Road to the Repeat: Sun Rising in the West

Raise your hand if you thought the game vs. the Phoenix Suns on November 11th would be the Lakers first truly big game of the season.  I better not see any hands go up…

Then again, why would you have thought that.  The Suns have been in disarray since Mike D’Antoni was ran out of town for only producing 60 win seasons, yet no deep playoff runs.  It was clear that Terry Porter was not a long term fix, and feelings among the players became visibly distracted and disgruntled.  “7 seconds or less” basketball seemed to be a thing of the past in the valley of the sun, and they were clearly worse off because of it.  Now however, Alvin Gentry is at the helm, and once again the run and gun style of basketball has returned to the Suns, scoring over 100 points in every game thus far.  Luckily enough for the Suns, a majority of the players from their 60 win season are still with the club and the offense is once again comfortable.  Not a whole lot is new with the defense however, as the Suns still are giving up nearly 106 points per game to their opponents.  That never stopped Phoenix in the past, and so far this young season it seems to be working out once again.

After putting the hurt on the New Orleans Hornets last night, the Suns are atop the Western Conference along side the Lakers at 8-1.  Could the Pacific Division rivalry be back on?  Perhaps. Without characters like Raja Bell and D’Antoni to fuel the fire however, it may be strictly business when these teams meet.  Here are a few keys to look for as the Lakers and Suns each look to take the #1 spot in the Pacific division tonight…n833110192_1181212_6078

  • To run or not to run…that is the question: The Lakers can get up and down the floor better than most teams in the association.  Despite their overwhelming length and height, most of the Lakers big men are also very athletic and have no problem beating their man down court.  When playing this Suns team it is easy to get wrapped up in their quick shot style of play, losing sight of your actual game plan, only to end up in some sort of strange NBA version of a pick up game.
  • The Canadian Bronco: Steve Nash has notoriously been a problem for the Lakers, whether it be his quickness at the point, or the Lakers inability to figure out how to defend a pick and roll.  While Fisher may be able to provide some early initial toughness against Nash, he is not a full game solution by any means.  Looks for PJ to use Jordan Farmar in heavy minutes to keep the former Bronco in line.
  • Bench Mob: On again, off again. That is the story of the Lakers bench this year, a trend which cannot continue if the road to the repeat will end in another parade through downtown.  With more than a few dangerous starting fives in the NBA this year, the Lakers depth must be their strength.  On paper not enough credit is given to a rather talented and cohesive unit, yet they have not translated those skills and intangibles to the court on a consistent basis thus far.  Can they produce another impressive outing as was the case in their last game?

The Lakers will have Andrew Bynum back in the lineup tonight, however Pau Gasol is still out with a hamstring injury and no timetable has officially been set for his return.


Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns

Friday, November 12, 2009

Staples Center, Los Angeles

Tip-off: 7:30 PST

TV: FS West

Radio: 710 ESPN (NEW Home of the Los Angeles Lakers)