The Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers are all set to tip off Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals series on Monday, May 17 at 9:00 pm EST on TNT. The Suns made quick work of the San Antonio Spurs with a 4-0 sweep in the semis and the Lakers followed suit with a 4-0 sweep over the Utah Jazz. If both of these teams can play as well as they did last round, we should be in for a treat. Odds makers believe Los Angeles will take the quick series lead, listing the Lakers as a 6.5-point favorite with the total set at 211.5 in Game 1. In this article, we’ll take a look at what each team needs to do to advance to the NBA Finals. Then, I’ll make my series predictions.

What the Suns need to do to win: Two things would go a long way toward helping Phoenix spoil the Lakers’ hopes of back-to-back titles. The first is controlling the tempo. The Lakers can play fast, and do at times, but they prefer to play in the half court so they can utilize their size and length to the fullest. The Suns need to make the tempo as fast as possible to keep the pressure on L.A. constantly. The Lakers won three of the four meetings between these two teams this season, holding the Suns to just 95.3 points per game in the three wins. The game that Phoenix won, it scored 118 points. The Suns averaged 109.5 points in their semifinal series with the Spurs, and they are going to have to keep the tempo fast and furious to score a lot of points in this series as well. The second thing that will be pivotal is the bench play of the Suns. Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Goran Dragic and Leandro Barbosa were all important parts of Phoenix’s second round sweep.

What the Lakers need to do to win:
 The Lakers did a great job of controlling the tempo during the regular season series.  They didn’t allow Phoenix to enforce their will on them, and the result was three wins in four meetings. The Lakers are a matchup nightmare because of all their length with Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. The Lakers have been at their best in these playoffs when they have made a concerted effort to get the ball to Gasol in the post. He has made all the right plays with the ball in that position. By looking inside, it will force Amare Stoudemire to guard. If the Lakers can get him into foul trouble, it will go a long way toward helping them win this series.

Prediction: Lakers in 6 – I expect Phoenix to put up a good fight, but at the end of the day, once again, the Lakers will have too much size and length on the interior for the opposition to match. Which ever team is able to enforce its will on the other will win this series. That was the Lakers during the regular season, and I see nothing changing here.

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