Phoenix Suns Playoff Hopes Hinge on Whether Alvin Gentry Starts Marcin Gortat

Bart GadburyContributor IIIMarch 24, 2011

The Polish Hammer
The Polish HammerChristian Petersen/Getty Images

With the Phoenix Suns currently in 10th place in the West, a run for the 2011 NBA Playoffs is becoming less and less likely. Last night's triple overtime thriller against the Lakers really showed the grit and determination of the Suns, even though it resulted in another close loss for Phoenix.

Phoenix has to make a change if they're going to have any chance in competing for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. 

The change is obvious: start Marcin Gortat at center, and put Robin Lopez on the bench where he belongs. 

Not only was Lopez ineffective against the Lakers (and just about any team this season), but he was overmatched, intimidated, and outplayed by the bigger, more skilled Laker bigs. Lopez only played nine minutes and 55 seconds of the entire 63 minute game. (In fact, Luke Walton saw more floor time than Lopez.)

And no, he didn't foul out.

Lopez started both halves, but with him in the game the Suns saw their deficit grow to 21 points in the third quarter. 

Gortat, on the other hand, spurred the Suns to an incredible fourth quarter comeback with 24 points and 16 rebounds. His ability to run the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash, shoot the mid-range jump shot, body-up opposing players, and rebound make him a far superior player than Lopez. 

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Give him the reins, Coach!

It's not that Gentry isn't giving Gortat minutes. He is. But basketball is a game of matchups. And you should want your best players playing against your opponent's best players. 

It's ridiculous to play Lopez for four minutes at the beginning of the game, play Gortat the remaining 20 minutes of the first half (no subs), repeat this in the second half, and expect Gortat to maintain the energy and efficiency needed to win basketball games. 

The smart thing would be to play Gortat with the first team, getting starters minutes, and the deserved credibility that comes with that role. 

Most importantly, the Suns will win more ballgames.