The Suns did compete, I have to give them that. This was another double-digit loss that saw the Lakers drop 124 points, but the game was tied in the third quarter, and it was a Jason Richardson(notes) missed three-pointer away from being a five point game with a few minutes left to go in the contest. The Suns, most of them at least, did what they could. The Lakers are just too good.
Kobe Bryant(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes) are a tandem you can't answer for, at this point. Either Laker sees the floor so well that doubling is certain death. But with either a 37-year old on a surgically-repaired ankle or a converted power forward guarding Bryant, and a doof-deluxe in Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) guarding Gasol, the Suns, especially, have no chance.
Bryant just played it slow and cool, early on. Nine assists in the first half, just peering over the top of that Suns D, waiting for any bit of movement, finding the open guy once the double kind of (barely) approached. Apologies for inviting these comparisons, but it was LeBron James(notes)-esque - just some patience, and then the pin-point.
And Pau just made Stoudemire his absolute creature in the matter, which was funny, because I didn't see Andrew Bynum(notes) on the floor while Gasol dominated the fourth quarter. Somehow, Gasol overcame Bynum's (the man Stoudemire credits for making it so Amar'e can't guard Gasol anymore) absence to pile up 14 points and three rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, on his way toward 29 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two blocks.
Kobe finished with 21 points and 13 assists, while the Laker helpers were just as helpful. Jordan Farmar(notes) came through with 11 points on 4-5 shooting, catching the Suns napping, and halting a couple of runs. Andrew Bynum didn't miss in five attempts, scoring 13 points and working his tail off despite obvious limitations (seven rebounds, too, in just 18 minutes), Ron Artest(notes) kept hitting open shots (18 points on just nine shot attempts), while Lamar Odom(notes) dove and worked his way toward 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals in 33 minutes.
This could have been wasted on Miami this year. Thank Sonny and thank Cher that this guy came back to El Lay so we get to see this in May and June, and the Heat can properly start over with heaps of cap space this summer. Odom is just seeing angles and holes in the defense that just aren't there when you play in an orthodox offense.
The Suns tried. They went extra minutes with Jared Dudley(notes) at the four, which I had hoped for before the series; and though Dudley looked good with five made threes in five attempts, and his defense on Bryant was pretty successful considering Bryant's flow, I have to wonder if this was a mistake, overall. Defensively, with Stoudemire playing as poorly as he is, Dudley's just not the best weak side cover man. And it forced him to foul out in just 30 minutes, with 15 shots, five rebounds, and four assists.
Steve Nash(notes) just couldn't turn the corner. Derek Fisher(notes) squeezed his way through screen after screen, I didn't see nearly as much grabbing as I did in Game 1, and Nash just never found the open spaces needed to square those shoulders and put something perfect up. 11 points and 15 assists for Nash, but he also had five turnovers, with three coming in the first half of the fourth quarter as the Suns fell apart on either end.
Jason Richardson continues to run white hot (no hesitation, no tears and no hearts breaking, no remorse - 27 points on 17 shots), and Grant Hill(notes) was left alone to drop 23 points, but Amar'e Stoudemire destroyed his own team. Destroyed it.
Hit a few dunks, a few jumpers, but managed just six rebounds in over 40 minutes, turned the ball over five times, fouled five times, and killed Phoenix defensively. Even by Phoenix, and A'mare's, standards.
Awful help, lazy on ball. No interest, just excuses. I promise that this isn't some overreaction to his comments about Odom and Gasol before the game, mind you (though his bit about Gasol was a lie, and to call LO "lucky" for the [expletive deleted] he's been through with his family in years past is the height of absurdity and tactlessness); it was the way he consistently strays from the defensive tenets that we should hold dear that gets to me.
I don't have any answers for Phoenix, outside of better defense for Amar'e, more shots for Nash, and home cooking. I don't see any real matchup or rotation changes that could swing things in their favor, going bigger or smaller, but am willing to concede that there might be something that could surprise a coasting Laker squad for a half or two.
Los Angeles is just too good. Too great. This is the team that could have won 70, had the injuries gone away, and the heads stayed in the right places. Instead, the Lakers played pound-foolish basketball for most of the season that, with the team finishing with just 57 wins, didn't really result in a whole lot of wised-up pennies, either.
Those days are over, though. The Lakers are on it, focused, trusting, patient, and potent. God help us all.