Lakers/Suns: Game 2 Preview & Chat

Darius Soriano —  May 19, 2010

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Despite what many pundits may think, this series is not over. Yes, Phoenix was overmatched on Monday but unless that first win actually counted as four (here’s a hint – it didn’t) there are still games left to be played. That means there will be new strategies employed and different tactics used by both teams in order to try bring home the win in game two.

As we mentioned in this morning’s links, the Lakers are preparing themselves for different defensive looks from the Suns.  Phoenix did little right in trying to contain the Lakers offense so a different approach is surely in order.  So, what can we expect from the Suns?  As Doug Collins repeated several times in the national telecast of game 1, the Suns are going to try some zone defense.  The Suns must understand that the Lakers destroyed the interior of their man to man schemes with determined dribble penetration to the middle and far too easy post entries to Pau Gasol.  So, playing a zone is a natural remedy to try and slow down what worked so well in game one.  Understand too, that Phoenix isn’t just going to trot out its zone for the first time tonight.  They’ve been a very good zone defense team over the course of the season and gave the Lakers fits playing this D in patches in the March match up and also detroying Denver (among others) with their active 2-3 zone earlier this season.

In order to attack this defense I hope that the Lakers don’t vary too much from their game one approach, but I do hope that they add a few wrinkles to their sets.  Understand the the Triangle is a natural foil to any zone defense because of the ball and player movement that is built in to the offense.  So, if the Lakers are to attack the Suns’ zone, they’ll need to rely on crisp execution of their sets and not fall back on just swinging the ball around the perimeter and settling for the first available open jumpshot. 

So, what I hope to see is two fold.  First, I’d like for the Lakers to again try to get the ball into the corner so as to initiate their sideline initiation.  However, a wrinkle I’d like to see is to have the topside guard (after passing to the corner) not clear through the lane right away and instead hold his position on the strong side in order to keep the Triangle in tact.  If the man in the corner makes the post entry, then I’d like to see the topside guard cut hard to the basket with the post passer staying home on the sideline as a release man in case the big man doesn’t have a good shot.  This action forces the Suns defense to guard all three strong side Lakers with their three zone defenders and essentially creates one on one matchups with every offensive player.  This will enable the Lakers to attack the Suns zone as if they were playing man to man, which as proven in game 1 was not successful.  Without the ability to diagram this, visualize this formation: when the ball is in the post he’ll have a defender on his back and the other two Suns defenders on that side will be guarding the two Lakers wings. Those two defenders will either have to stay with the Lakers wings or help down.  If the Suns topside guard helps down, the cutting Laker will be open with his dive to the hoop.  If the strong side forward digs down off of the player who made the post entry, that player will then be open for a kick out pass.  This simple zone offense, but the Lakers will need to show patience to execute it.

The second thing I’d like to see from the Lakers is a continuation of their strong committment to dribble penetration.  The key to breaking down a zone is to get the ball into the middle of the floor.  Once the ball is the middle, the entire zone collapses and there are going to open offensive players all over the court.  Getting the ball into the middle can be done via the pass or off the dribble and I’d like to see the Lakers not be overly dependent on trying to just pass the ball into the paint to either the post up man or a flashing big coming from the weak side.  If the Suns allign their defense to take away the corner pass (as they did in game 1), the middle drive will be open.  When the ball is penetrated you can expect the weak side defenders to then show help.  And this is where I want to see a bit of a wrinkle from the Lakers offense.  When the help defender comes the easy pass is going to be to the weakside wing.  When that player catches teh ball, rather than settling for the open jumpshot I’d like to see him penetrate the ball as well.  This second act of penetration will throw the Suns defense into full scramble mode and their zone principles will be broken down almost entirely.  This will open up passes to the big men when interior defenders are forced to help and also open up offensive rebounding lanes from both our bigs and our the player that is in the opposite corner.  This form of attack is what the Lakers used to much success in game 5 against OKC.  Even though the Thunder weren’t playing a zone, their sagging defense simulated one.  So when the Lakers penetrated, kicked, then penetrated again the result was a slew of open layups and offensive rebounds by the Lakers bigs.  I hope to see the same results tonight.

The other defensive tactic that we can expect the Suns to employ are hard double teams on Kobe and Pau any time they get the ball 15 feet and in.  In game 1 both Kobe and Pau were left free to operate on an island too frequently against players that struggled to guard them and they were way able to create good shots much too easily.  By double teaming Kobe and Pau the hope will be to make other Lakers score the ball and thus carry the offensive load.  This tactic is nothing new to the Lakers as Utah double teamed Kobe for nearly the entire second round and Pau has seen double teams off and on since the OKC series.  In order to beat these schemes the Lakers must be active cutting to the ball and diving to the rim from both the top of the key and from the weakside.  When the double team comes the Lakers need to cut behind that doubling defender and occupy the space that the defender is ceding when he comes to attack.  This will force an over compensation of the Suns defense where help on the dive man either comes early (which creates easy cross court passes) or comes late (and the flash man is open).  Either way, the Lakers have proven in the past double teaming their best passers (Pau and Kobe) will ultimately be ineffective if everyone off the ball is doing their jobs.  Tonight, I hope to see those other players focus and make the correct reads.

