Though the Lakers are favored to win the Western Conference Finals, the Phoenix Suns' bench will look to make the series closer than some experts think it will be.
The Suns are going to give the Lakers a hard time defensively when their second team steps onto the court.
The Lakers faced a depleted Utah Jazz team in the series before the conference championship. The opposite is true for their upcoming series against the Suns, who are heating up behind the three-point arc.
Phoenix knows they can go 10 deep at any point in the game with bench players like Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson, and Channing Frye.
Laker’s coach Phil Jackson recognizes the Suns' versatility. He knows the Suns can give him different looks at any point during a game.
“Well, their bench plays a different role as per-minute basis than my group does,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “So we see our starters having to play guys that are multiple-player guys in their roles.”
Jackson also knows that while the Suns' bench is very productive, he has his own impressive reserves coming off the bench. The Lakers have a wide variety of players that range from NBA veterans like Lamar Odom, to young players who can bring energy like Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown.
“It’s not quite favorable to just compare bench and bench productivity in this situation. I think our bench will do fine.”
The Lakers have progressed from the poor form they showed in their first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. James Harden outscored the Laker’s bench in Game 3 of that series scoring 18 points, while the Laker reserves scored just 14 points.
Lamar Odom is the leader of the second unit crew that matured over the second round and swept the Jazz. The Laker forward knows they will have to improve their performance if they are to hold the Suns' bench in check.
“They’re one of the deepest teams in the league. And they really shoot the three-pointer well. They get a lot from it. If we can limit their second-chance opportunities, stop their penetration. That allows them to get all their threes off.”
The player who might make the difference for the Suns is guard Goran Dragic. The Slovenian surprised the Spurs with Nash-type numbers during their series. Dragic helped the Suns bury the Spurs in Game 3, scoring 26 points and shooting five for five from three point range.
Dragic once scored 14 points against the Lakers during the regular season.
Online Sportsbooks have the Lakers as 6 1/2 point favorites to beat the Suns in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.