculous reference to the 2006 series between Suns and the Lakers.
Unfortunately, there are some reporters questioning if Kobe Bryant tanked game seven of that series. I’m of the belief that the people who asked that bizarre question have failed to realize that Kwame Brown, Smush Parker, Brian Cook, and Maurice Evans were on that team. Those people have to understand that this is an entirely different team and year. The question is ridiculous and doesn’t deserve a response. The defending champions, Lakers, were expected to battle for supremacy in the Western Conference and return to the NBA Finals to defend their crown; the Suns were not. However, give the Suns credit, they’re playing in the Conference Finals because they earned the opportunity.
These two teams met four times in the regular season and the Lakers won three of those contests. This is a match-up of speed vs. size. The Suns swept the Spurs because San Antonio attempted to match size-wise and play small ball.
The Lakers have a size advantage that they will use and force the Suns to defend. The Thunder and Jazz can be called for confirmation. The Suns are playing excellent basketball; they’re 31-4 (5-0 in the Playoffs) when Jason Richardson scores 20+ points. The Lakers have defended Richardson well; he has been a non-factor averaging a pedestrian 8.8 points per game against the them. He has figured out how to play with a great point guard and has been more productive in the 2010 Playoffs than at any point in his career.
The Suns are leading the league is scoring, field goal percentage and three-point shooting. Just not against the Lakers. The Suns are led by two-time league MVP Steve Nash; arguably one of the three best point guards in the league. The Lakers defensively have to slow the Suns transition game as well as their screen and roll offense. The Suns doesn’t have the size to deal with the Lakers length. The Lakers will destroy the Suns with points in the paint after establishing Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol inside.
The Lakers frontline has to be aggressive and attack the basket as oppose to settling for jump shots. Don’t be surprised to see Kobe, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom in the post.
This might sound strange, but Derek Fisher defending Steve Nash speed-wise in this series is a better match-up for him than Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook was in previous series.
A few huge factors for the Lakers in this series will be their defense, their bench and Lamar Odom. The Sun’s bench is explosive, the Lakers don’t have to match them in point total, but they’ll need to be a factor. Odom is huge because he can guard multiple players and positions. He will once again be the Lakers “X-Factor” offensively and defensively. One of the players he will have to defend is Channing Frye. Frye is a player that can spread the floor with his three-point shooting, providing space for Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash.
The Lakers need to play with a sense of urgency, pound the Suns inside with Gasol and Bynum. It is time to show passion on every possession. It is imperative that the Lake Show get back in transition and as well do a good job defending the pick and roll action plays.
Lakers in 5!
Tip-off: 6:00 PM PST
- Los Angeles: TNT
- Phoenix: TNT
- Los Angeles: AM570 KLAC (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- Phoenix: KTAR 620 AM (Al McCoy & Tim Kempton)
- Ron Artest (Left Heel Bruise/Sprained Left Thumb)
- Shannon Brown (Sprained Right Thumb)
- Kobe Bryant (Avulsion Fracture, Right Index Finger)
- Andrew Bynum (Small Tear in the Meniscus of his Right Knee)
- Sasha Vujacic (Severely Sprained Left Ankle) Doubtful
- Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) Probable
- D.J. Mbenga ( Retinal Surgery, Left Eye) Probable
- Robin Lopez (Back) Out