Offensively, the Suns aren’t likely to make too many adjustments but they do need to find a way to get into the paint more frequently.  Stoudemire especially was forced to shoot a lot of jumpshots to get his points and unless Phoenix can get him catches on the move to the basket their offense (while still excellent) will not perform to its peak efficiency.  So, expect Amar’e to slip more screens or feint like he’s going to screen only to release early so he can receive passes on the move and ahead of the Lakers rotating defense.  This action will allow Amar’e to either make easier catches going to the basket or force rotating Lakers to move off of perimeter players which will then open up passing lanes to shooters behind the arc.  In order to counteract this, the Laker must continue to have active hands in the passing lanes and show extreme discipline in their help and recovery so they can both disrupt Amar’e on his cuts and still get back to shooters and contest shots.

As it is with every series, the adjustments begin now.  In game 1, the Lakers proved that if nothing changes they’ll win this series handily.  So Phoenix must now try to make the necessary changes that turn the tide of the game in their favor.  That said, the Lakers have been running the same systems and have seen what Phoenix does for many seasons now.  None of these adjustments should be surprises.  In order for the Lakers to prevail tonight, it will take an even greater commitment to sniffing out these adjustments and then responding to them with a focussed execution that matches the Suns.  If the Lakers are able to accomplish this, they’ll do enough to win the game.  However, if they rest on their game 1 win and don’t act out what they’ve covered in practice, Phoenix will be right back in this series and steal the home court advantage from under the Lakers’ noses.  As I mentioned earlier, many have already handed this series to the Lakers.  With only a 1-0 lead that’s premature.  Talk to me about control if the Lakers do what’s needed tonight.


Darius Soriano

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223 responses to Lakers/Suns: Game 2 Preview & Chat

  1. Amara a minus 16 tonight

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  2. Great game tonight and lets continue to be lucky… I was really impressed with J Farm he played really well. There are some things he can do better but overall he played good. Lets just continue to get better. We do not play until Sunday so lets just rest up a bit and come out Sunday and go for there hearts.

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  3. I didn’t post the entire second half, got a little nervous there for the first time in a week or so. It’s nice that Amare chose not to dominate the Big Spaniard tonight; because boy did he let it show. It was beautiful watching the execution when it got close. We’ll played indeed. A good test for what we will see in PHX (which I will be 6 rows back from the Suns bench yelling “lucky” at Amare nonstop!)

    I propose the recap is called something along the lines of “All Smiles”. I don’t think I’ve seen Gasol and Kobe smile that much during a game, let alone a playoff game. It wasn’t all pretty, but it all turned out right.

    Cross another one off the mirror boys and girls…we’re down to 6!!

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  4. Maybe what Amare meant was that Odom is lucky because he gets to play against him for a series. That is a lucky matchup to get, since Amare is the worst defender I’ve ever seen in the NBA. ON that play where Gasol slipped the screen for the easy bucket, Pau was halfway to the rim before Amare even noticed and started chasing him. The dude just does not pay attention to anything going on.

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  5. Odom rocks.. Lucky, no way. He played great the whole season… I love Kobe, but I also feel that Odom doesn’t get the props that he so deserves…

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  6. Team seems to be having fun on the court and thats translating into victories. LA knows that Phoenix cant keep up with them when they put their blinders on and focus on the task at hand. The switch has been turned on, and it’s lights out for Phoenix. Maybe one game in the Land of the Suns, but I dont expect them to do much if Amare continues to imitate a matador on defense.

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  7. 199. You made a good point about kobe getting Pau involved. I thought pau was hesitant in the first half and wasn’t playing up to par. But mid way through the 3 he start playing really aggressive and dominating. Amare can’t defend Gasol at all. We are going to need kobe and Gasol to dominate in game 3 on the road.

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  8. 200. Joey Crawford officiated this game, enough said.

    He may be the only official in the history of the nba to run into a player and call an offensive foul on that player. Just youtube him.

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  9. Well I think the fans need to get together and demand something be done. Cause obviously if the players or the coaches say anything they get fined. So wrong!!!

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  10. That was a great TEAM effort. Six players in double figures. Bench played great ball. 36 pts, 13 boards, 6 assists, 5 steals, 1 block 13-19 FG, 4-4 3PT, 6-8FT.

    What I am happiest about right now, other than Lamar & Pau making A’m’a’r’e’ look like a cardboard cutout, is that Bynum showed that he may be limited by his knee he can still contribute offensively. I mean his numbers were tremendous playing less than 20 minutes. Defensively he will be somewhat of a sieve due to his inability to rotate quick enough and being unable to defend the screen roll well.

    While the defense was solid, it definitely needs to be ratcheted up in Phoenix. Channing Frye just seems unsettled by Lamar. If Channing does not come through for the Suns, it will be difficult for the Suns to take one from the Lakers.

    I cannot believe the Lakers are winning games with the opponent shooting 49% FG and 42% 3PT.

