To me this series will play out just like the Lakers and Thunder series.
You got a fast pace Suns team against the Lakers length.
I keep hearing the Suns have a deeper bench etc. but last time I check the Lakers have the best 8 man rotation in the NBA.
So who ever controls the pace will win the series.
Key to the game, and the series for that matter, is the pace.
If the Suns can manage the keep the game at a high tempo and limit the touches of Bynum and Gasol then they have a good chance.
If the Lakers are able to consistently set up their half court defense then the Suns are in a world of trouble.
Difference between jazz/thunder and the suns? The suns can actually close out games in the fourth when needed to unlike both of those teams that did not hit any of the big shots when it came down to it. Lakers got the best closer but suns are better at closing than the jazz and the thunder so closer games will be more interesting.
Both teams have gotten plenty of rest, and that helps the Lakers far more than the Suns. Kobe has been fresh, and will only be fresher come Monday - in other words, unstoppable. The bigs will have their way, but it won't be a blowout by any means. The Suns have a renewed sense of confidence, and Richardson has been playing fantastic.
The pace is critical, if Kobe can stop Nash like he did Westbrook, LA will be fine. We have home court, so that's a plus for LA.
Oh, and 1 more thing...
Kobe hasn't forgotten being taken out in both the 2005 and 2006 playoffs by the Suns. When asked if that still stings, "a little bit still, yeah" and this is bad news for Los Suns.
On paper, the only major matchup advantages I can see for the Suns are the obvious one in the pg position and also the fact I don't know who Bynum can guard on the Suns if they are not playing Collins or Lopez. When Frye is out there with Amare and 3 smalls, that means Gasol would have to guard Frye on the perimeter while Bynum guarded Amare. Gasol is a better defender than Bynum but you can't have Bynum chasing a guy around the 3 point line. Either he has to guard Amare or he has to sit on the bench. I don't believe he is going to be able to do a good job guarding Amare and when you double team him, he plays with 4 great shooters and it is very tough to recover defensively when he passes out of it.
The Blazers were a terrible matchup for the Suns because of their interior defense. When you have a guy like Camby you can put on Amare 1v1 for spells, this makes it hard to run your offense through him which is what the Suns do a lot of the time. This, combined with the tremendous heart of the Blazers team and some good coaching (attacking with Andre Miller against an inferior defender in game 1, starting Bayless in game 4 to exploit Nash) was enough to win them 2 games. While Duncan is a solid defender, he was not good enough to guard Amare 1v1 and I don't think anyone on L.A. is either which allows them to run their offense normally. Then there's the pick and roll. I hear L.A. fans talk about their great pick and roll defense but the fact is, the play is extremely difficult to defend against. You either have to switch defenders which is going to be impossible with the two guys you would have guarding Amare/Nash (and generally put the guy switching to Amare on his wrong side allowing him to explode toward the basket), run through the screen or rotate other defenders to compensate. The task of rotating is made even more difficult by the ability of the Suns to place 3 other dynamite scorers on the floor at the same time.
The great argument I hear from L.A. supporters is that they are too big for the Suns. I think perceptions are skewed at the moment because their size advantage over the Jazz was so massive and obvious. I don't think the same will apply in this series. I already have mentioned why I think Bynum may only be able to play limited minutes. In addition, the Suns outrebounded the Lakers in 2 of the season games and tied them once. I don't put too much stock into the games because both teams had various players not playing at different times, were in slumps/hot at different times, etc. However, this rebounding statistic does indicate to me that at least the Suns are not going to be dominated in the same way Utah was.
Defensively, I think the Suns will be alright. The Lakers have a couple of fairly soft spots offensively (Fisher, Artest) that allow some of the Suns weaker defenders (Nash, JRich) to "hide". Channing Frye's defense hasn't been talked about much but watching him guard Duncan, I was quite impressed by his effort. Amare's defense has also improved dramatically this year. Neither is going to be an all-nba defender any time soon but I feel they are both reasonably competant at this point and are not the defensive liabilities that people are imagining. Gasol, in particular, is likely to draw some double teams. Whether the other Lakers (Artest, Fisher) can hit their looks is going to be crucial in this series because I expect they will get quite a few.
Then there's Kobe Bryant. The thing about him is, you're not going to shut him down completely...no one is. As everyone should realize, the Suns will be guarding him primarily with Grant Hill and Jared Dudley. Hill's defense has been amazing so far this postseason (and regular season). He's not as quick as he used to be but he knows how to defend and gives a heck of an effort. Dudley is just a pure hussle guy who will give you quality minutes. I think the key thing here for the Suns is that Kobe will probably be playing 40+ minutes per game while they have 2 fresh guys to switch out and chase him around. As I said, Kobe will get his, he won't be shut down completely...but I think the Suns will defend him just as well as most other teams could.
The Suns are playing 0.800 basketball since January 28, playoffs included. They just swept the Spurs who, despite current allegations of being too old, beat the Heat(road), Thunder(road), Cavs, Celtics(road), Magic, Lakers(road) and Nuggets(road) in the last month of the season. Then they beat the second seed in the west. The Lakers beat the Thunder but lost 2 games, only delivered one blowout and very nearly lost game 6. They beat the Jazz team who they match up with ridiculously well without Okur (making them match up even better). A sweep is always impressive but 3 of these games were close. The Suns are playing a whole lot better than the Jazz and match up better.
lakers in 5, lakers are too long and tall inside, suns only have stoudamire thats a threat inside, frye can shoot threes, but he wont do anything inside, while tha lakers have 3 inside threats in gasol,bynum and odom. kobe wants to beat the suns bad anyway for what happen in 06 and 07, steve nash will do well, but it will be a challenge for richardson and hill
According to Jeff's words, I should post prediction in the two previews threads? NVM, here they are:
Western Conference Finals:
(1) LA Lakers 4-2 Phoenix Suns (3)
Should be a close series. The Suns may not match well against Lakers as most homers would predict, but keep in mind that they believed the Nuggets didnt match up well against the Lakers either last year but now they turned out to be the team Lakers fear the most in the league. The Suns can make it a six or even seven games series, but I still wouldnt bet on them winning the Western Conference unless Bynum is out for serason. Lakers in 6.
Game 1: Phoenix 95-112 LA Lakers
PHO: Jason Richardson 10-19, 27pts, 5reb, 5ast
LAL: Kobe Bryant 13-23, 36pts, 4reb, 4ast
Lakers lead series 1-0
Game 2: Phoenix 123-118 LA Lakers(OT)
PHO: Steve Nash 8-14, 22pts, 3reb, 16ast
LAL: Pau Gasol 11-16, 29pts, 12reb, 7ast
Series tied 1-1
Game 3: LA Lakers 105-99 Phoenix
LAL: Kobe Byrant 12-27, 31pts, 6reb, 3ast
PHO: Amare Stoudemaire 10-25, 28pts, 19reb, 1ast
Lakers lead series 2-1
Game 4: LA Lakers 101-122 Phoenix
LAL: Ron Artest 7-16, 21pts, 7reb, 7ast
PHO: Steve Nash 8-18, 25pts, 2reb, 18ast
Series tied 2-2
Game 5: Phoenix 111-119 LA Lakers
PHO: Jason Richardson 12-21, 38pts, 4reb, 2ast
LAL: Kobe Bryant 15-30, 45pts, 4reb, 4ast
Lakers lead series 3-2
Game 6: LA Lakers 124-115 Phoenix(OT)
LAL: Kobe Byrant 14-29, 42pts, 3reb, 5ast
PHO: Goran Dragic 11-12, 33pts, 2reb, 3ast
Lakers win series 4-2