The Suns may be fun, but they can't beat the Lakers. Down 0-2, things aren't looking good. KD was all information-y, now the Internet is all emotions...
Rob Mahoney, ProBasketballTalk: After the Lakers' dominant performance in Game 1, Alvin Gentry wisely noted that "[the Suns] can survive a Kobe game, but [they] can't survive a Lamar game, and then Pau playing extremely well, and then Jordan Farmar(notes) really coming in and having a solid game and then Artest playing the way he is.
He was right, in a sense. Gentry's statement deserves clarification, though: the Suns can survive a big scoring game from Kobe, but not necessarily a big game from Kobe. Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals could be Bryant's best performance of the postseason so far, and he only scored 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting. The real gem in Kobe's stat line was his 13-assist mark, and it was Bryant's facilitation of a brilliant Laker offense that brought L.A. their eighth consecutive win.
Kobe's 13 assists not only set a personal best for his playoff career, but according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, it was the highest assist total by any Laker since Magic Johnson matched the mark in 1997.
Seth Pollack, Bright Side of the Sun: The Suns simply have no answer for the Lakers when they are playing at this level. Credit to LA for stepping up their game and taking advantage of their advantages.
They didn't show it against Utah or OKC or for large parts of the season, but when they are playing like this with Ron turning down bad shots and hitting good ones, Pau and Lamar destroying in the paint and Kobe looking healthy again and, most importantly, playing together as a team ... the Suns simply have no answer.
They are who we thought they might be but hoped they weren't.
It is one thing to get beat by a better team, it's another thing to go down without putting up a fight and this is the most frustrating part of these losses.
Barbosa gets clobbered hard enough to draw blood and instead of at least coming back with a tough response, the Suns just fold up the tent and pack it in. That is hard to take. Harder than getting beat. That is the same old soft Suns that everyone outside of Phoenix predicted coming into this series.
What's worse, is a Suns team that doesn't look like they truly believe they can win.
Zach Harper, Hardwood Paroxysm: In the fourth quarter against the Suns in Game Two, [Paul Gasol] utilized pretty much every weapon he owns. He scored 14 points in a game in which the Suns had come roaring back in the third quarter to tie it going into the fourth quarter. He made five of his seven shots in the period and four of his six free throw attempts. The only times he was stopped in the period were on a missed jumper just below the free throw line and a left-handed hook shot away from a double team in which it looked like he got fouled by Amare.
I can't think of a more perfect big man to have on just about any team with his ability to score from all over, defend with great length inside, rebound at a high rate and move the ball around the halfcourt like a point guard. Unfortunately for the Suns, they have to face him and they don't have an answer for him.
Eric Freeman, The Baseline: The story of the game again was the Suns' inability to stop the Lakers' offense. Pau Gasol(notes) was dominant with 29 points on 11-of-19 FG, nine rebounds, and five assists, essentially running a layup drill against Amare Stoudemire. Ron Artest(notes) scored 15 of his 18 in the first half to help boost the attack, and Kobe Bryant(notes) went for 21 points and 13 assists in a stellar all-around game. Off the bench, Lamar Odom(notes) was once again a difference maker with 17 points on 7-of-10 FG and 11 boards, proving yet again that he has a sizable matchup advantage against Phoenix's big men.
Phillip, Forum Blue and Gold: Resolve.
It's just not something a coach can teach his players. Resolve is gained through experience. A team that has the resolve to grind out games in the Conference Finals is a team that has gone through all of the highs and lows that the NBA Postseason has to offer. During the course of the previous three post seasons, this Lakers team suffered an NBA Finals defeat, fought through a grueling, seven game series against the scrappy Houston Rockets and had to regain their championship swagger against a young, upstart Oklahoma City basketball team. When the Suns came roaring back to tie the game at 90 at the end of the third quarter the Lakers were put in a position where they would have to show a title defense resolve that they hadn't shown yet this postseason.
Tyler Lockman, Valley of the Suns: It may be time to issue an all points bulletin for the Phoenix Suns All-Star power forward, because he's nowhere to be found thus far in the Western Conference Finals.
After turning in a mediocre performance in Game 1 with 23 points (the team lead, to be fair) and just three rebounds, Amare Stoudemire disappointed again in Game 2 with 18 points and six rebounds (an improvement, but until I am typing rebounds in digits instead of words, there is work to be done). On top of that, Stoudemire led the Suns (in the bad way) with a minus-14.
Where has All-Star STAT gone? Where has the beast that turned in the best post-All-Star break performance of any forward in the NBA gone? Where has the dominant big man who was averaging 20.5 points and 9.0 rebounds and sort of playing defense gone?
There is the argument that Stoudemire has been distracted by the off-the-court incident involving his mother's arrest, but there is also the argument that the Lakers have simply shut him down. STAT just hasn't been himself. Though Stoudemire said he didn't regret saying that Lamar Odom had a "lucky" game in Game 1, he might now.
Stoudemire simply isn't matching up well with the Lakers interior players and is getting beat on the boards. Nine rebounds through two games is a paltry performance. Odom has 30...off the bench. Stoudemire's rebounding ineptitude through two games has been crippling to the Suns' efforts to get their offense going.
Sam Amick, FanHouse: Jared Dudley(notes) showed once again what he means to this Suns team, albeit in a losing effort. It wasn't just the fact that he found his shot again (15 points on 5-of-6 shooting), but he was scrappy and spirited in his defensive effort against Bryant before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Now perhaps if Channing Frye(notes) would have followed suit, it may have been a different story.
C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: I think we can all agree at this point that the Phoenix Suns are not what you would call an elite defensive team. I know pace plays a role, but I think that Jeff Van Gundy and Pat Riley would be rolling around in their graves right now if they weren't alive subjecting us to some of the worst color commentary imaginable or planning ways to undercut his head coach again, once his team looks ready to compete for championships. Pace or no, allowing 126 points per game, at a robust 1.33 points per possession, is ridiculous. Some of the poor defense isn't really anybody's fault. They don't have the size to deal with the Lakers inside, and you have to be willing to make certain sacrifices on defense in order to give copious amounts of playing time to an offensive prodigy like Steve Nash(notes). Then there are the "correctable" issues, like Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) having the defensive instincts of a designated hitter. In last night's game, any time the ball came anywhere near the paint, Amar'e stared at it like my dog stares at me while I'm eating a steak, with uninterrupted focus. That would be alright ... in a staring contest. But, in basketball you tend to want to pay at least a modicum of attention to the guy you are supposed to be guarding, lest they decide to run towards the basket. Amar'e apparently disagrees, proving his statement about Lamar Odom absolutely true. LO is supremely lucky to have Amar'e as his "defender".
But this isn't about the Suns defense. It's about the Lakers offense. Let's say Steve Nash wasn't one of the most famously bad defenders of all time (Yay, hyperbole!) and Stoudemire was capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time; how much of a difference would it make? The ways to stop the Lakers from scoring are disappearing faster than LeBron James'(notes) Q rating. The offense is supposed to be the weak link of this team, and perhaps it still is, but if a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link, the Lakers chain seems strong enough to tow a space shuttle at the moment.