It's sort of the difference between "too big to fail," and, "it's gotten too big."
One's a success despite its largesse, for whatever the reason. And the other's just a fatty-fatty-fat-fat. What the Suns have to do is turn the phrase "the Lakers are just too big" into something Laker fans say mournfully, as opposed to something NBA observers mention as quick analysis.
Too big had to equal "bad big," for the Suns to win. They have to absolutely dominate in the screen and roll, finding angles on their way to the rim, the pop-shootin' area, or the counters in ways that then "too-big" Lakers just can't handle.
This means, in order to stop the Lakers, the Phoenix bigs have to step up in the areas that don't tend to worry you straightaway. The Suns bigs have to hit shots.
Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) has to make it so Pau Gasol's(notes) contesting defense doesn't matter. Jared Dudley(notes) has to play the four and play it well, stretching Lamar Odom(notes) out to try and defend the corner, something a converted small forward like LO doesn't even like to do. Channing Frye(notes) has to be on it; and he has to do better than to hit his averages when wide open.
That's important. Years ago, Reggie Miller pointed out what he saw as the way that most shooters seem satisfied with hitting or slightly bettering their typical shooting percentages in a game, regardless of whether they were open or not. Reggie hated that. Miller hated himself if he didn't knock in 70 percent of his open three-pointers, rather than just being happy with a 2-of-5 performance. And while the 70 percent expectation might be a little exaggerated, you understand where he's coming from. An open shot can't just be another shot. It's an opportunity that you need to take advantage of, because you can always shoot contested shots.
And Frye will get open in this series. Unless Gasol and Odom have the defensive series' of their lifetimes (and I think big Pau already came through with that against Dwight Howard(notes) last June), Frye will be able to sneak open either as a third option in a screen and roll, the screener (and subsequent roller), or in transition. He's going to get looks, for three, and he can't always be satisfied knocking in 2-of-5. Though 2-of-5 is nice.
Stoudemire, too. He needs to make good, quick decisions on that end. Quick cuts, or quick pops. Quick drives, or quick shots. He needs to make the Lakers look too damn big. Robin Lopez(notes), a potential starter, needs to take charges and beat Los Angeles down the floor and generally ignore the world of hurt he's been through. That's tough, when you're that young and that inexperienced with rehabilitated injuries, but his quickness to the spot needs to make the Lakers bigs look too damn big.
Los Angeles' guards? They need to make the Lakers look too damn big. The lingering effects of 80 percent of a regular season spent underachieving offensively have carried over, and while all we've heard recently discusses just how the Lakers are going to use that size, Pau and Andrew Bynum(notes) can't bring the ball up, and they can't pass it to themselves at the apex of the triangle. They were too big, all season, and their Laker teammates didn't always act like they knew it.
It's up to, once again, Kobe Bryant(notes) and Derek Fisher(notes). Kobe just had his knee drained, and he hasn't been able to practice for a week. This is not good news for Laker fans because of the injury itself, but it also might be crummy news for Lakers backers because they could see Kobe get ultra-aggressive with the line drive jumpers in Game 1 and burn himself out early, while the Laker offense doesn't develop a rhythm. Fisher is the only guy that can talk Kobe out of it, but we haven't seen much of that this year. When the Lakers do go inside-out, it's because Kobe's working things the right way on his own.
I'm sorry, but very impressive spurts against the Thunder and Jazz aren't winning me over. I'm not going to pat the Lakers on the back for doing what they're supposed to do.
But I am going to do this:
Lakers in 6