Lakers vs. Suns Game Preview: Lakers Look to Defeat Surprise Suns

Lakers vs. Suns Game Preview: Lakers Look to Defeat Surprise Suns


Kobe Bryant ReturnsPrior to the NBA season, talks of  “tanking” revolved around several teams. The two main culprits, according to experts, were the Philadelphia 76ers and tonight’s Laker opponent, the Phoenix Suns. The Suns officially started the rebuilding process by dealing Steve Nash to the Lakers before last season. They struggled, as expected, last season on their way to a 25-57 mark. Prior to this season, they rid themselves of solid veterans such as Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat, and Luis Scola in order to give more time to young prospects. The Suns have been more competitive than anyone thought under first year head coach Jeff Hornacek, and they currently sit one game above the Lakers in the standings at 11-9. The Lakers come in off of Sunday night’s let down in Kobe Bryant’s return against the Toronto Raptors. The reality of Bryant being back is in full effect, and all members of the roster have to be ready to step into different roles.

Frontcourt: Second year player Miles Plumlee mans the center position for the Suns while coming off a rookie season in which he only appeared in 14 games for the Indiana Pacers. Plumlee has been a solid addition and a true rim protector for the Suns, averaging two blocks per game. He is averaging close to a double-double with averages of 9.8 points per game and 8.5 rebounds a night. Pau Gasol must be aggressive early and look to get the inexperienced Plumlee into foul trouble.

Channing Frye, who missed the entire 2012-2013 season with an enlarged heart, starts at power forward for the Suns. In what has been an outstanding comeback,  Frye has remained a deadly outside shooting big man (39% from three on 4.5 attempts a game) who thrives off the penetration ability of the Suns’ starting backcourt. The Laker big men cannot afford to fall asleep on Frye, as he is capable of burning them from deep. Marcus Morris, the twin brother of fellow Suns’ big man Markieff Morris, is another stretch-four type (41% from three) that the Lakers must pay careful attention to.

Backcourt: The success of the Suns so far starts with the excellent play of their starting backcourt. They start two point guards in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, and the combination has worked wonders for them thus far. They have been able to feed off each other’s penetration while being able to stretch the floor enough in order to keep defenses honest. Bledsoe and Dragic put up nearly identical numbers and are the top two scorers on the team. Bledsoe averages 18.6 points and 6 assists per game, while Dragic averages 17.7 points and 6.4 assists a night. Interestingly enough, both average exactly 13 shot attempts per game.

Bledsoe, who served as Chris Paul’s backup the past two seasons with the Clippers, has broken out in a starting role. Bledsoe is one of the more athletic point guards in the league, and is able to defend shooting guards because of this athleticism even with his lack of height (generously listed at 6’1). Bledsoe has made huge strides in his jump shot from last season, although the focus of the Lakers’ defense should still be on keeping him out of the lane and making him hit from the outside. Bledsoe has a very bright future ahead of him.

Goran Dragic started his career as Steve Nash’s backup in Phoenix. He has evolved into a solid starter in the league, and he is one of the craftiest players in the game with the ball in his hands. He excels at getting to the rim and finishing in traffic or finding his teammates. He is a high IQ player who is also capable of getting it going from the outside. Dragic, like Bledsoe, should be baited into hitting from three (only 31% on the season).

Keys to Lakers Victory: 
Rediscovering Chemistry on Offense: Sunday night’s game against the Raptors showed just how difficult it will be to integrate Kobe back into the Lakers’ offense. The team was gelling offensively with quick ball movement and drive-and-kick action to shooters who were shooting the ball with great confidence. Kobe is not comfortable with this style of play, indicated by his eight turnovers on Sunday. Look for the Lakers to perhaps involve Kobe in more pick and roll to have him make decisions quickly and get the ball moving quickly from side to side.

Contain Penetration: Containing the penetration of Bledsoe and Dragic is the most crucial component to a Laker victory tonight. These two are the key to everything the Suns do offensively, as their penetration not only creates opportunities for themselves, but also for shooters such as Frye and Morris and easy layup and dunk opportunities for Plumlee. It will be interesting to see how the Laker coaching staff elects to defend the pick-and-roll whenever these two are involved.

Pau Gasol: Nick Young has officially become the Lakers’ leading scorer. This shows just how much the Lakers’ starting lineup has struggled, and Pau must shoulder lots of the blame. Ankle sprain or not, Gasol has to play better. He has struggled mightily with his midrange jumper thus far this year, and has to find a way to get attempts closer to the rim. Against the young and relatively inexperienced Plumlee, Gasol needs to be aggressive and stop settling for 15-17 footers.

Phoenix Suns (11-9) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (10-10)
7:30 PM PST, December 10, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: ESPN
Radio 710 ESPNLA

Suns Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Goran Dragic
SF: P.J. Tucker
PF: Channing Frye
C: Miles Plumlee

Key Reserves: PF Marcus Morris, F Markieff Morris, Gerald Green

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant Speaks Out The Day After His First Game Back, He’s Reevaluated His Performance

  • LakersHeatBeef

    The Lakers will win this game.Kobe Bryant will prove he is the best at this game still.Somehow almost everyone wants to write him off after just 1 game,well that’s not how stuff works.Kobe still has a lot left in the tank and he will prove it starting tonight.Kobe hates the Suns so he will be going bonkers on them tonight.

    My prediction the Lakers will win the game,MDA will cater the offense to mesh with Kobe Bryant and all the players will adapt to the way Kobe plays.The team will look like a totally different team tonight,watch out the Lakers are about to shock the haters tonight.It’s a big mistake to underestimate the Lakers.

    Don’t just expect to walk all over the Lakers at Staples Center.Lakers got pride and Kobe is out for revenge on the Suns for some of his past exits in the Playoffs years ago.Lakers will start a winning streak tonight,Kobe will be making shots out there tonight and at the very least players won’t fumble his passes and turn the ball over.Lakers will win.Yes Kobe has to get his legs under him and he will tonight.Kobe was very nervous last game,tonight he will play under control,no more jitters it is time to be calm cool and collective.Focus on the prize of a trophy.Lakers must play as a team as they have all season long.Our time is now!

    Go Lakers!

    • Paytc

      I agree with just about every thing you said. I did not see the game but find it hard to believe Kobe would ever be nervous at this stage of his career. He may have been nervous as a rookie. But Kobe can play this game with his eyes closed. It will obviously take time for Kobe to work himself back into playing form.Remember no preseason or training camp with the team. Kobe is accustome to playing at the highest level. You don’t just come back into the game after over 7 months off and return to playing that well.

      Kobe is smart. He understands that the haters always try to get in his head to throw him off his game. All the critics,haters,and doubters are doing their best. We have to acknowledge them for what they do.

      But just like in the past when the haters said Kobe has lost a step and can’t get to the rim etc….. Kobe does not go out there and foolishly try to prove them wrong. He knows he could still dunk ferociously but is not stupid enough to take the bate.

      He will be wise enough to continue to slowly work himself back into the game. Even if it takes a few weeks….or longer, he will keep plugging away.

      Haters,critics,and doubters will continue to do their jobs. Kobe won’t be swayed by them. Kobe will keep his focus on getting back into his top playing form as always.

      May Kobe have a fast and successful return to the top.

      Go Kobe ! Go Lakers !

    • Al Haldie

      Its great that u are a LAKER {KOBE} fan but u are talking with ur heart not ur head-KOBE has a lot more playing to do before he is back in shape to be KOBE -he is going to try his b est but its to early too think he is going to be his old self because he hates a team, lets just wish him well and give him a chance to become what he was….long time lakers fan

      • LakersHeatBeef

        Point well taken,but i still believe in the Black Mamba.Even out of shape to extent,i feel Kobe will still use his veteran savvy moves and skills to find ways to score.He might need to play the old man game that James Harden plays but he will get the job done IMO.

        But if things go sour then i will still appreciate the great effort Kobe is giving by returning from such a devastating injury at the age of 35 years old.I just hope the fans all give him a chance,it is a work in progress and win or lose i am saying team ball is the key.

    • hookedonnews

      I don’t think Kobe hates these Suns. This is not the team that beat the Lakers in the mid-2000’s. Kobe is not going to have his legs under him after one game. He’s got some extra weight that he needs to shed, and it’s going to take time for him to get into game shape. There’s nothing wrong with saying that. That doesn’t mean that the Lakers can’t beat the Suns, but it’s going to take time for this team to learn to play with Kobe and for him to shake off the rust.

      • LakersHeatBee

        Kobe said he hates the Suns,but that was 2 years ago things change.Sometimes it okay to hate if needed.Hating is not wrong,but i got haters judging by someone voting down my comment.Keep on trucking.

