If before the first two games in this series you had offered me, or just about any other Laker fan, a split on the road we would have taken it. Whatâ€™s more, after the win last night, the template is there.
Itâ€™s all about tempo, about imposing your style on the other team. Before last night I suggested if the Lakers could keep the Suns under 94 possessions they would win the game, and it ended at 90. It was 88 in game one and required a huge night from Tim Thomas and an off night for Kobe for the Suns to eek out the win.
Keep playing at this speed and the Lakers win the series â€” so expect the Suns to play more like they did right out of halftime in game two, pushing and taking quick shots just to pick up the pace. Itâ€™s almost like the old Paul Westhead Loyola Marymount teams, the Suns would be willing to give up a basket or two, or take an ill-advised shot or two, just to get the tempo up. The Lakers canâ€™t get sucked into that trap.
Some other thoughts from last night and the series:
â€¢ You probably read or heard it this morning â€” see what happened when Kobe was aggressive and shot more. Really? In the game one loss Kobe took 21 shots and got to the line for 8 free throws, so figure that was 25 attempts. In game two, it was 24 shots and 6 free throws, so figure 27 attempts. Just two more shots. The difference was in game one his true shooting percentage (basically points per shot attempt) was 44.9%, in game two it was 54.4% (still below his 55.9% season average). Things look better when your shots fall, Kobe just had an off night.
â€¢ By the way, Deadspin has a pretty interesting theory on Kobeâ€™s switch to number 24.
â€¢ Play of the game: Iâ€™d have to go with Odom diving to the floor for the loose ball then having the presence of mind to make the pass to Kobe for the MONSTER dunk. It sealed the game. I think Jon pointed to that play last night (and I never want to disagree with him, he went to Stanford and all so heâ€™s far smarter than us state school guys).
And if you want to relive the moment of Kobe dunking over Nash, here you go. (Trust me, follow this link.)
â€¢ The Laker defense has been good, especially in rotations, which have been a weak spot at times this year. For the two games, Nash is shooting 58.6% (eFG%), but the rest of the Suns just 47.9%. Those other players count on the easy looks from the fast break and penetration of Nash, and they just aren’t getting them.
â€¢ The Laker bench is another strength in this series, and it showed in game two. Devean George finished a team high +13 and Cook gave us key minutes and was +12.
â€¢ In the comments, Worthytomahawk suggested we need to see more of Chris Mihm because he is better offensively and could really punish Thomas and Marion inside. Iâ€™d agree, save for the ankle injury, which kept Mihm from even suiting up last night. With the way Kwame was playing â€” going to the hole hard for early dunks â€” Mihm would have to be at 100% to be any improvement.
â€¢ A few +/- numbers through two games: Luke Walton, +12, Smush Parker +2 (while covering Steve Nash), while the rest of the Laker starters are still in the negative (their game two numbers were not stellar because of the number of bench players on the floor during key runs, like at the start of the second quarter). For the Suns, Nash is +6, Marion +2 and T. Thomas +4 (but a +12 and a -8). Raja Bell leads the Suns as a +12 through two.
â€¢ A note to Joel Meyers (not that he reads this, but I had to get this off my chest): You and Stu Lantz have been saying lately during broadcasts that when look at players like Luke Walton stats canâ€™t tell the whole story. I think youâ€™re using the wrong stats. Use more modern ones and his value is very apparent.
â€¢ Just so we all remember that this was just one win and we’ve got a ways to go before “The Hallway Series” â€” seven seeds have lost in the first round almost as frequently as the eight seeds. Only the 1986-87 Sonics (who reached the Conference Finals), 1988-89 Warriors, 1990-91 Warriors, and 1997-98 Knicks defeated #2 seeds in the first round. Got that from the very good lowpost.