Five things to watch in Lakers-Suns matchup
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (6-4) host the Phoenix Suns (4-4) Tuesday evening at Staples Center.
1. Can the Lakers limit their turnovers? This is an important variable regardless of the opponent. But the importance heightens against Phoenix. If the Lakers maintain their 16.7 turnovers they've averaged through 10 games against the Suns, they'll probably lose.
The Suns unsurprisingly have shown through eight games that they're much dangerous offensively when they run in transition. The Lakers simply won't be able to catch up because of their lacking athleticism if they continue committing turnovers?
2. How Shannon Brown perform in his return to Staples Center? Lakers guard Kobe Bryant made it clear he's not looking forward to guarding him because he considered him one of his "younger brothers." On paper, Brown's averaged only 8.3 points on 32.8% shooting this season, which bodes even worse than his inconsistent 42.5% clip last season with the Lakers.
But this storyline remains compelling just because of the conflicted feelings Brown and his teammates have regarding this game. Brown is well-respected in the Lakers' locker room, and Bryant even went so far to say after the Lakers' win over Memphis on Sunday that he doesn't want to guard Brown because he often mentored him.
3. Can the Lakers contain Steve Nash? Another top point guard, another immense challenge for the Lakers. Of course, this match-up never should center solely on how Nash fares one-on-one with Derek Fisher. It involves how the Lakers' collective unit ensures there's enough help and that Nash doesn't facilitate to his teammates as much as he can.
4. Kobe Bryant-Grant Hill match-up will be intriguing. Hill typically guards Bryant whenever the two meet up, and it should be captivating. Bryant, who's led the league in shots taken at 23, surely won't decrease that against the Suns. He said he still loathes Phoenix for eliminating the Lakers in the first round of both the 2006 and 2007 playoffs. Meanwhile, Hill has shown this season he still has what it takes as a 39-year-old to defend the opposing team's top players, even if he's an off-season removed from knee surgery.
5. How will Andrew Bynum fight through double teams? Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez will probably assume heavy minutes to minimize the presence Bynum and Pau Gasol bring. As Golden State and Memphis quickly found out, the best approach involves throwing constant double teams at Bynum. It remains to be seen whether Gortat and Lopez will play at the same time, since Channing Frye's outside shooting remains solid. But it's something for which Bynum should be prepared.
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will match up with Phoenix forward Grant Hill tonight at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times