May 26, 2010
Oh my gosh, we actually have a series on our hands. Another win by the Suns evened up the Western Conference finals at two games apiece. KD went in-depth earlier, and the Internet picks up the pieces...
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: The Suns are unusual in that Alvin Gentry doesn't install a traditional rotation. At the 12:00 mark of the second and fourth quarters, these five guys take the floor as a single unit. On Tuesday night, they dazzled. Dragic probed the Lakers' defense. Barbosa was decisive with his trigger. Dudley was his usual bundle of energy and heady intuition on both ends of the floor. Amudnson did yeoman's work up top screening for his guards (and snuck behind the Lakers' bigs for a couple buckets of his own). And Channing Frye(notes)? After enduring one of the most brutal stretches we've seen in recent years from a sharpshooter, Frye broke out of his slump with a vengeance.
Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk: The chance to get out and run made the Suns the aggressors. Again. Phoenix made 22 free throws on 32 attempts, the Lakers were 7 of 13. The reason was not the referees, it was that the Lakers were settling for jumpers while the Suns were attacking. Further evidence of that, the Suns had 18 offensive rebounds.
Phoenix also exploited Andrew Bynum(notes), who is clearly hurting. The Suns had Bynum's man — Robin Lopez(notes) or Amare Stoudemire — come out and set the high screen for Steve Nash(notes) because Bynum was not mobile enough to slow Nash and recover to his man rolling toward the basket. Stoudemire finished with 21 points.
Kobe tried to take control himself, and he put on an impressive display of shooting on his way to 38 points (he hit 15 of 22 shots and was 6 of 9 from three). But late in the game the Suns started sending kamikaze double teams at him to get the ball out of his hands (same with Gasol) — let anyone else try to beat them, but not Kobe. It worked. The Lakers took threes and missed them.
Seth Pollack, Bright Side of the Sun: The Lakers are still the bigger team. Their other guys have shot the ball very well at home and they still have Kobe Bryant(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes) to carry them.
But the Suns have shown continued improvement as the series has progressed and their depth should become more of a factor as the schedule now moves to an every other day affair. Might Kobe actually start to tire and shoot his team out of a win? Can Gasol and Odom manage to play at a high-level, given the responsibility they carry? Or perhaps, just maybe, they will be just a tiny bit satisfied having already won their rings and give the Suns just enough of an edge to continue this impossible Phoenix Suns run.
I can't wait to find out.
Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: The only point that anyone outside of the Phoenix locker room will believe the Suns can win this series is when the clock hits zero of a fourth Suns win. It's not just the enormous disadvantages the Suns face that they've overcome in Games 3 & 4 or the remarkable number of things they need to go their way, but like SSR points out, we've seen it. The Suns need for something very unlikely to occur in order to win this series. In a game in LA, they need for things to go their way. The shots to fall for them but not for LA. The calls to go for them (and boy did they go for them in Phoenix) in Staples. And the zone to keep working. Dwyer mentioned that this series had a familiar feel to it, like the predictable horror movie that still scares you. But even with the win, there's still that familiar feeling with it. The Lakers simply proved they still are who they always have been. The amazingly talented, brilliantly effective, world-class team that only chooses to execute when it absolutely has to, believes in its own hype, and lacks any sort of true killer instinct against good teams. And they can and will still win in spite of that.
The Lakers were foiled, not by a spectacular effort, or some extremely brilliant coaching adjustment. No, they were done in by a Zone defense and simple adjustments to their own overload defense. It's the equivalent of seeing Will Hunting struggling with a brain teaser. I'm not dismissing Phoenix's execution, instead, I'm here to tell you they can play better than they did in Game 4. The Suns only shot 37% from three. That can go up. Stoudemire can play better. Nash can take over. There is more they can do. They likely won't, because that's what homecourt advantage means. If it does, then we'll really be looking at a different scenario.