        And how do you know Kobe won’t have his legs under him are you a genie lol?Just watch the game and if he has a big game it means he has his legs under him,if not you win this argument.

        Kobe is a determined athlete he will figure out ways to score IMO.He is too damn good to just be average.I give him a month and he will be hitting his stride,but he can be much more better than last game tonight.Why not?

        • hookedonnews

          I know Kobe won’t have his legs under him because he hadn’t played in 8 months before the game Sunday. Conditioning doesn’t just magically appear. It takes time. Kobe has said himself that it’s going to take time. Determination is one thing–timing and conditioning are not something you can will into existence. That doesn’t mean he can’t have a better game than he had against the Raptors. You’re even saying it’s going to take a month for him to hit his stride. Just eliminating the turnovers will be a step in the right direction.

  • Al Haldie

    Coach D’antoni said to the press today that the team has to help KOBE through this.
    Well i believe they will as long as he came to play as a team, when he gets the ball it stops there ,where he does all his dribble dribble crap, {dont get me wrong i am a big KOBE fan} and what he used too do does not fit these other 14 players and they have been holding their own, but if KOBE does not move the ball looking for the open man-their not going any where–there has to be a two way street shoot when ur open pass when ur not—-every one plays…

    • Moneyball Suns

      That’s the wrong idea when hopes and confidences are put in a player and not a team… I would take Bostons team play over Lakers individual play. Better when D’antoni was “forced” to use other resources.

  • LakersHeatBeef

    Starters tonight Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks,Kobe Bryant, Shawne Williams and Pau Gasol. Johnson,Sacre to the bench and now starting are Meeks,Williams.Thoughts?

    • Dragon7s

      With the insertion of both Meeks and Williams into the starting line-up, it would appear that MDA hopes to outrun the surprising Suns.
      Not the strategy I would use offensively but hey, I’m not getting paid the big bucks to make those decisions. :p

    • Daryl Peek

      I like the line up. It fits Kobe better but I worry about the loss of Johnson’s defensive versatility. Blake and Meeks are the best we have to match up with Bledsoe and Dragic. Especially with Farmar out. Williams should do well against Frye. Putting Kobe at SF against Tucker is brilliant! This is the kind of match up Kobe can exploit and could go a long way towards building his post Achilles recovery confidence.

      On second thought Johnson off the bench makes perfect sense given the Morris twins. Gasol should even be set up to succeed against Plumlee?

    • hookedonnews

      Something needed to be done after the pitiful performance against the Raptors by the starters. Makes sense to me.

    • meep

      i dont think we will see a change in line ups any time soon. instead of a line up change lakers starters need to improve playing with kobe. we can all see the bench is still the same, but the starters will have some bumps in the road while bring kobe along. so i dont see how a change in the line up works right now. wait is that really the line up?

      • Moneyball Suns

        Other way around Kobe needs to improve his play around the Lakers team or should we change the team name from Lakers to Kobes lol… D’antoni emphasizes defense. As a Phx fan he has always talked about it but I’ll judge with my eyes instead… You have our backups from last year and not young enough in 82 game schedule

    • Gregory Choa

      Well, the interior defense and rim protection looks to be practically non-exisitent with this lineup, but I can certainly understand why MDA made the change against this Phoenix Suns team. Hopefull it’ll all work out. I’m vexed about whether or not Wes is ultimately better suited coming off the bench vs starting…I can go either way I guess.

  • Moneyball Suns

    Suns play better defense and Lakers have coach D’antoni who never brings defense to the game of basketball. It worked back in the day in Phx, but now teams are modernized to this style of play. Good luck hoping you can win in that style with ageing players. Keep proving haters wrong Suns

    • hookedonnews

      This is not 2005, and D’Antoni does emphasize defense. This style of play is being utilized by most teams in the league to one degree or another. In case you haven’t noticed, the Lakers have a lot of younger players this season to go with their older veterans.

    • meep

      actually only 5 of the 14 players are 30 or older, the rest are 28 or younger and as right now only 3 of the 5 older vets play. so lakers arent really aging

      • Moneyball Suns

        That’s more than a third haha good one

        • meep

          i dont see how 5 players make them aging. it be different if the lakers were last years lakers were they had alot more older players. nash is like 60% unlikely to come back, kaman could be traded if coach doesnt feel there a spot for him. so that only leave blake,kobe and pau on the team as players 30 or older

  • roseducanna

    KOBE isn’t 100%.He can’t jump.He will need 3-4 weeks for play good.

