The Suns made one key adjustment for Sundayâ€™s game — they pushed the tempo up and forced the Lakers to make their reads and decisions more quickly.
The Lakers were not athletic enough or smart enough to deal with that, and under pressure got away from what worked before. They didnâ€™t trap on the pick and roll with any urgency. The Lakers didnâ€™t pound the offensive glass to slow the break. Guys were watching Nash and the ball, so Marion would waltz back door for the ally-oop dunk. The Suns really pushed the ball after misses and makes, setting up easy baskets because the Lakers were not back. The Lakers were slow to rotate out to three point shooters.
The word that kept coming to mind watching the Lakers was â€œunprofessional.â€
Professional teams are prepared, they bring consistent mental effort, particularly on defense, every game — whether they won the last game or lost it. This Laker squad had a good game Thursday, they were rewarded with a win for doing what they needed to on defense. They came out in game four and did little of that under pressure.
Weâ€™ve seen that kind of inconsistency for months from the Lakers, we shouldnâ€™t be shocked to see it in the playoffs.
UPDATE: This just in from the Irony Department: Kobe was named All NBA All-Defensive First Team. He really did not deserve that honor this year, he was slowed defensively by his knee early and resorted to what was wisely once described as a “one man zone” for much of the year. He was part of the reason the Lakers defense was so bad during the season and post-season. He’s not a bad defender, but he’s no “all NBA” guy anymore either.
Phil Jackson clearly has no idea what to do with this team. He played all 12 guys suited up in the first half, searching for hot players and combinations that worked together. It was odd, because the tight rotation of players in game had worked the game before. And what worked this time Phil did not return to.
For example, there was the combo of Kobe, Mo Evans, Andrew Bynum, Brian Cook and Shammond Williams started the second quarter and went on a 10-0 run. It ended win Odom subbed in (for Cook)
Phil never played that hot fivesom in the second half.
Letâ€™s break down the first few minutes of the second half, when the Suns pulled away for good.
Suns +7: Bell and Marion pass the ball around the three point line while Nash runs off two down screens under the basket trying to shake Farmar. When Nash gets the ball on the left wing Marion starts to come over to him. Odom anticipates the pick-and-roll so he gets prepared to show on Nash by going a little high, but Marion never sets the pick — he sees Odom out of position and he sprints to the basket, where Nash hits him with a pass. Kwame is slow to rotate and the result is a basket and the foul, but Marion misses the freebee.
Suns +9: Kobe gets the ball at the top of the key but Odom is able to establish good position in the paint with Marion on him. Kobe feeds Odom who gets the bucket and the foul, but he misses the free throw.
Suns +7: Nash comes off the Amare screen on the right wing but this was one of the few times the Lakers played it pretty well, so Nash had to pick up his dribble above the free throw line, he leaps and passes out on the wing to Marion, who passes up the shot to feed Jones at the apex of the three point line, who waits for Sashay to fly by then slides in for the15 footer.
Suns +9: The Lakers donâ€™t move without the ball at all on offense, so Farmar and Luke try to create off isolation-style plays. Farmar eventually takes a 17 footer and misses it, but Kwame grabs the rebound. He gives it to Walton who tries to feed Odom diving toward the hoop, but that pass is deflected.
Suns +9: The Suns come up with it out of the loose-ball scramble, and nothing quick develops so Nash pulls up, but no Laker decides too cover him so he takes an open 18-footer, which he misses, However, this time it is Stoudemire and Jones who tip the ball out to Nash. He quickly whips the ball to Jones in the corner, who is left all alone and has time to set and drain the three because Odom is slow getting out there (Jones’ man was nowhere to be seen.
Suns +12: The Lakers work it around the top and eventually Farmar makes the pass into Kwame on the left block. He starts to work in on Amare but when he feels the double he kicks out to Farmar, who misses the three.
Long shot means long rebound so the Suns are off and to the races. Nothing develops on the wings so Nash shoots the 15 footer but misses, but seconds later Farmar throws the ball away. Basically this is followed by a couple ugly possessions by both teams not worth describing. Nobody scores but the tempo picks up and the Suns are happy.
The next possession worth talking about the Suns come down and Nash and Amare play pick and roll on the wing. The Lakers do switch but Kwame stays back almost daring Nash to shoot. Instead Kwame laying back also created a passing lane so Nash feeds it to the mismatch, Amare in the post with Kobe on him. Amare passes out, gets better position and Nash renters the ball and this time Amare goes to work, spinning baseline, drawing the contact and getting to the line for two. He only hits one.
Suns +13, the Lakers nibble at it from there but never get close again.