Lakers defeat Suns: If the game's dynamic could be summed up in three words...
In this particular case, the Lakers were decidedly General Zod and the Phoenix Suns were a U.S. Government not yet in contact with Superman, who eventually discovered how to reverse the Kryptonian super-villains powers through some trickery inside the Fortress of Solitude. Do the Lakers have any weaknesses? Sure, just like every team in the league. But as demonstrated on Thursday evening, when focused on pushing strengths, it's gonna take an awful lot of a certain neon green substance to bring the purple and gold to its knees.
The 121-102 win over Phoenix was a triumph of pushing advantage, a topic elaborated upon heavily by BK during yesterday's postgame summary. Namely, the Lakers are a rather large squad, an advantage they decided to illustrate while pushing the Suns into two-loss territory. The teams met last night as the reigning Western Conference Kahunas, but as ESPN's J.A. Adande notes, that differential in mass made it difficult to debate which squad's actually the toppest of dogs.
To watch the Los Angeles Lakers play the Phoenix Suns
over the past two-plus seasons is to see why NBA general managers value
size over quickness, why you never hear 40-yard dash times discussed at
draft time but you do hear vague terms such as "length." Big beat little Thursday night and it wasn't even close. Neither has
the series been lately. The Lakers have won seven of their past nine
games against the Suns, from the Mike D'Antoni days to the Terry Porter and Shaquille O'Neal slow waltz and back to the running under Alvin Gentry.
For someone who does all that Artest does, expecting him to create off the dribble, handle the ball through crowds, nail contested jumpers or have tremendous court vision might just too much to ask. Apparently, it's also too much to ask that he just not do those things. He's not very good at them, and if you don't believe me, I invite you to get out your pencil and paper. Chart Ron Artest creating in isolation, and how many points per possession the Lakers end up with. So far this season, it's about as inefficient as that team gets.
And bear in mind, the Lakers have been able to take ownership of an opponent's paint without the services of Pau Gasol, whose hamstring injury has an open-ended time line for a return. BK and I have said on many, many, MANY occasions that hammys are tricky, which is why this slow recovery isn't necessarily shocking. But whether because fans are panicky by nature or, well, the K Brothers are kinda disreputable, nobody really listens to us. But if you hear it from the mouth of Basketball Prospectus injury expert Will Carroll, guest of our most recent 710 ESPN Lakers PodKast, you might start taking our word for this.
Last night's win was more than just a triumph of bullying. Steve Nash is nothing if not a whiz at creating for himself and others, typically able to manufacture rallies for his Suns. Last night, not so much, thanks so a defense smartly prepared to slow his roll. Everyone worked cut off lanes and deny him the rock upon giving it up, and the lion's share of the credit should go to Derek Fisher. As he talks about in the video below, the key to battling Nash, capable of beating folks with his shot, dribble and vision, is often out-thinking him.
Another component for success was the generally strong showing from the Laker bench. But given their inconsistent start to the season, a few quality games in a row isn't likely to keep fans off the pine's back.
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