Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns Preview: These guys again?

Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers will once again face off against the Phoenix Suns, the first opponent "lucky" enough to see the Lakers for the 2nd time.  If variety is the spice of life, the NBA schedule loves some bland cooking. 

Actually, by not seeing any one opponent twice until their 10th game, the Lakers are, by NBA standards, one of the lucky clubs.  Miami has already played New Jersey twice.  Speaking of New Jersey, out of their first 9 games, they've only had 6 opponents, having played two games already with Miami, Orlando, and Cleveland.  The Suns have already played the Grizzlies twice, so we will be their 2nd doubled up opponent, and it's the same story for most of the NBA.  I know it's easy to get lazy when making the schedule, but couldn't they at least have made it through the first month?

So we've already seen tonight's opponent up close and personal, and on that snap judgment, we can fairly conclude that the Phoenix Suns aren't exactly heading in the right direction.  That's not to say they are a bad team, and a 4-4 early record isn't exactly something to be ashamed of, but these guys were one game and a Ron Artest putback from participating in the Western Conference Finals last year, and the make up and temperament of this season's Suns team all point towards a mediocre run and either first round fodder for a higher Western Conference seed, or missing the playoffs altogether.  There are also unsubstantiated rumors that point guard Steve Nash, the face of the franchise for the past decade, might be on the trading block.  Sadly, any honest appraisal of the situation reveals that it's not a bad idea for Nash and the Suns to part ways.

The Suns are 3-2 since we last saw them, none results that surprise except for the win in Atlanta against the previously unbeaten Hawks (who went on to lose four straight, but still).  They last played Friday in Phoenix, winning in relative comfort over the Sacramento Kings.  How are they doing it?  The same way they always have, by being better than you at scoring the basketball.  They rate 2nd in the league in offensive efficiency.  Unfortunately for the Suns, they are going up against the one team in the league which has done a better job of scoring than they have, and they sport the 3rd worst defense in the league.  The cornerstone of their poor defensive play is their defensive rebounding, as the Suns are only pulling down 65% of opponents' missed shots.  Combine that with the Lakers' far superior size (and corresponding 32% offensive rebounding rate, good for 3rd in the league), and you can see that L.A. is just a nightmare of a match-up for the Suns.  If L.A. is anywhere near it's best, the Suns will have to play a perfect game just to keep it close.

The only question remains whether the Lakers will be at their best.  After a wonderfully strong start to the season, the Lakers last few games have seen the return of the lackadaisical effort that has become a calling card almost as recognizable as the whole winning championships thing.  Their effort against Minnesota was deplorable (though humorous), and they did better against Denver on Thursday, but as Dex pointed out, "better" included some interior defense which is pretty inexcusable against a team that was missing large chunks of their front-court.  Will the Lakers come out with intensity to respond to their first loss of the season?  Or will they come out lazy, buoyed by a comfortable road win against this very team a few weeks ago?  A Laker win is likely either way, but it'd be nice to see the Lakers come out with fire, instead of playing with fire.

Lakers

Suns

RECORD

8-1 (2)

4-4 (16)

PT. DIFFERENTIAL

10.4 (1)

0.6(15)

PACE

96.6 (6)

94.0(15)

OFFENSIVE RATING

116.1 (1)

111.5 (2)

Turnover Rate (Off.)

12.0 (1)

14.9 (21)

FTA/FGA (Off.)

0.222 (21)

0.201 (29)

Free-Throw %

80.5 (4)

72.9 (24)

3PT FGA/FGA (Off.)

0.25 (8)

0.28 (5)

3PT% (Off.)

41.7 (3)

38.7 (6)

Effective FG% (Off.)

51.8 (6)

53.2 (1)

True Shooting% (Off.)

56.1 (7)

56.4 (5)

Off Rebounding Rate

32.3 (3)

30.0 (7)

DEFENSIVE RATING

105.3 (10)

110.9 (28)

Turnover Rate (Def.)

13.9(19)

14.3 (16)

FTA/FGA (Def.)

0.201 (5)

0.194(4)

3PT FGA/FGA (Def.)

0.223 (16)

0.213 (11)

3PT% (Def.)

34.3 (11)

36.2 (17)

Effective FG% (Def.)

47.4 (6)

51.4 (24)

True Shooting% (Def.)

51.5 (4)

54.7 (19)

Def Rebounding Rate

69.0 (28)

64.8 (30)

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