The Purple And Gold Blog and Don of With-Malice will be collaborating on a continuing daily digest on the Western Conference Finals featuring the Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Here's the first entry:
Don (With Malice): Well, here it all goes again. The Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, 4 wins shy of getting to their 3rd consecutive Finals series. However, the Phoenix Suns stand in the way of that particular destiny. But will they be a brick wall, or a speed bump? For my part - and I mean no disrespect to PHX - but I think it'll be tough... but leaning towards "speed bump". I think the Lakers get this in 5. Phoenix just lack the defensive presence, and will struggle with the length of the LA forwards.
The Purple And Gold Blog: I agree. I've actually heard both sides of the story, and I followed the Suns-Spurs series as well. The biggest reason why the Suns swept the Spurs was their ability to exploit San Antonio's the deterioration of their superstars' abilities and Pops' lack of Plan B when his best players are being taken out of the game. The Lakers will not only present a different beast all together for the Suns but a team that has more than enough talent and capabilities to dismantle whatever new-found glory they have. That said, Game 1 will only be their best chance of drawing first blood in this series. Lakers in 5 as well.
WM: From what I've seen, Suns fans seem to think that the biggest reason that 'they're going to win (the Suns)' is the match-up between Steve Nash and Derek Fisher. Now, Nash's great - but we've just seen Fish survive against Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. Now, I think Nash's had a better season than either - but Fish has a greater chance of matching up against the slower Nash than either of the other two - and even given that, LA still beat OKC and Utah. Nash is all class, and his vision and creativity are going to create some very real problems for LA... but not more so than the water-bug quick Westbrook or the fast/powerful Williams.
TP&GB: If Suns fans are relying on Nash's matchup with Fish to be their guide for their team's success in this series, then they've already lost. If they think Fish is a liability on defense, then they're ignoring the fact that Nash is THE worst defensive starting point guard in the league today. According to Fish after practice on Sunday, the Lakers are intent on making Nash play defense. If that's the case for this series, then that would mean that the Suns will have to compensate for every single player out on the floor because no Sun is capable of defending a single Laker starter one-on-one and that Nash will be forced to come out of the game for either a rest or because of foul trouble. That should be a major concern for Phoenix considering how vital Nash is to winning any game in the playoffs.
WM: The only things I'm a little worried about are:
- LA's difficulty in defending the pick 'n' roll, a Phoenix staple...
- The ability to consistently apply the advantages the Lakers have when on offense...
Phoenix are going to get points, LA just have to make sure they're patient, and don't force the shot - use the triangle and get the best of the individual match-ups on the floor.
TP&GB: There's no question Phoenix will score in this series. Nash is still the master of the P&Rs. Fish has certainly seen just about every single version of that too, and he's still aggressive in fighting through those screens. But the Lakers have done a good job at defending that lately minus their only lost to the Suns this season. I see Phoenix's perimeter defenders to actively helping out their inside defenders to try to discourage the Lakers from throwing the ball inside often and guys like Stoudamire and Brooks to play physical defense on both Pau and Andrew. But that is nothing the Lakers haven't seen in the playoffs. The real issue here is: will the Suns be able to stop the Laker offense enough from losing this series? Having no viable defender to put on either Kobe or Gasol, that will prove to be an impossible task.
WM: Spot on, and therein lies the rub for the Suns: when on defense, where do they have any advantage at all? Reversed, I see a few for LA... but Suns? I can't pick one.
I realise that basketball isn't a game of 1-one-1 multiplied 5 times... but it's an interesting way to look at it!
To be continued tomorrow...