Tonight, the Phoenix Suns are in L.A. to face to the Lakers, testing their modest two game winning streak as well as their patchwork squad versus the dreaded, and always competitive Los Angeles Bryant's.
Last season the Suns managed only 1 victory against the Lakers. But it was a very sweet one. Here's a refresher if you forgot this:
Of course none of that matters anymore and to hold on to such a freak, fleeting victory would be, you know, pointless.
The Suns are winners of three of their last four. Granted the competition hasn't been too elite, but the team needed confidence, and that's what they are gaining with each and every W.
In addition, if you can't get jacked up with Laker rancor, Suns pride, and L.A. celebrity animosity, then you may as well avoid this one and call your grandma or sort your socks tonight.
...Are sometimes unreliable, yes? But heck man, as it looks, we could be in for a all out, mix it up down below in the paint, defensive show down:
|TEAM||PPG||PPG. DIFF.||FG%||FG% DIFF||REBOUNDING DIFF.|
Individually here's how the Lakers shake out:
|Metta World Peace||10||21.4||2.5||6.8||36.8||0.2||2.1||9.5||1.2||1.5||80.0||0.6||1.7||2.3||2.0||1.3||0.5||0.2||1.5||6.4|
The loss of Lamar Odom is obviously a negative blow to the Lakers bench, but with bigs like Gasol and Bynum up front, the Lakers haven't done so bad picking the glass clean. The Suns are going to have to continue to bring the intensity on D and on the boards to have a chance in this one. And unlike prior years, they have the manpower to do it. Expect Gortat, Lopez, Frye, and the rook MM (shhhh don't let anyone know about the secret weapon) to battle hard against the Lakes. On the other end, the Suns must continue to dictate the tempo, and when Stevie Nash hits you on the break, hit the shots he so kindly created for you (hearin' me Shannon?)
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, isn't Kobe Bryant injured? Maybe he won't play in this one? Think again. Here is a a blurb about Bryant's latest performance against the Grizzlies written by Mr. Clark over at Silver Screen and Roll:
Chief among those who's merits outnumbered his faults, Kobe Bryant once again led the way with a complete performance. 26 points on 11-22 shooting, and nine assists, and outside of the turnovers, Kobe played a near perfect game. Working primarily from the high post, Kobe struck the perfect balance between playmaker and shot-taker, and he had the Memphis defenders off balance all night long.
So yeah, consider Kobe fine and consider yourself soft if you were hoping he'd sit it out. Who wants to beat the Lakers without Bryant around?
"Steve is doing Steve, man...everybody said, 'Aw, he looks old and he needs to this or that.' You can't say nothing about him. He gets the job done."
GAME DAY LINKS
The Phoenix Suns sure are putting together an interesting early season for us fans.
So many new and interesting things are happening on the court: rookie Markieff Morris has been making the Suns front office look good for once, Channing Frye is finally finding his range (4-4 last night from 3!), and Steve Nash is reminding us yet again why we come back year after year to watch the Phoenix Suns play ball. That said, one thing has remained unchanged: fourth-year big man Robin Lopez remains an inconsistent enigma.
Last year, Robin struggled with a persistent back injury, eventually conceding his starting position to new acquisition Marcin Gortat. During this season's training camp, Robin displayed a new positive mindset and an optimism about his renewed health and energy level, saying that he "feels bouncier". He put this new trait on display in the first game of the season against the New Orleans Hornets, breaking out for 21 point on 8-12 shooting, including a confident 3-5 from beyond 16 feet and 7 boards.
In the next five games combined, he had 21 points, 16 rebounds and his usage rate dwindled from 30% to around 16%.
I bring out these statistics only to show that even in a microcosm of 8 games, it's plain to see that there are still consistency issues with our big guy. My preseason hope that the "big 4" of Robin, Marcin, Markieff, and Channing Frye coalesce into a cohesive, complementary front court has yet to be realized. Gortat, as the Phoenix Suns' current breadwinner in the block, is earning 30% more minutes than Lopez. Markieff Morris, the best surprise of this early season, is outperforming the rest of the Suns front court in every category per 48 minutes, and Channing has been getting it done on the boards as well as from behind the arc. The only thing missing is a little bit of production from Robin Lopez.
I'm being a little too harsh here, of course. As strange as it is to say, the Suns have a small embarrassment of riches at the 5 spot. Gortat has been solid so far, and Robin, though inconsistent, has shown flashes of being he enforcer and finisher that he revealed two seasons ago that he could be.
Where does he go from here? With the Suns at 4-4 and Gortat holding the line at center, I can only expect the contribution from Robin to continue increasing. Last season, he was under extreme pressure to perform as the focal point of the Suns' frontcourt. With a solid partner at the 5, he doesn't have to carry that burden and can focus instead on improving his overall game. What we saw flashes of in Game 1 of the 2011-2012 season, I think we'll see much more of as the season goes on.