Western Conference Finals Prediction: Lakers in 7
By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Geoff Nelowet:
The Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns will play game one of the Western Conference Finals tonight at the Staple Center with the Lakers being a moderate favorite. It is safe to say that the Lakers are more of a known quantity in this series, whereas the Suns have a number of question marks: will they continue to hit their 3s? Will they continue to play consistent defense? Can they maintain their up-tempo style that San Antonio failed to stop? Will the Suns’ bench play as well as they did in the last series? In short, the Suns are an unconventional, and with that comes a number of uncertainties.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have relied on a consistent inside presence. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have offered size, defense, low-post scoring and versatility throughout nearly the entire season, which has made Kobe Bryant’s job much easier. And this is what makes the Lakers so good: even with Lamar Odom and Ron Artest being inconsistent, this team still goes three deep in terms of game-changing players. Kobe is surrounded by a team that could likely do very well without him. Danny Ferry could probably learn a few things from the Lakers on how to alleviate the workload of a superstar basketball player.
For these reasons, the Lakers look like the better team – they are more consistent and they have a legitimate size and length advantage. The Suns, though, look like a much better team than they did in the regular season. Their bench has been superb throughout the playoffs with Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson, Jared Dudley and Goran Dragic providing a spark off the bench that has changed the dynamic in a number of games thus far. Jason Richardson has also been playing out of his mind – shooting 51% from the floor at 22 points per game. Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill have also made a huge impact on the defensive side of the ball that was missing in the regular season. This has been a very different Suns team in the playoffs.
With the Suns playing their best basketball in a long time, the Lakers will have to make some adjustments – on offense and defense. This has the makings of series with a strong “zig-zag effect” due to the fact that the Suns are extremely unorthodox and difficult to adapt to. This will be a long series, but the games might not always be competitive with one team blowing out the other one night followed by a reversal of roles in the next. This has been a common trend in the NBA Playoffs, and with these teams being an awkward match-up, it seems likely. At the end of the day, the Lakers will pull out at home in game 7 with superior inside play and defense.