With a solid half-court offense and vastly improved defense, the Phoenix Suns are a dangerous squad right now as they prepare to face the Lakers in the West Finals.
Compared to the regular season, the NBA playoffs are the cream filling inside the Twinkie. But apparently someone snuck into the factory and substituted sour cream. This year’s postseason may rank near the top of the least competitive when it’s done.
One can only hope the Western Conference Finals showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns that tips off at Staples Center next Monday will turn into must-see TV.
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Dallas and San Antonio were supposed to be the big threats to the Lakers in the West, not this undersized band of sharpshooters. But Phoenix is not the seven seconds or less defenseless bunch of Mike D’Antoni.
The Suns dispatched San Antonio in four games with depth and defense, aspects that have been sorely missing in playoffs past.
On paper, the defending champs have big advantages over Phoenix as they did the Utah Jazz. The Suns basically don’t have anybody to guard Kobe Bryant and they don’t have the size to match up with the Lakers.
However, something has clicked with Phoenix that makes it dangerous. The Suns are a very, very good half-court offensive team because of the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash and Amare’ Stoudamire and a fleet of shooters.
Nash has declined slightly the last couple of seasons and his turnovers (4.4 per game) are the highest among playoff guards, but he is still hitting huge shots and dealing out nine assists a night.
Los Angeles is playing its best basketball of the season, looking championship ready and easily erasing the sky-is-falling impulses that surrounded the team early on.
In addition to their height advantage and their ability to handle the Suns over the last two seasons, the Lakers are also bringing an attitude with them. They haven’t forgotten that Phoenix eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs two years in a row, in 2006 and 2007.
The Suns led the NBA in three-point accuracy (41.2 percent). Los Angeles led the league in three-point defense (32.8 percent allowed). In the regular-season, Phoenix made just 33.3 percent on three-pointers vs. the Lakers—and the Suns won the game it shot the 3-ball the best (12-of-33, 36.4 percent).
The Suns have lost seven of their last 10 at Staples Center. In their initial visit this season way back on Nov. 12 they were blown out as 7 ½-point dogs, 121-102, and in the return match on Dec. 6 suffered a 108-88 beatdown as nine-point pups.
Bryant averaged 27.5 points in the regular-season against Phoenix, shooting 54 percent from the field.
Los Angeles has passed five of its last six postseason tests ATS and it has cashed three in a row for the first time in more than three months. The last time the Lakers grabbed the green in four straight games came at the end of January.
The Suns have ‘covered’ six straight and eight of their last nine.
Most offshore books opened Los Angeles as 6 ½-point favorites in Monday’s opener of the best-of-seven series, with the ‘total’ set at 212. The Lakers are 3/1 choices to advance to the NBA Finals. Phoenix fanatics can get 5/2.