Lakers-Suns Game Preview: Getting back on track edition

It's funny when people ask me about the Suns nowadays. People at work, relatives, friends. I hate the grin on their faces when they ask this question but do you know what that grin means? It means "I told you so". Once Amar'e left I was positive that the FO would figure a way to replace him, we would go through an adjustment period and then we would start rolling like we usually do. Well, I guess the rolling part is not here yet.

Just to recap, two of the new acquisitions are in Gentry's dog house right now while the other was shipped to Orlando (along with our leading scorer). So much for the Childress and Warrick hype huh?

But this is old news and the Suns are trying to integrate Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus and Vince Carter and it has not been an easy transition. There are fans that have seen progress and that can take positives from games the Suns have lost. Good for them. To me, you have to be able to close out games. Playing three quarters of good basketball is not good enough in this league. That's like my dad saving money for me to go to law school and being happy that I made it to 3rd year before dropping out. I can't imagine him telling my mom: "But honey, don't be mad. He made it to 3rd year. You should be proud he made it that far!"

There's really no way to downplay the Suns issues at this point. Even the most optimist and positive fan can't deny the fact the Suns might not turn this season around. They have reached rock bottom and hopefully that's as low as they can go.

They have the pieces to be a good team and that's the most frustrating part. At some point you have to put some blame on Gentry and I've never been the type of fan or player that uses a coach as the scapegoat. Gentry's in-game decisions have been suspect, his lineups sometimes don't make sense and it allows other teams to use mismatches. Plays out of timeouts are sloppy and look as if they were improvised, concentration and focus during crunch time has been awful. All of the above goes on the coach.

Now, the Suns will play the Lakers and Gentry faces yet another dilemma.

Let's get down to business. See you after the jump. 

Alvin Gentry will have to decide if he goes with a bigger lineup with Gortat and Lopez to counter Bynum's and Gasol's size. Seth explains here how it might work but I don't trust Robin's ability to hit a 15 footer. Our best option is to use Frye and hope that he starts making threes so he can spread the floor.

The Lakers have issues. They routed Detroit last night in a blowout win but prior to that game they had lost 4 of their last 6 games by a margin of 17.3 points per game. There is panic all over the internets. The current champions are not good enough, they had lost interest. Kobe and Phil Jackson calling out players and teammates in the media. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom saying that those shout outs weren't necessary. Practice confrontations, players missing practice and Kobe taking over late in the games completely ignoring the triangle offense and his teammates.

Haven't we seen all of this before? As much as it hurts me to say this, I'd be really careful to dismiss the current champs out of contention. Here's every year's pattern: Lakers in a slump, Kobe jacking up shots, teammates pissed, Lakers get out of slump, Lakers win the NBA finals, Kobe leads parade, Kobe gets his ring.

This latest panic wave just shows you the amount of spoiled fans and media that follow the Lakers. Sure, they've played like crap recently but watching them overreact just makes me smile.

Keys to winning the game

  • Limit Pau Gasol's and Bynum's activity in the paint: Frye, Lopez and Gortat will have their hands full tonight. During the Lakers tough stretch, Gasol was limited to 13 points per game. If the Suns want to have a shot they will need to keep the Lakers towers from having good offensive games. Box out and hustle for rebounds. Easier said than done.
  • Keeping role players in check: The Suns can not afford having career nights from the Blakes, Browns and Barnes from this world.
  • Defensive focus and communication: Defensive assignments can't be missed or this game will be over in a heart beat.
  • Bench play: Dragic and company will need to step up.

Final thoughts

If the Suns win this game it could give them a much needed confidence boost. They need to play four quarters of good basketball, play with heart and be mentally tough to withstand any Lakers runs. Last year it was STAT who had to play through trade rumors and he handled it really well. It will be interesting to see how Nash will play with people whispering stuff in his ear. The Suns will have to make a decision soon and it will be based on how the team performs before the trade deadline, needless to say this is a critical time for the Suns organization and fans. Buckle up because this promises to be a bumpy ride.

 

[Note by Seth Pollack, 01/05/11 12:10 PM MST ]

You wanted size....

Los Angeles Lakers Come To Phoenix For National TV Game With Suns - SB Nation Arizona
Another adjustment we can expect to see tonight is the debut of the Marcin Gotat / Robin Lopez "Great Wall Of Phoenix" pairing on the court. Gentry has been understandably reluctant to use these two inside players together for fear of bogging down the offense, but against the Andrew Bynum / Pau Gasol tandem for the Lakers he sounds ready to give it a try.

"We'll try that as some stage tonight. Maybe early. Maybe really really early," he said implying that the two could start the game together.

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