Lakers - Suns Preview: Avoid The Solar Flare

The sun is a giant ball of flaming gas which provides our comfortable little planet with the light and heat (read: energy) needed to sustain life. Its presence is constant, even if our frame of reference to it is always changing. The energy provided by the sun is also constant, except in rare circumstances in which magnetic energy in the sun's atmosphere builds up to a breaking point, releasing ginormous amounts of energy to the universe. This is called a solar flare.

The Phoenix Suns are a collection of basketball players of varying skills. As recently as two years ago, they had a firm identity as a fast-paced team that could score better than anybody else out there, but today's version plays at an average pace and below average offensive efficiency. The pieces either don't make sense anymore, never made sense in the first place, or are named Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat. The energy provided by these Suns is less than it has been in previous seasons, and the Lakers' frame of reference to the Suns hardly ever changes.

The Los Angeles Lakers will play the Phoenix Suns for two straight contests--tonight and again on Sunday--and it's a fantastic opportunity for the Lakers to extend their two-game winning streak with a couple victories against a sub-par opponent. As long they avoid any solar flares.

The Suns are not a very good defensive team. They haven't been for years. I'm sure that at some point in their 44 year history, the Suns have fielded a roster that excels on the defensive end of the court, but in the past decade, the Suns haven't really been able to stop much of anybody. It hasn't mattered, because nobody has been able to stop them either. But now, they are not the same team offensively, and they are the same team defensively. A quick look at 82games.com shows that the two positions the Suns struggle with the most are power forward and center. The Lakers happen to have a pretty decent duo manning those positions. The Lakers also have a pretty decent shooting guard with a memory long enough to remember how much he hated losing to the Suns in 2006 and 2007. Kobe Bryant always seems to reserve his best for Phoenix.

All of this leads to the obvious conclusion...the Lakers have a massive advantage in this match-up. The key to winning is simply to make sure the Suns don't have an offensive explosion. Currently ranked 20th in league-wide offensive efficiency, it doesn't seem like there's much risk, but the Suns still have a team filled with offensive-minded personnel who can go off under the right circumstances. Steve Nash is still putting up the kind of numbers that make your head spin, shooting an obscene 56% from the field as a small guard. Marcin Gortat's ability to form the roll half of a pick-and-roll partnership (come to think of it, both the pick and the roll come from the same guy) has been toiling away in obscurity in Orlando for years, and now he not only gets the opportunity to play a starring role, that opportunity comes next to one of the best in the business at providing. It's a lethal combo, and it will be aided because the Lakers tend to make any pick-and-roll look like a lethal combo.

That's not all, but the rest of the weapons in Phoenix's arsenal are a bit more inconsistent. Jared Dudley is hit or miss, but he can knock down outside shots at a decent clip. Channing Frye is more like hit or miss, miss, miss, miss, but every now and then he can explode for 20+ points. Grant Hill, Shannon Brown...none of these guys scare you on a nightly basis, but all of them are capable of making you suffer if they find the right formula for the evening. These are the folks the Lakers must limit in order to ensure success. Keep all the role players quiet, and the Suns will fold pretty easily. Allow the energy to build up and explode, and you might just see a rare occurrence...a Suns win.

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