Key Reserves: C Marcin Gortat, SF Mickael Pietrus, PF Hakim Warrick, SF Jared Dudley, PG Aaron Brooks
Out: C Andrew Bynum (Suspension)
The Lakers (50-20) continued their dominating play with a big win over Portland on Sunday night at Staples Center. The Blazers, as always, gave the Lakers all they could handle, but a couple of old-reliable’s made sure the purple and gold escaped with a victory. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher made clutch fourth-quarter plays, both on offense and defense, that secured the Lakers their 12th win in their last 13 games.
The purple and gold welcome the Phoenix Suns (35-33) into Staples Center on Tuesday night. This will mark the fourth and final meeting between the Pacific Division rivals. The Lakers have taken two out of the first three games, but they have yet to play this new-look Suns squad at full strength.
Phoenix were big time players at the trade deadline with their multi-player deal with Orlando, and they also acquired PG Aaron Brooks from Houston – and we all know how Brooks torches the Lakers.
Despite the new faces, this is the same old Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash is still the catalyst of the “Seven Seconds or Less” offense head coach Alvin Gentry adopted from former Phoenix head man Mike D’Antoni. Steve Nash is another year older, but he is showing no signs of aging. Once again, Nash is averaging over 11 assists per game, while making role players much better than they are. It seems as if Vince Carter is still trying to adapt to his new team. Since being acquired by the Suns in mid-December, Carter has had 13 games in which he has scored 10 points or less.
The front court in Phoenix is not one that is typical of the NBA. The Suns forwards looks to spread the floor with outside shooting, while C Robin Lopez is not much of an offensive threat. Grant Hill is a guy who has found refuge in the Valley of the Sun. Hill’s career was seemingly over after a plethora of injuries while in Orlando, but he was able to find the fountain of youth with Phoenix. PF Channing Frye has developed into one of the most deadly three-point shooters in the league. Frye has attempted 351 shots from behind the arc, and is shooting 40% from distance; if you leave him open, he will burn you.
The Suns bench is very dangerous, especially SF Jared Dudley. Dudley seems to save his best games for the Lakers. In their last meeting, Dudley lit the Lakers up for 21 points on 8-11 from the field and six rebounds. The purple and gold came out victorious in that game, but Dudley must be kept at bay. PG Aaron Brooks is used to torching the Lakers, but now as a backup, he will have much less time to put his imprint on this game. PF Hakim Warrick, and C Marcin Gortat provide size and athleticism in the front court that could hurt the Lakers with Andrew Bynum sideline by a suspension for his hard foul on Minnesota F Michael Beasley.
Three Keys to a Laker Victory:
1. Corral Steve Nash – Nash has the ball in his hands 90% of the time, and his success determines the success of the Suns.
2. Keep Suns Bench Under Control – Phoenix relies on their bench to bring a ton of energy, the Lakers cannot allow the Suns bench to have a huge night.
3. Control Transition Game – Phoenix always looks to push the ball, and the Lakers must get back on defense to limit transition opportunities.