After a week-long layoff following their sweep of the Utah Jazz, the Los Angeles Lakers are ready for their Western Conference Championship match-up with the Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash’s black eye is healing, and his team is fresh following their sweep of the San Antonio Spurs.
The Sun’s sweep of the Spurs was no fluke as the team has continued to improve and jell since the beginning of the playoffs. The team is on a six-game winning streak coming into Monday night’s Game 1.
The Suns have posted an impressive record on the road in the playoffs. They have gone 4-1 away from the US Airways Center, including back-to-back wins to erase any hopes the San Antonio Spurs had of advancing to the game the Suns have been waiting for since 2005.
To the Suns, it seems like only yesterday that they lost the Western Conference Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks went on to lose to the Wade/O’Neal Miami Heat team that year in the NBA Finals.
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Suns general manager Steve Kerr thinks the nation is behind Steve Nash and the Suns, who are the assumed underdogs against the Lakers.
“I don’t know if sympathetic is right word,” Kerr said. “I think people just love Steve, and love watching him play. How could you not? He is the kind of player, if you don’t have a favorite team, you just watch the game and cheer for him. So people who are impartial in this series, I would guess the vast majority are rooting for Steve Nash.”
The Lakers are the favorites to advance to the Finals according to NBA Sportsbooks at -340. Kobe Bryant will try to lead his team to their second straight NBA Finals appearance.
The Laker guard has turned in another impressive post-season performance so far, scoring an average of 26.9 points per game. Bryant also leads the team in minutes with 38.5 per-game, a constant threat to take over a game at any moment.
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The final series before the NBA Finals will hinge on the ability of both team’s big men to stay healthy and on the floor. Robin Lopez is expected to return to action after missing the first two playoff rounds with a bulging disc. Phoenix expects Lopez to give the Suns a more imposing defensive presence in the paint, going up against the likes of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum
Bynum has been nursing his own injuries as of late, but has continued to perform despite the pain. The Laker center has averaged two blocks-per-game, and 10.3 points during the playoffs. He says he will put off treatment for a swelling knee that seemed to be getting worse as their series with Utah came to a close.
Online Sportsbooks have the LA Lakers as six-point favorites over the Phoenix Suns headed into Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals.