I know, I know. The SUNS do play a feisty and dangerous Hornets team on Wednesday night. This is definitely a team and a game we do not want to overlook. The Hornets have had our number recently, so we do have something to prove on Wednesday. That being said, the matchup on Thursday with the LAKERS will be the biggest test thus far this season. One could argue the Boston game was, but this game will be for the lead of the Pacific Division and all NBA eyes will be on this contest.
Okay, first things first. Damn the NBA for yet AGAIN giving the Lakers every scheduling advantage for key games. I seem to remember this last season -- I believe it was for the first game in LA; we were playing the 2nd game of a back to back and the Lakers were coming off a day off (someone correct me please if I am wrong about that). This year however, the Suns play the Lakers AT STAPLES for the first two contests and both times we will be coming off a game the prior night while the Lakers will be coming off a day of rest. Pathetic! If that doesn't signal an NBA bias towards the Lakers I don't know what does!
Okay, I got that off my chest. Now to the game. I think the way the Lakers will approach this game defensively is that they will utilize KOBE on the defensive end in an attempt to shut down JRich. As much as I dislike the Lakers, I must admit that they are very well coached and prepared. They will know that JRich has been going off lately -- I think Jackson will direct Kobe to exert more of his energy on the defensive end in an attempt to LOCK DOWN on JRich. And as much as I hate Kobe, I must admit that when he puts his mind to it, he can be a lockdown defensive player. I've seen him do it against McGrady where Tracy couldn't even get a shot off for an entire quarter. If the Lakers choose to utilize Kobe in this way, it will be of primary importance that AMARE have a big game offensively , to compensate for what I see as potentially fewer points from JRich.
If I were Gentry I'd come out early with a heavy dose of pick and roll with Nash and Amare, and also direct Amare to attack the basket off the dribble in hopes of getting Bynum and Gasol (if he plays on Thurs, and it looks like he might) in early foul trouble. I think this is the Suns best chance of winning this game. Amare needs to have a big game offensively, and in particular, attacking the basket to get the two Laker bigs in foul trouble. I don't think Jackson will let us kill them with 3's the way we have been killing opponents on the road trip.
On the defensive end for the SUNS I think it will be important to run the Lakers off their 3 attempts and limit their second chance points.
If these things happen I can see the Suns winning on Thursday night. If, for some reason we don't then the next game on Dec. 6 becomes a must win, primarily for psychological reasons. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here, but in order to potentially beat the Lakers in the playoffs I think this team will need two things to have happened in the regular season, and one depends on the other: 1) I think we need to have HOME COURT advantage in a potential playoff matchup, and this means 2) We need to WIN the Pacific Division. This may seem like a tall order at this time, but we don't know what the season will bring. It will most certainly be difficult, but I don't think it is an impossibility.