The Lakers return as favorites to three-peat. A handful of teams can match their depth, size and versatility. Three months out I’m not having much luck scrubbing the mental image of Artest celebrating at the end of Game 5. “Say Queensbridge.” With the first shot at regular season redemption fast approaching, how does PHX currently match up against the LAL?
33/7/8: Kobe’s line in the WCF. Hill, Dudley and JChill will need to become more physical when guarding Kobe. Hustle perimeter defense and hands in the face on circus fadeaways (somehow) only went so far. SGs quick and strong enough to front and then bump Kobe as he drives—think Raja Bell and Tony Allen—have had some success. If PHX’s trio adopted a more defensive mentality Kobe just might return to earth in a future 6-game series. Will PHX’s new players (esp. JChill) help or will Gentry simply rely on stopping everyone not named Kobe?
PHX can neutralize Gasol by forcing him out of the paint and making him move laterally as a defender. PHX now can do both w/Hedo facilitating @ 20 ft. out and Warrick slashing and finishing around the rim. Warrick’s quickness and hops may frustrate Gasol and even draw Bynum into foul trouble. Hedo’s a gamer and there’s reason to think his best games will come against the likes of Pau. The much-discussed rebounding woes will crop up but perhaps not so much against the Lakers. With Bynum and Lopez in the paint our wings can crash the boards knowing Gasol will often be playing out near the perimeter. Of course Odom also ate us alive in those long rebound situations.
Anyone else think Dragic’s performance in the WCF motivated the LAL to act early in FA to obtain Steve Blake? Forget the Slovenian sideshow: let’s hope a fierce Dragic-Blake rivalry builds over the regular season. Blake reminds me of a more athletic version of late-90s Steve Kerr. Goran frustrated Farmar/Vujacic and Phil seemed surprised with Dragic’s confidence and playmaking ability. How will Dragic respond against one of the best backup PGs in the NBA?
Amare’s absence may show early in the season but Gentry should find the right rotations after a few months. Stoudemire had statistical success in every series but max players do not fade late in the WCF. He averaged about 40 mins. in Games 5 and 6 but went 23/4 with 2.5 steals and blocks. Nash + Amar’e ≠ Finals, let alone a ring. Let it go: PHX rebuilds in stages and will avoid the albatross scenario.
Even after losing an All-Star PF, does PHX match up better against the LAL this season?