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On Air: The Official Blog of WSJU Sports

It’s that time of the year. Two teams who worked all season to get to this point and are four games away from their ultimate goal and eight games from achieving their ultimate goal, the NBA Championship. In the Western Conference Finals we have the Phoenix Suns, the run and gun team of the league and the Los Angeles Lakers, the team everyone wants to hate because they win every year but root for them because they want to say they rooted for the champs. Lets back-track for a moment and explain how these two teams got to where they are.

The Phoenix Suns finished with 54 wins and a #3 seed in the Western Conference. In the first round they took on the Brandon Roy-less Portland Trail Blazers winning the series 4-2. Yes, I said the Roy-less Trail Blazers and, yes, he did play but it wasn’t the Brandon Roy who could take over the game. Eight days removed from knee surgery, it was a surprise he even went. Even so, the Suns won the series and would go and face the monkey that has been on their back since the 2004 playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs. The Suns would shock probably the whole basketball world by defeating the Spurs in sweep fashion. Hey, even I had to check my computer three days later to make sure there wasn’t a virus going on. Never the less, they now face the Lakers.

For the Lakers, they finished the season with 57 wins and the #1 seed in the Western Conference; no surprise there. They would go and play the surprising team of the year, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the first round. While most experts predicted an easy series, Kevin Durant and company gave the Lakers all they could handle, running the series to six games, and almost seven, had Pau Gasol not hit the game winning lay-in. The Lakers would win the series 4-2 and face the Playoff Injured Utah Jazz. The Jazz played without Andre Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur, both out with injuries. The Lakers would match the Suns and sweep the Jazz.

Now on to their match up. Here are some keys for both teams if they want to win this series.

Suns

Don’t try to match the Lakers – The Lakers are the far more superior team, talent-wsie. With Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and of course Kobe Bryant, The Lakers are the favorites to win this series. Not so fast though. If the Suns can keep to their strengths and run the floor how they like to, this could be a long series for LA.

Steve Nash from the beginning – Nash isn’t young anymore but that hasn’t slowed him down. He has been on a complete tear this post season in both series against Portland and San Antonio, why stop now? Nash needs to play his game, get to the lanes like he always does and either get his two points or feed it easily to one of the four players on the court.

Don’t get slowed down – The Suns aren’t known for letting the shot clock run down. They run a drill in practice in which they have to score in 7 seconds or less. The Suns need to run and use their athleticism to over-match the Lakers, who do have some athleticism, but aren’t known for their transition defense–big plus for Phoenix.

Lakers

Get big – The Suns aren’t a huge team. Aside from Amar’e Stoudemire, Phoenix is a relatively small team. With the twin towers of Bynum and Gasol, the Lakers need to throw the ball down low and use their big men in the paint.

Kobe Bean Bryant –At the end of the day, the Lakers win when Kobe is on his A game or even on is B+ game. Kobe had some difficulties in the first series against the Thunder, but against the Jazz he was on a tear so for LA’s sake, they better hope Kobe goes Black Mamba all series long.

Transition Defense & Pace of the Game – I know that’s two things in one, but those are the two main components of stopping the Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash & Co. do not want to play a half-court game. They aren’t as effective that way as when they run loose. So, if the Lakers can slow them down, then the Suns have a lot to worry about and the Lakers will be smooth sailing.

Key Match Up – Kobe Bryant vs Grant Hill.

Grant Hill has to be ready to bump knees with Kobe, literally. I know fans out there will say Hill doesn’t have knees anymore but he has to go rent a pair if the Suns will have a chance in upsetting the best player in the league and his team. We have seen what happens when Kobe gets disrupted in a game. Grant needs to be a hill and slow Kobe down and keep the ball out of his hands. This will be the match-up that will be a huge factor in the series.

Prediction – As much as I would love an underdog series, I just don’t see the Lakers losing. Sorry Suns fans, but the ageless wonder Grant Hill and the two time MVP Steve Nash will not be advancing out of this round to go to the Finals. Look for the Lakers to take this in 6 games, but these will be some of the toughest 6 games LA has played in a while.

-Tim Dimas

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