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Things to watch in Lakers-Suns matchup

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1. How can the Lakers replicate the same type of effort against Detroit tonight against Phoenix.The uncertainty goes beyond the fact the Pistons are 11-24 and have had their own inner turmoil among players and coaching staff. After opening the season with an 8-0 record, the Lakers haven't established a consistent pattern in building off impressive performances. The Lakers capped with a five-game winning streak with a 98-91 victory Nov. 23 against the Chicago Bulls, with the team's resiliency and experience helping the Lakers overcome the challenges. They followed that with their first four-gme losing streak since 2007, a stretch that marked the beginning of the Lakers' current malaise. The Lakers responded with a 5-1 trip in mid-December, but all the wins came against sub. 500 opponents and allowed them to mask their inefficiencies without becoming vulnerable in the standings. Another three-game losing streak ensued, followed with a signature and team-balanced win last week against New Orleans. The Lakers followed that with an uninspiring win against Philadelphia and then a 19-point loss to Memphis.

The Lakers made a start in dismantling Detroit. But what this means entirely? It's hard to say, but the Lakers will provide more answers once they tip against the Suns. Fortunately for the Lakers, Phoenix (14-18) is a ripe opponent at this point in time. The Suns have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games, rank last in total defense and are also last in rebounding. 

2. Will Ron Artest build off his performance against the Pistons?It wasn't so much the stats that made Artest stand out Tuesday against his Detroit. His eight points on three of eight shooting appears fairly modest. But it's the way he picked his spots in the offense, came up with two timely steals and was part of a Lakers' 16-2 run to open the third quarter. All of this came against the backdrop of a report from Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski that said Artest had a confrontation with Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, something Jackson acknowledged but said the conversation wasn't loud and something Artest avoided talking about in depth.

Even if Kobe Bryant argued the Lakers, including Artest, should use the scrutiny as a teachable moment, it's unpredictable how this will affect Artest's relationship with the team. Artest made it clear to The Times' Bill Plaschke, among other reporters, that he felt betrayed that the story got out after working diligently the past season in restoring his reputation. Though the motives likely pointed to wanting to find a way for Artest to spark a stagnant start to the season, that may not be the end result. Artest responded on the court in appropriate fashion, but more details will likely emerge out of this situation before it becomes clear what the end result entails.

3. Don't expect Phoenix to light it up from three-point range. The Suns dropped a franchise-record 22 three-pointers, a feat the Lakers rightfully chalked up as nearly impossibly to duplicate and a feat the team also wrongfully downplayed. It's very unlikely the Suns could eclipse that milestone, especially since Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu made 12 of those 22 shots and have since been traded to the Orlando Magic. Channing Frye has also shot 33.7% from downtown in the past nine games. This shouldn't be an excuse for the Lakers to sag defensively considering it's been a season-long issue. But at least they won't get embarrassed in such franchise-setting fashion again.

4. The Suns may shuffle their lineup against the Lakers. The Arizona Republic's Bob Young details how Phoenix lately has featured a small lineup with Grant Hill and Mickael Pietrus at forward and Vince Carter and Steve Nash in the backcourt. But with the Suns featuring the Lakers' frontline in Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, it's possible Phoenix will feature Robin Lopez, Frye and Marcin Gortat. 

Considering the Suns has managed well when forcing the Lakers to guard them from the perimeter, it's still conceivable Phoenix would stick to their original plan. That's why it's critical Bynum, Odom and Gasol have big games so the Suns have no other choice to worry about guarding the inside. That would then leave the Lakers of not worrying about stretching themselves out on the perimeter, an area they're not as well equipped in guard. 

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Phoenix guard Steve Nash, left, tries to drive past Lakers guard Derek Fisher during the first half of the Lakers' 121-116 loss Sunday at Staples Center. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (12)

The comments to this entry are closed.

I would like to see all the Lakerholics posting after tonight BEATDOWN, don't hide from you're keyboards. This is going to be NICEEEE, come on the blog and take it like a MAN. Hell, has MAMBA24 came back YET? Just Sayin....

-Modified repost compost for a few minutes ago-

Another Ryan Seacrest production?

Go on, go on!

'...will feature storylines involving Odom and Kardashian living together as well as Khloe's brother, Rob, becoming a "semi-permanent houseguest," according to a news release.'

Really?

'They are funny, dramatic, opinionated, and we intend to capture all this, along with the unvarnished reality of their lives together and apart, since each is constantly followed by their own celebrity spotlight"

Too rich!

'It's also being floated that an episode would address Odom's desire to have children'

Stop it, just stop! (To breed familiarity)

You had me at Ryan Seacrest!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

'I'd watch it'

Posted by: justanothermambafan | January 05, 2011 at 02:37 PM

Shockeroo!

'Me too'

Posted by: justanon | January 05, 2011 at 02:43 PM

Bahhh, bahhh, bahhh, bahhh...

'Not watching...'

Posted by: Magic Phil | January 05, 2011 at 02:53 PM

Hey, that's not how we're supposed to line-up pal.
Prepare for a cat fight!
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

All's happy in Laker-Land, for a day or two.

Do you think you've got poor Phoenix locked up?

Go Kings!

Sonnybelfast

Posted by: Sonnybelfast | January 05, 2011 at 05:18 PM

Bumyn is supposed to be our savior!

Stats: 99 points, 66 rebounds, and 14 blocks in 11 games.

SAD!!

Not improving and Not getting it done!
Looks Slow and Lethargic,
How was playin' NBA2K Getting him ready for some 'real' ballin!

Not our Deliverer - Let's trade the Bum

Get out of the way
and
Let Kobe get another Scoring Title!

Great quote by Kobe when asked if he planted the yahoo story.


“No,” Bryant said with a laugh, shaking his head as he walked out of the locker room.
“I like that you think I’m that smart, but that’s some next level (expletive),” Bryant said. “DO I LOOK LIKE PHIL?”

Sasha Vujacic just hit the GAME WINNER to beat the Bulls.

Sasha has actually taken over Farmar's minutes at the ends of games.

@Mr. Laker, and the white house isnt one too!!!??? so dont get this high and mighty attitude. I know you, you like to blast everything and everyone so dont go there okay!!!!!

DOUBLE TALK?


Phil Jackson who is the master of hypocrisy and contradiction feigned concern that Ron Artest may have felt betrayed by the release of the yahoo story. Did Phil forget that Ron feeling betrayed in the media was why Ron confronted him In the first place?

Phil Jackson, the man who betrayed a whole team by writing a book of private conversations is now concerned about his players being betrayed in the media?? Go figure

Good for you Sasha...

Bynumite is the savior...

#17 Coming Up...

You beat me to that post, ltlfl.

Nice to see Sasha doing well.

Hell will freeze over before the LAT "reporters" think to search out the reasons why PJ tried to humiliate him before he was traded.

@RUFUS

I don't know what the H}LL you're talking 'bout.

I'm been trying to trade the Bumyn for the last three freaking years!

Trade the Video Game junkie for Salary dump or for future drafts, we could get lucky on some potential. His Upside is more Downside and he is a liability on both ends of the court! He is a Could of, Would of, Should of, but for whatever reason, maybe even bad luck, he is a Has-Been!!

Just get out of the Way
and let
KOBE,
Return Us to the Promised Land!!!

The Lakers should go back to the basics of basketball, lob the ball or pass the ball inside and let Bynum, Gasol and Lamar take this game against the Suns. If they move the ball well and protect the pick and roll they will win tonight's game. As for Sasha, he is really showing his talents in New Jersey, he is making those 3's, making plays for his teammates and it seems he is adjusted pretty well with the Nets. Good for him and hope he continues to improve his game. Lakers 3 peat and beyond....

Nice one Sasha! Machine shoot ball win game!

I am looking forward to a good game tonight. I hope I see the "D" again.

I am a Lakerholic.


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