    Lastly, Grant Hill is a stud simple and plain. I remember Aaron Brooks saying in the playoffs last year that every team needs a Shane Battier. I think that sentiment should definitely be applied to Grant Hill. He is a class act that has persevered through injuries that derailed his career. There was a time when he was considered to be second to Jordan. His effort was tremendous. To be 37 and putting up the numbers he did, he is absolutely tremendous.

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  11. Charles Barkely

    What do you call a power forward that gets 6 rebounds?…..A small forward lol

    That’s to you Amare.

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  12. @ 207, it sucks but if we are ever in the position to lose a game because of the referees than we deserve to lose. No team should ever allow the referees calls to be able to determine the outcome of a game.

    PHX did great in the 3rd qtr when they played small, I’m wondering if they’ll continue that for longer stretched going into games 3 & 4. Only problem is I think the Lakers got a little to into playing the pace the Suns wanted to but I believe PJ will tell that to the team and adjustments will be made and we’ll just play with Odom instead of Drew and pass over their heads and pound it inside.

    What’s got to be disconcerting for PHX is they are hitting their averages, nearly shot 50% from 3 and yet still lose…doesn’t bode well in my opinion. Had to edit my post for this; Craig Sager asking Amare if the Lakers were lucky to win the first two games, lol!

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  13. i’ve been listening to ESPN radio and hubie brown was mentioning how the triangle has been effectively run in Games 1 and 2.

    i’m not sure if this makes sense but learning to be comfortable with the triangle and perfecting it will be crucial for the lakers if they do advance to the finals. i think with the way Boston (assuming the Cs advance) has been playing D, the only way to beat them is executing the triangle — a react-to-the-defense offense — to perfection. except for the lapses in the 3rdQ, the discipline is there, the poise is there, the unselfishness is there and more importantly, the willingness to let the system work is there.

    of course, LA still has to play defense with the same type of discipline and i don’t know this series has tested that aspect of their game. but if i remember it right — and again, assuming LA and boston advance — it wasn’t the defense that killed LA in the 08 finals, it was their offensive execution. seeing them commit to the triangle (and hearing Ron say he’s getting more comfortable with it), that’s definitely something the lakers can build on as the playoffs progress.

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  14. Aside from the start of second quarter, the bench is praise-worthy yet again.

    Odom, Farmar, and Brown combined for 36 poitns on 13-of-19 shooting, 4-of-4 from threes, outscoring the Suns’ bench by 10 (3 compared to 5)/

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  15. I enjoyed the win, but I really wanna see the Lakers gear up their defense over the rest of this series. Time to get back the better habits we had against OKC and even Utah – too many open shots for the Suns. I wanna see them under 100 for the game… If we get past these guys, our defense is going to have to be solid and in tune, or it could be a long finals…

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  16. So what exactly happened to the Suns vastly improved defense? 252 pts in 2 games. That’s some good D.

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  17. Wow, Odom outplayed Amare with seven less minutes of playing time.

    Kobe’s showing facets in his game that I’m really digging. Well, not only him, but the Lakers are. This honestly seems like a totally different team from last season’s.

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  18. Well earned victory. Got interesting in the 3rd, but I truly believe that games like this will benefit us in the long run. Too many easy games tends to soften up a team (i.e: Cleveland in the first 2 rounds of last years playoffs and Orlando in the first 2 rounds of this years ‘offs.)

    Once again, played excellent offensively, but we’ll need a much better defensive effort on the road. Kobe got caught napping too many times 2nite. 3 days off until game 3 will be beneficial.

    Much respect to J. Rich, Grant Hill & Dudley.

    Standing Ovations: Pau, Ron Ron & The Bench Mobb (I see You J. Farm.)

    10 Down. 6 To Go. Lets Get It.

    Laker 4 Life ….. Go Hard Or Go Home

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  19. Amare was STATic tonight. Much appreciation.

    Great win. Props to Artest and Farmar for being solid from downtown. That said, we need to play better defense, esp closing out on Hill and Dudley. It seemed so often we were purposefully giving them oodles of space when it wasn’t necessary to stop the drive. This series could get knotted up in a flash, just a matter of a couple bench players getting hot and our bench getting cold.

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  20. Hats off to the fellas for great poise and no messing around in the 4th Quarter. I posted plenty of complaints previously as the game unfolded, but overall I have to give Phoenix credit although they must be really demoralized. They got so much of what they were hoping for (improvement from 3, great bench effort, great overall energy and hustle, a Grant Hill mid 90’s flashback…great play from Dudley) and they still got put away. As with Utah, the Lakers offense has them checkmated. When the Lakers are patient there is virtually nothing Phoenix can do to stop us on offense. The key to the roadies will be more of the poise they showed in the 4th, as Phoenix will make runs at home.

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  21. Amar’e got luckied tonight.

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  22. Not going to lie. The Lakers Vs. Suns series has been pretty lame so far. Celts Vs magic has been a lot more entertaining.

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  23. thanks Charlie! that’s my boy.

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