Lakers/Suns Thoughts

Kurt —  May 5, 2006

Just a short collection of thoughts as we work our way toward game seven. My mood remains pretty sour about that loss.

• Early in this series we were all praising Phil Jackson for the job he did. Well, credit Mike D’Antoni, who made a few tweaks to what the Suns were doing that worked, and it is the Lakers who have been unable to counter them.

• One way to counter them, something I brought up and was echoed in the comments — we need to give Nash new looks on the pick-and-roll. The Lakers have done basically the same thing all series, and he and D’Antoni have made the adjustments. The Lakers need to trap him a few times, show once in a while, just change things up so he doesn’t automatically know what’s coming. The Lakers are acting afraid of his passing skills — they need to respect them but not play so much on their heels.

• Note to Luke Walton: When you have Steve Nash covering you in the post — take it to the hole! What was with shooting fade aways over him last night?

• Smush has been exposed in this series, as tends to happen in the playoffs. That possession in the last minute where he took the shot was one of the worst all game and completely out of the flow of what the Lakers had been doing. As Deen noted yesterday, he has a true shooting percentage of 42% in the series, his confidence is currently shaken and that is hurting the Lakers because they are now doubling off him and, when the passes come, daring him to shoot. Point guard remains this team’s most pressing off-season need.

• All the Lakers have become sloppy with the ball, reacting slowly to the doubles and making risky passes at times. Kobe was part of that, with 7 turnovers last night (what was with the long outlet over Odom’s head?). If one thing needs to change to win game seven, this is it.

• I had a casual conversation with Frank Burleson of the Press-Telegram today, the most basketball knowledgeable scribe in the area (scouts call him and ask his opinion). This, like I said, was a casual group conversation, but here were his two thoughts: 1) tempo is everything and the Lakers are not disrupting the Suns tempo now; 2) he’s amazed how much Kwame has improved this season. That’s just something to remember after a night where his Roberto Duran impression was hard to watch.

• Quick Eastern Confrence thought: While everyone is doing the “Shaq is back” thing today, I keep thinking that the Nets are really a better version of the Bulls, who gave the Heat some trouble. The Nets are far superior on the perimeter than the Heat (despite Wade) and the question is can Shaq counter that enough to win four games. I’m not sure he can.

• This series is not over, the Lakers have proven they can win in Phoenix. They played no defense and still almost won last night. Just like all season long the key is not Kobe but the rest of the players — they are the ones that need to step up, to prove they are ready for this stage. That is what will determine who plays the Clippers come Monday.