Itâ€™s pretty clear what the Lakers need to do to win in this series â€” if you have not read Nate Jonesâ€™s breakdown of game three on Fanhouse yesterday you must, itâ€™s so good and comprehensive Iâ€™m not going to repeat it all here.
But this time they need to do all that for 48 minutes. The Lakers won game three doing it for 36 minutes. The Suns are too good and too deep to get away with taking a quarter off again and still get a win. Phoenix will come out focused, if the Lakers fall down by 17 in the first on Sunday I guarantee the road back will be a lot steeper this time.
While having lunch at Rileyâ€™s yesterday I rewatched the first half of game three, and one thing jumped out at me:
Just how much more patient the Lakers were on offense starting in the second quarter.
In the first quarter the Lakers tried to force passes inside that werenâ€™t there, tried to take specific shots even when they were not open, and were generally looking hurried. But then, with the first couple of subs off the bench, the Lakers adopted the classic John Wooden mantra â€” â€Be quick, donâ€™t hurry.â€
How many times did the Lakers run the high pick and roll offense, nothing developed, and Kobe pulled it out rather than force something up. And eventually they made a smart pass inside (or some other variant of the offense). They stopped forcing the play, rather they made the pass when it was there.
Those Lakers need to be back Sunday.
Apparently some Phoenix fans wanted to lay the blame for the game three loss at the feet of the referees. I just felt I have to address this.
First, a little note of compromise: You are not going to get any argument here that the officiating in the NBA can be wildly inconsistent. Both from game to game and within a game. But for the most part I think the bad calls balance out in the long run.
As for game three, let me quote Gatinho from the comments: Unless the refs were helping run down some of the 20 offensive rebounds the Lakers hadâ€¦
Whether it be Wade in last years finals or Kobe or Nash or Barbosa, the one constant in the NBA is that the aggressive player gets the calls most of the time. The guy who drives the lane goes to the line, not the jump shooter.
In game three, for the first time this series, the Lakers were the aggressors. They dove the lane, they crashed the offensive glass hard, they pounded the ball and were physical inside. And, with that, they got the calls. Yes, they didnâ€™t get those calls in the other two games â€“ but they didnâ€™t earn them. Outside of Kobe, and occasionally Odom, the Lakers were passive jump shooters. That all changed in the last game.
And if they do all that again on Sunday, theyâ€™ll get the calls again. Personally, I hope to see that.