Phoenix Suns (12-18) at Los Angeles Lakers (17-12)
7:30 PM PST, February 17, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Fox Sports West, ESPN
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Suns Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Jared Dudley
SF: Grant Hill
PF: Channing Frye
C: Marcin Gortat
Key Reserves: F Markieff Morris, G Michael Redd
The Lakers kick off a home-and-home series against the Phoenix Suns tonight at Staples Center coming off of victories in their last two games, and in three-of-four. These next two games will serve as warm-up games as the team prepares for a difficult mini-road trip that sees them stopping by Dallas and Oklahoma City. For the Suns, they come into tonight’s game losers of four of their last five games. Both teams last played the Atlanta Hawks at home. The Lakers were victorious, while the Suns suffered a two-point defeat.
Frontcourt: While just a shell of his former self, Grant Hill still remains a productive player. At 39 years-old, he is never again likely to come close to his career average of 17 points per game. That does not mean that he cannot score though. In his last contest against the Hawks, he shot 8-of-11 from the field for 18 points, and added six rebounds to his effort. Still, Hill is one of two players (Steve Nash) that will sit out a game (or two) in order to replenish his energy and remain at a competitive level. Tonight, he has the difficult task of matching up against Metta World Peace of all people. Check off this matchup in favor of the Lakers. But where this is an advantage for LA, there is a terrible mismatch, which is that of Channing Frye. Frye is very mobile for a 6’11” power forward. Channing is especially good when his three-ball is on target. That is not to say that it is his only weapon as evidenced by his performance against the Warriors on Monday night. He was held to just 1-of-8 shooting from distance, but made up for it by making 6-of-9 shots from within range, finishing with 18 points, double his season average. Lastly here, the Suns have the big Polish center Marcin Gortat. You may remember him with the Orlando Magic as the backup center to Dwight Howard. As a member of the Suns he has flourished. This season in fact, he averages a double-double with 15.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. In terms of player efficiency, he ranks just below our own Andrew Bynum (21.83 to 21.05).
Backcourt: Nash has been a staple in Phoenix for years. While true that his time may be coming to an end in the league, it is also true that he is still as dangerous as ever. Nash was benched on Tuesday night against the Denver Nuggets, likely because of his age. The rest paid off well as he returned with 22 points on Wednesday. If Nash scores, the Suns becomes even deadlier than what they already are. It is a fact the he will dish out 10+ assists per contest. Helping those numbers rise is Jared Dudley, who is continuing Phoenix’s tradition of shooting extremely well from beyond the arc. He is shooting close to 40% from distance this season, and averaging 11.3 points per game. Last time against the Lakers, he was contained well, and held to just six points.
- The Lakers lead the overall series against the Suns by a margin of 129-89. They are 1-0 against the Suns this season, which includes a 99-83 victory on January 10, 2012. The Lakers have won three straight against Phoenix and six of their last seven games against them at Staples Center.
- The Lakers dominated the Suns on the glass in their first meeting, outrebounding Phoenix by a margin of 49-35. Five players grabbed at least seven boards apiece.
- Grant Hill has held Tyreke Evans (SAC), Monta Ellis (GS) and Joe Johnson (ATL) to a combined 8-of-39 (.205) shooting from the field. Still in that stretch, the Suns are 1-2.
Keys to a Laker Victory:
– Continue to Dominate the Glass
Outside of Gortat, the Suns just are not physical and can not match up with the size of both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
– Force Turnovers
Phoenix averages 14.3 turnovers a game, which has been killing any hopes they might have of competing. If the Lakers make the most of these turnovers, expect another blowout.
– Silence the Three
The Lakers can be chipped away at with a successful three-point attack. Who better than the notorious Phoenix Suns? Jared Dudley and Channing Frye will shoot at will, if allowed to do so. If the Lakers pounce on this, the Suns will be forced to attack from a different angle, one that the Lakers can more comfortably defend.
Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 103, Suns 93
Worst-Case Prediction: Suns 96, Lakers 94