After the swift dismantling of the Jazz in the Conference Semi-Finals the Lakers are idle for a week as they await their third consecutive trip to the Western Conference Finals. They will be facing an opponent that is almost as familiar as the team they just beat, and in many ways they will have the same match-up advantages over the Phoenix Suns that they had over the Jazz. Recently I had the privilege of discussing the Lakers with HoopsWorld writer Eric Pincus, and we were able to dissect the rest of the NBA playoffs and the eight wins separating Los Angeles from their sixteenth championship.
Both the Lakers and the Suns sliced through their second round opponents, earning sweeps and easy entry into the Conference Finals. Looking ahead to the match-up between the two teams, there are many similarities between the series with the Suns and the previous series with Utah. Both Utah and Phoenix feature undersized front-courts and dominating point guards that are sure to give the Lakers some trouble. However, there are also several stark differences between the two teams as well. Pincus was quick to give his opinion on the pros and cons of the Phoenix match-up:
I like the Suns for the Lakers in a sense that they can avenge old ghosts. Just as the Utah Jazz have been knocked out three straight years by the Lakers – LA has a two series losing streak against Phoenix and will look to avoid the same fate as Utah. Phoenix is potent but their biggest strength is their offense. The Lakers should be able to get their offense in gear throughout the series – while the Suns try to outscore them. It’ll be a good test for LA’s defense but not necessarily for their offense.
Now, looking ahead to the series I am not one of the people who feel the Lakers will walk all over Phoenix, despite the glaring physical advantages they may have. Phoenix is a much more talented team than Utah was, and since the All-Star Game has been one of the best teams in the Western Conference. However, they are a predominately offensive team that will still struggle on defense, and shouldn’t pose too many problems for the Lakers offense.
Next: What should the Lakers expect from the Suns?
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