Darius, Forum Blue and Gold: [This] wouldn't be a fair recap if I didn't bring up the elephant in the room — the refereeing. For the second straight game, the Lakers shot less than half the number of free throws that the Suns shot (32 FTA for Phoenix, compared to 13 for the Lakers). And as someone that never likes to complain about the referees, I am a bit conflicted. On the one hand, the Suns zone was very effective at swarming Kobe and Gasol and forcing other Lakers to take shots — shots that were mostly taken from the perimeter. It's hard to draw fouls when you're taking jumpers. Plus, Phoenix continued their attacking ways from game 3 and went to the basket frequently with the results being a lot of fouls at the rim — not to mention the fact that the Lakers were reaching a lot on ball handlers, committing fouls that got the Suns into the penalty early in the 2nd and 4th quarters. These factors did conspire to limit the Lakers FT attempts while boosting those of the Suns. That said, I also thought that the Lakers did not get some whistles that I thought they'd earned when they tried to attack the basket or went into to the post. The Suns did get away with some reaching and grabbing that seemed to be a foul at the other end at different times throughout the game. That said, I DO NOT THINK THE REFS COST THE LAKERS THE GAME (sorry, my caps lock broke). In all seriousness, I do see both sides of this, but in the end I think that the Lakers just need to play better and find ways to get more consistent, good looks against one of the most active zone defenses that this team has ever seen.
Eric Freeman, The Baseline: The zone was a hot topic throughout the game, but the Lakers' failures on defense deserve equal attention. They struggled to get to shooters throughout the game, letting players like Channing Frye (14 points on 4-of-8 from deep and six rebounds), Leandro Barbosa(notes) (14 points on 6-of-8 FG), and Jared Dudley(notes) (11 points on 3-of-6 from three) get hot off the bench after being average or worse for most of the series. With Amare Stoudemire following up his electric Game 3 with a more human 21 points (7-of-14 FG) and eight boards, the Suns needed all 54 (!) of their bench points to win this game.
At the other end, the Suns zone did in fact confound the Lakers once again, with Pau Gasol looking especially out of sorts (15 points 6-of-14 FG) after approximately 47 fantastic playoff games in a row (note: not a real stat). In fact, only Kobe Bryant (38 points on 15-of-22 FG, 10 assists, seven rebounds) and Lamar Odom(notes) (15 points on 6-of-13 FG and 10 rebounds) can be sad to have had successful games, with Kobe continually bailing his team out with difficult baskets.
C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: So, we're right back where we started. The Lakers can once again be defended by playing 2 on 5 and leaving the other 3 guys open as can be. The Suns once again have a bench that can end a game in the 16 minutes they see together on the court. Channing Frye is no longer a liability. It was nice to have the Lakers play well, and with extended effort, for a nice stretch there, but it was apparently foolhardy to expect that to last forever. Now, they've once again let a team feel good about themselves, get into a rhythm, and feel confident in their ability to pull off the upset. The Lakers have been here before, and they've struck the up-and-comers down every time before. Momentum means nothing to them, which may explain why they are willing to throw it away so casually. But all the Suns need is one game in which their outside shot falls at a high rate, one game in which their comprehensive offensive power goes full throttle, in order to take command of this series.
If the Lakers do go on to lose this series, and I still don't think they will, it will go down as a monumental embarrassment. Not because the Suns are a poor opponent, and not because it's unfathomable for the Suns to beat the Lakers. No, it will be an embarrassment because it means the Lakers were defeated by a [expletive] gimmick. It will mean the defending champions failed to display a level of basketball acumen that can be found at any local high school. The Suns have won two straight games because the Lakers have failed to properly destroy a zone defense. At this level, that is utterly incomprehensible.
Brett Pollakoff, FanHouse: The Suns were winning this game on the strength of their bench play, and with the team leading 103-94 with roughly three minutes remaining, a timeout was called, presumably to let the starters finish the job. But Gentry let the bench ride it out for another minute or so with Nash and then Stoudemire playing with the second unit against the Lakers' starters, and they held their ground to seal the victory.
Phillip Barnett, Talk Hoops: The Lakers were just out worked on the boards in Game 4. There is just no reason that the Lakers should be outrebounded 51-36. It just doesn't make any sense. It just wasn't one Sun that was killing the Lakers on the boards, but it was a total team effort. Stoudemire had eight; Amundson had seven; Lopez, Richardson, Frye and Dudley had six; Hill, Nash and Dragic all had four. Of those 56, 18 were from the offensive glass, which they used to score 14 second chance points. Rebounding is a matter of effort, and the Suns had much more. Not surprisingly, this is the first time that I had to mention anything about the Lakers collective effort since the last time they dropped two straight.