...that the Suns are one team that worries me a little, simply because your guys can be streaky. If they get hot over a short series — and I've seen that happen — they can beat anybody. That said, I figure that was more likely with the Suns of a few years ago.
The Lakers actually caught a break and played OKC in the first round. I thought they might drop that series but showed their experience and did what was needed to win. I figured the Thunder would be their toughest West matchup. To be truthful, I can't see this series going much past five games, though that streakiness mentioned could push it out longer.
The problem for the Suns is that the Lakers' starters are just better, and they have nobody to deal with either Bryant, or the combo of Gasol and Bynum. If Andrew brings his game (not guaranteed every night), especially defense, then Gasol becomes a monster.
If Kobe can penetrate, then both Gasol and Bynum become monsters. I don't think Grant Hill can stay with Kobe, who, right now, has found a way to make adjustments to play with his injuries. He looks renewed and re-energized, and has re-discovered his shot.
Even Fisher is shooting better, something I honestly didn't think would happen this year. Yes, Fish is a liability on D, but he will take an important charge, and make a couple of decent defensive plays during the series. Mostly, he's there because he knows the offense and will calm people down. He's also strong enough to deny Kobe the ball and get away with it, which makes us better — and that's one reason I think Phil gives him so many minutes. If he can deliver 8-12 points a game, especially late threes, he's done his job. Nash will win the matchup, but Fish will contribute.
Artest may make a few or miss a lot, but he's not there because he's going to drain shots all day. He's there to shut somebody down. He'll be a factor.
Our bench, other than Odom, will either be adequate or tragic. They have improved against Utah, but we're always nervous when they come into the game. If Odom is engaged, he helps a lot. That said, it's seemingly always a topic of conversation with every series, so we don't know when he'll bring it. If he shows up game one and stays "on," the Phoenix chances are dim.
Can Stoudamire get the Lakers' bigs in foul trouble? He'll certainly be a strong factor and score a lot, but I don't think he'll rule the paint. I think the Lakers will make him work for shots and make him play defense. Your bigs will have to hit medium and long range shots to loosen up the L.A. defense. That's one of your keys.
All in all, the Lakers are a more confident and healthier bunch than a couple of weeks ago, and if they stay healthy, I can't see the Suns winning.
Should be an entertaining series with lots of highlights.
Have a good one.
Let's end this Utah series today and then let's get to it!