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On Monday night, the Western Conference playoffs kick off with a great Game 1 matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix Suns (+6.5) @ Los Angeles Lakers
Monday May 17th, 2010
9:00 ET, Staples Center
Phoenix Notes: The Suns reached this point in the season in spite of the fact that few thought that they were deserving. The San Antonio Spurs were supposed to knock the men from the deserts out of the postseason in the second round, but instead of doing that, they were erased in the minimum four games. The Suns are run by G Steve Nash, who shot over 46 percent from downtown in the first two rounds of the playoffs. F Amare Stoudemire is about to have his biggest test of the postseason having to play a long series against the LA bigs . So far this postseason, Stoudemire has scored 20.5 points to go with 7.0 boards per game. The leading scorer in the playoffs for HC Alvin Gentry is G Jason Richardson at 21.5 points per game. The Suns are undefeated in these playoffs when he scores at least 20 points, and he has been a lethal shooter, capitalizing on 51.0 percent of his shots from the field overall and a blistering 51.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Los Angeles Notes: Remember when the Lakers fans were calling for G Kobe Bryant's head? All of a sudden, he has scored 30+ points in five straight games. To no one's surprise, LA is 5-0 in those five. After surviving that long series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers came back and took the Utah Jazz out in four games as well. F Pau Gasol is going to have his work cut out for him in this series, as he hasn't had to run at this tempo or play against a team as physical on the inside as Phoenix could be with him. However, so far, Gasol has passed his tests with flying colors, averaging 20.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. C Andrew Bynum is still battling a knee injury, and though he is expected to play, HC Phil Jackson is very concerned that his young center might not be able to keep up at this tempo with his ailment.
Trends of Note: The regular season series ended three games to one both SU and ATS in favor of the Lakers. The Suns are 20-6 ATS in their L/26 games against teams with a winning percentage of at least .600. They're also 20-8-1 ATS in their L/29 following an SU victory. However, when playing on at least three days of rest, they're only 6-13-1 ATS in their L/20. The Lakers are only 3-11 ATS in their L/14 games following an ATS victory and just 3-8 ATS in their L/11 divisional games. However, they are 5-1 ATS in their L/6 overall since Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
The Final Word: If the Suns can get out of the blocks in a hurry and force the pace of this game, this could be a great spot for an upset. With as many days off as these two teams have had, pretty much anything could happen. We're still not convinced that the Lakers are that much better than the Suns are, and we're going to hope that the visitors can find a way to eke out a very close Game 1. The tempo of this series will be set with an upset, as Los Angeles is going to be behind the 8-ball in a hurry.
Prediction: Phoenix 111 – Los Angeles 108