Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (17-12) host the Phoenix Suns (12-18) on Friday evening at Staples Center:
1. Look for Kobe Bryant to try to have a big game. He still stews over those first-round exits in the 2006 and 2007 playoffs. Well, duh. But Bryant admitted that that plays into his mentality about why he goes on a scoring rampage against Phoenix. He did the same thing in the Lakers' 99-83 victory Jan. 10, when he scored 48 points despite feeling the early pain in the torn ligament in his right wrist. Derek Fisher has observed that Bryant loves to do this particularly against Grant Hill because he's considered a top defender and entered the league shortly before him.
This strategy may or may not be a good thing. Bryant's numbers have drastically dropped from January to February in points per game (31.2, 24.5) and shooting percentage (45.5%, 37.1%) even though the minutes have remained similar (39.2, 39.1). After going five-of-18 from the field in the Lakers' 84-76 win Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks, Bryant maintained he'd find various ways to receive better looks so he's not always meeting double or triple teams. Bryant didn't speak to reporters after Thursday's practice, so we'll have to wait to get our answers about how he'll adjust against Phoenix.
2. The Lakers have will have their hands full with Steve Nash. If Father Time hasn't already proved to be enough of an adversary, it's possible Derek Fisher could face some limitations against Phoenix. Though it's unlikely his 524 consecutive-game streak will be threatened, Fisher left Thursday's practice because of sinusitis. Meanwhile, Nash has maintained his efficiency despite turning 38 this year. He's taken on more of a scoring load this season without Amare Stoudemire. Nash leads the NBA with 10.7 assists per year. And, yeah, it's only been a week since the Lakers saw New York's Jeremy Lin and Toronto's Jose Calderon torch them in the backcourt.