Here we go again. On Thursday the Suns got an (quoting the Big Twitter) "old fashion ass whoopin" at the hands of the same Lakers we face in today's game. So what are we supposed to expect? Steve Nash is questionable (and even if he plays we don't know exactly how his ankle will hold up), Amare is still out and we are still very thin at the PG and both positions down low. On the other side, we're facing a Lakers team with one of the best coaches in the history of the league who knows how to exploit the holes in the Suns D, one of the two greatest players on the planet (we'll save that debate for a different time), and an incredibly deep bench. They are also a team who got destroyed by the
Jazz Nuggets in their last game so they should be out for blood not to mention a team who we do not match up well with at all. By all logical accounts, the Suns don't stand a chance today. In fact there have been rumblings that the NBA might just award the Lakers the W and move on.
However, I'm here to tell you that the Suns CAN win this game!
So what will it take for the Suns to win aside from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol being crippled in a car accident while carpooling to the stadium? Let me give you my D-Mobile Great 4 keys to a Suns victory.
1) Slow it down and play through Shaq: Wait, aren't I the blogger who called for the run n' gun Suns when Porter was still the coach? Yes. However, in this matchup our biggest advantage is down low. The Lakers lost Andrew Bynum for the year and are now filling that role with Pau Gasol who is known to back down in physical games (see last year's NBA finals). They also have a much deeper and more talented bench than we have so our blistering pace shouldn't effect them as much as it would us (remember, we're still getting back into shape having only been running like this for a short period of time now). Also, in a slow it down game the Suns must win the battle on the glass and try to limit the Lakers to one shot. If they let the Lakers get every rebound none of this matters.
2) JRich and Barbosa have to play out of their minds: These are our two best scorers available to help Shaq carry the load - especially if Nash is sitting or unable to play at his highest level. They are also two players that Kobe may be guarding (not sure if he'll be on Barbosa much, but his should be guarding Richardson for a good chunk) for much of the game and we MUST make him work on both ends of the floor. If we don't have them (with help from Hill and Barnes, too) scoring and spreading the floor, it won't matter what Shaq is able to do.
3) Take care of the ball: The Suns cannot turn the ball over against the Lakers because they know how to capitalize on another team's mistakes. Everyone has to be careful not to make dangerous passes and to play good fundamental ball. If we turn the ball over and give the Lakers easy points we are going to be in for another beat down.
4) Goran Dragic has to earn his paycheck (importance of #4 goes up if Nash does not play): Off of the bench the Lakers have Jordan Farmar - a PG who would start on most teams. The Suns on the other hand, have Goran Dragic - a PG who many (including and especially yours truly) feel doesn't belong in the NBA. If there was ever a game for Dragic to step up and prove that he can play in this league, this is that game. If Nash is out, Dragic must wipe off that look that says "I'm going to piss my pants if Sasha Vujacic comes anywhere near me" and man up. He cannot play scared (if you think Phil Jackson isn't going to attack him the moment he gets in the game you're fooling yourself), he cannot turn the ball over and he cannot get flustered the first time the Lakers send a double team at him after a high screen. Man, just writing this makes me feel like changing this to "Nash must play like Nash" because I just cannot see this happening.
Disclaimer: if #4 does in fact happen (and I mean in a meaningful game - none of this performing in garbage time when there's no pressure), don't expect me to back down on my stance that Dragic does not belong in the league - it'll take a lot more than one good game to convince me otherwise.
So there you have it, if the Suns can exploit their advantage down low, get good scoring from the wing players, take care of the ball and get one good game out of their deer in the headlights, just saw a ghost, please don't hurt me rookie, they WILL WIN (maybe)! And if not, well...all logic told us we were going to lose anyway.