Last week, the first round of the SB Nation 3-on-3 Tournament came to a close and eight teams, including the trio from your Phoenix Suns, advanced. Now it's time for round two.
The Suns were the only squad to pull off a true upset in the first round when the team knocked off the Denver Nuggets on the strength of their (pick-and) roll. However, the second round has proven to be a completely different beast as we've already had two big upsets on the first day.
Jump it to see who got knocked out and for a preview of the Suns' second round match-up.The first match-up of the second round in the Eastern Conference was the 1-9 game between the Chicago Bulls and the Eastern Leftovers. The judges made the Bulls nearly a 4-to-1 favorite to win the series. Likewise in the West, the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs were judged to have the upper-hand against the Western Leftovers, although they were only 2-to-1 favorites to advance. However, both underdogs beat the odds and came out with victories.
Today we have two more great match-ups as the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks face off in the East, while the Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves do battle in the West. Check the StoryStream for the results.
On Wednesday, it will be our turn as the Suns march forward with their sling and their stone to challenge the Goliath that is the Los Angeles Lakers 3-on-3 team.
The Suns are represented by Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat. The Lakers counter with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. This doesn't seem fair. However, that's not going to discourage me from telling you the Suns can win this series.
Unlike in the first round series against the Nuggets who featured an all-wing lineup, this one is pretty straightforward and the match-ups are obvious. The Lakers have the edge in talent, but there are weaknesses the Suns can exploit.
We are all familiar with Steve Nash and what he does offensively. His shooting ability and a pick-and-roll partner like Dwight Howard should make him nearly unguardable in this format. However, we also are just as familiar with his defensive shortcomings, and in 3-on-3 play straight-up man-to-man defense is even more important than in 5-on-5 as it is more difficult to send help. Dragic is a little bigger, more athletic and has a more attacking mentality than Nash does, and this is a match-up that favors the Suns.
Dwight Howard is a monster. He's a handful in the post and even more dangerous rolling to the basket. Gortat has excellent mobility but is a tad slender as far as centers go, and he would likely struggle against the brute strength of Howard. However, this isn't necessarily a slam dunk for the Lakers. For one, in 2010-2011 Gortat fared pretty well against Howard (I'm using 2010-11 instead of last season because they only played 26 minutes against each other in 2011-12, compared to 64 minutes in 2010-11). According to NBA.com, Gortat held Howard to 15-34 shooting -- including 8-18 around the rim -- while shooting 7-11 himself. So maybe it's not such a huge mismatch after all. Also, according to the rules players cannot foul out. That means Gortat and company can hack Howard all day long and force him to prove he can hit his free throws, something he has yet to do in his career.
Finally, we have Kobe versus Jared Dudley. Kobe's game is made for 3-on-3. Less players to share the ball with, much more space to operate, Kobe's mid-range, off-the-dribble and post-game would be very difficult for Dudley to defend straight up. However, Kobe is very aware of this, and we all know he has a massive ego and hates the Suns with a burning passion. There's a very good chance he completely ignores his very talented teammates and tries to win the game himself. Especially when he sees Howard go to the line over and over again and miss free throw after free throw. As good as he is, I'll take Kobe going 1-on-3 against a Suns team working as a team. If need be, Dudley could always channel his inner Raja Bell.
Offensively, the Suns would run plenty of Dragic isolations and pick-and-rolls, involving Nash as much as possible. If Dragic torches Nash early, the Lakers may have to send help, in which case whoever they help off of will get some wide open looks.
My prediction: Suns pull off one of the biggest upsets in 3-on-3 history and knock off the Lakers in three games.