The Los Angeles Lakers are coming to town -- hide your babies and female reality TV celebs. The Phoenix Suns will, on the other hand, try and remain humble and not overlook the struggling Lakers, who have lost four of their last seven games. Oh my!
The good news for the Suns is that the Lakers played last night and then had to travel to Phoenix right after their win over Detroit in L.A. The bad news is that Kobe Bryant plays better on zero days rest than on one or two days rest. He's shooting 51.3 percent on back-to-backs and 42.8 percent with a day in between games. Go figure.
The key to solving the Lakers, according to Coach Alvin Gentry, is rebounding.
"To give up 18 to 20 offensive rebounds to this team right here (the Lakers), I think it's going to be really difficult to beat them, and it's going to be really difficult to keep them from getting 18 to 20 rebounds because they're one of the best rebounding teams in the league," Gentry said.
To accomplish that, Gentry wants his guys to turn and put a body on their opponent even if that means not getting the rebound themselves. That's a plan that's worked in the past for the Suns' bigs, but it requires wing players that understand and are committed to crashing the paint and grabbing those loose balls. Grant Hill and Jason Richardson killed the Portland Trail Blazers in the playoffs last year by doing that, but for Mickael Pietrus and Vince Carter, it's a new responsibility.
"I definitely think -- you've got Dwight Howard in there -- they're used to not being as responsible from a rebounding standpoint. But here, we have to rebound by committee as a team. That's the adjustment they have to make," Gentry said.
Another adjustment we can expect to see tonight is the debut of the Marcin Gotat/Robin Lopez "Great Wall Of Phoenix" pairing on the court. Gentry has been understandably reluctant to use these two inside players together for fear of bogging down the offense, but against the Andrew Bynum/Pau Gasol tandem for the Lakers, he sounds ready to give it a try.
"We'll try that as some stage tonight. Maybe early. Maybe really, really early," he said, implying that the two could start the game together.
As for Kobe Bryant, the key is always the same -- keeping him off the free throw line. The Suns have done a good job of that in their past few games and will likely use a combination of Grant Hill and Mickael Pietrus to cover him. Ron Artest continues to look lost in the Lakers offense, which makes it safe to have Vince Carter or Jared Dudley guarding him. If the Lakers want to try and post up Carter with Artest 10 times, the Suns would be happy to live with that.
This game tips off at 8:30 p.m. locally and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona and will also be on ESPN. The game will also be broadcast in 3-D for those who have that technology. Former Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach Mike Brown is doing the 3-D broadcast. He was seen in the hallway catching up with Suns GM Lance Blanks who previously worked with Brown in Cleveland.