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Lakers defeat Suns: If the game's dynamic could be summed up in three words...

November 13, 2009 | 11:03 am

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.

Whether you're talking Kobe Bryant posting up Jason Richardson enough to drive the hapless defender batty or Andrew Bynum failing to miss a beat in his overpowering return from a two-game absence, L.A.'s ability to out-physical an opponent was driven home like Miss Daisy.  And it's not just those two making hay down low.  Ron Artest is also capable of working the low block, even if isolated work (in the paint or otherwise) sometimes makes TrueHoop's Henry Abbott cringe

        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.

NBA NEWS

        -Byron Scott's dismissal opens up a plethora of questions marks down in the Big (not so) Easy.  In the meantime, the timing of events threw Phil Jackson for a loop.
        -Earl Boykins is back, this time with the Wizards.
        -Another day, another Warrior fussin' with Nellie.  On the bright side, between Monta, Anthony Randolph and Stephen Jackson, Don Nelson's Christmas shopping will be a breeze this season.
        -Chris Kaman has been separated from the team for virus-y reasons, not Tinsley-y reasons.
        -The Cavs are assuming they'll be without Delonte West for the immediate future.  If a task is needed to take the team's mind of West, they can help LeBron James with his quest to retire #23.
        -Spurs rook DeJuan Blair has made a young career out of overcoming obstacles.
        -Apparently, it's against the law to owe $822,500 in gambling debts.  Who knew?
        -Carl Landry gives a one-fingered salute to a recently retired Rocket.
        -James Harden could push Russell Westbrook for OKC point guard minutes.
        -Brandon Roy has added a new asset to an already considerable list: Flexibility.
        -Dime Mag interviews the Hawks' Josh Smith.

AK


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