  • meep

    the starters have to play better ball, what hurt the lakers more then kobe struggles is that pau had one of his worst games and if i remember right the fans made it known how they felt about pau game. kobe will struggle and the other guys really need to step up and change their game to fit with kobe.

  • Jim213

    Have to keep it real as IMO have the Lakers losing this game. Given the starting line up troubles that correlate to returns, injuries, and so so… I don’t believe that the starters which mostly goes for the guards and Pau will be able to keep up with the quicker legs (guards) that goes for Bledsoe. Given the coach is giving preference to Kobe by giving 20+ minutes this hurts group cohesion.

    Kobe’s returning from injury so don’t expect him to keep up with the pace of this small ball team. Pau’s struggles continue while Blake may have trouble keeping up with the guards. Meeks will be okay but the issue is the team doesn’t have enough (CONSISTENT) offense (starters) to stand with the starters of the Suns. It’ll take time for Kobe to get his shooting back and S Williams game is on and off mostly.

    But if Farmar was around I’d definitely have the team winning today given his ball handling and execution aside of ability to keep up with the quicker guards. This is one of those games that will favor the 2nd unit IMO but given that the coach mentions that the team needs to mold to Kobe (when at best it may take 2-4 weeks for him to gain his shooting touch) indicates to me that he’s going all in with Kobe rather than the bench mob.

    It also seems too much to ask from the 2nd unit with the starters not SEEMING TO KEEP PACE given that the bench mob seems to be given the task of combating from deficits. But if the team relies on the bench mob more today which means giving Kobe 20 minutes or so then they’ll have a better chance to pull off the win otherwise with the depleted starting rotation (+Kobe’s current state) which is what the coach has pointed out to be going with then it’ll be more challenging for the starters aside of the bench mob.

    The Suns currently are shooting the ball better than the Lakers. However, the Lakers have a better 3P% than the Suns. Can’t help to think that Bledsoe has some say on this stat though the Suns seem better suited in stretching the floor thus presenting more defensive problems for the Lakers given the starting rotation.

    The Lakers also grab more rebounds but most of these stats (Lakers) are attributed to the bench mob. With Kobe playing too many minutes I don’t believe the starters have a good chance to beat the Phx lineup though it’s best to play more the 2nd unit. Not certain how things may turn out down the line given the coach has mentioned that ‘everyone needs to mold themselves with Kobe’ when IMO it should be the other way around.

    We know what type of team the Lakers have this season (new acquisitions) and expecting them to accommodate their team ball style of play especially with Kobe (who’ll need more time) only hurts the cohesion of the unit overall while many will likely question their roles again while on the floor. Thus, IMO Kobe needs to evolve his game given that the team doesn’t necessarily need to totally rely offensively on him given the DEPTH at the bench.

    IMO, the team needs a great shooter who has the ball awareness to know when to shoot or pass/rotate the ball. This is one reason to the success of the team being ‘ball rotation’ that helps and energizes the team on the other side of the court. Thus, if Kobe has trouble adjusting to this then I don’t see the Lakers making the playoffs or going better than 500 this season. Don’t get me wrong Kobe can still take over a game but it mostly applies towards the end of the game (4th) an on certain situations rather than being the go to go guy night in and out like previously.

    But it’s all really about hustle and playing consistently on both sides. If the 2nd unit can play more minutes than the last game while allowing X! more time on the floor (1?) the team may have better odds of winning as long as TO’s! can be minimized and BALL ROTATION! improves. Wes also has to STEP UP! not go with the flow! Hopefully they prove otherwise to exceed expectations.

  • meep

    didnt know lakers change the starting line up again. well maybe willams and meeks starting will be better. maybe the lakers are better off with sacre and wes off the bench.. i guess till lakers get things going with kobe we might see some line up changes

    • Moneyball Suns

      You can’t find an identity now that Kobe’s back… Suns will play their game and treat them like another faceless opponent.

      • meep

        says who and faceless opponent dont you go over hyping the suns, the season still pretty young. suns might be a decent team but lets see how they do by season end. plus your team only a game better.

        • Moneyball Suns

          faceless just means they don’t have an identity so their faceless. Not over hyping the Suns they just needed to produce a winning culture and that started in summer league when Hornacek coached them and carried over to preseason and now regular season and just getting better… plus dragic and bledsoe have not played many games together this season! I like our chances.

  • Moneyball Suns

    haha Suns all day, every day!!! and its another Suns win!!!