The Suns come to LA for what should be a very exciting game. The last time The Suns faced the Lakers they did it without Boris Diaw and Raja Bell who had just been sent to the Bobcats(along with Sean Singletary) for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley. Neither of them were available to play at the time and Shaq was not with the team due to a death in his family. Against all odds the short-handed Suns gave The Lakers a run for their money and put up a hell of a fight against what was clearly a superior team.
I was very pleased with our team's effort that night. Matt Barnes led the way with 25 points (That's right, it's not a typo), Hill had 23 while Amar'e had 21. We shot 50% from the field and only had 15 TO -that's pretty low for our standards-. Nash had an awful night, shooting 2-12, claiming that he's head was not in the game, that he failed to focus. When it was all said and done, The Lakers only beat us by 5 points.
I bring this up because, just like we do, The Lakers have their own share of problems. Their defense has been criticized throughout the whole year, Gasol has been called weak, Vujacic was called brainless by his own coach. They seem to fail keeping their energy up during games but at the end they always find a way to win. I guess that's not going to be enough for Lakers' fans since they expect their team to dominate every game and blow out any team they face. Anything less than a championship this year will be considered failure (sound familiar). The Lakers will come into this game hungry to show everyone why they are the first seed.
On the other hand, Suns are looking to build some momentum. Our record stands at 4-1 since Gentry took over but were are yet to beat a good team. We are hopeful, but reluctant to believe that just by running everything will be alright. Perimeter defense and rebounding need to get better.
How do we Win this game?
Fast Pace: The Lakers love to play fast, but they are not as good as the Suns. If they get caught up in the frenetic pace we'll have the upper hand. They will forget to play defense and will leave shooters wide open. I've seen them do that several times, last time it was against the GSW. Considering the fact that the Suns are averaging 128.4 points and shooting 56.7 percent from the field in their last five games, I'll take that any day.
The Bench: The second unit must continue to play with confidence and energy. Lou needs to continue hustling and blocking shots. Same as Dudley. At the same time we need to be all over their bench players. We can't afford Vujacic or Ariza having career nights against us. I can live with Kobe and even Gasol scoring a lot of points but their role players need to look like role players and not superstars.
Shaq: Shaq is in great shape. I think Gentry will need to call several plays for him this time. With Bynum hurt, Shaq will abuse anyone that they put on him. It'll be interesting to see how Gentry will try to balance the pace so that Shaq can he his touches. He'll see that it's easier said than done.
Point Guard: I was hoping Nash would play this game. I expect Gentry to play LB at the point with Dragic as back up. Dragic will get a bunch of minutes and it'll be interesting to see if he continues to play with confidence.
Pray that Kobe has an off night?: Not really. As I said, I always expect Kobe to be Kobe. We will be in trouble if everyone starts hitting shots too!
This is not a "must win game" but it's an important one. I'm confident that the Suns will come out and play hard. Buckle up. It's going to be an interesting night.