Los Angeles Lakers: 2006 playoffs

Lakers at Suns: What to watch

February, 19, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
A full 48 hours won't have passed since these teams battled in L.A., which means by definition very little has changed. In theory, the Lakers remain the superior team, even on the road that's doubled as a purple-and-gold Achilles' heel. However, familiarity doesn't prevent items to watch for. Here are three.

1. Marcin Gortat, roll-man extraordinaire

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
These two guys could play a big role in deciding Sunday's game.

Marcin Gortat may not boast Amare Stoudemire's name recognition, but has nonetheless played at an All-Star level since arriving in Phoenix last season. Specifically, he's excelled in pick-and-roll sets, providing Steve Nash his best partner in crime since STAT bolted to the Big Apple. The Lakers experienced firsthand Friday how dangerous he can be working in tandem with the future Hall of Fame point guard. A nice chunk of his 21 points came while on the receiving end of a bounce feed from Nash, and I don't see why either would stray from what's buttered his bread. Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Troy Murphy must take greater responsibility to monitor Gortat's whereabouts at all times. The Polish Hammer roaming free like an organic farm-raised chicken is a dangerous thing.

2. Pau Gasol's shooting prowess and focus

Gasol's accumulated excellent February numbers, but his shot has been noticeably off. The Grammy trip featured three games at 45 percent or below, and home cooking against Atlanta yielded a 9-for-22 effort. But such trends would theoretically be impervious to a date with the Suns. A bad defensive team by any standard, Phoenix is particularly vulnerable preventing shots at the rim or 10-15 feet out, areas where Pau is often deadliest. Thus, it raises eyebrows to see him go 4-for-13 from the field, especially when the looks were often clean by his own admission. That his focus in general appeared scattered didn't help perceptions, either.

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Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0