Lakers/Suns Game 3: Amare, Suns Finally Get In The Zone

Phillip Barnett —  May 23, 2010

Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol scores on Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire in the third quarter during Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference finals in Phoenix

During the course of the past four days, everyone put in a position to make a criticism about Amare Stoudemire’s in the first two games of this series added their two cents. There was reason for the basketball world to jump on Stoudemire’s case. He was a revolving door on the defensive end of the floor and couldn’t grab a rebound to save his life. In Game 3, Stoudemire proved why the Phoenix Suns were so tough to beat during the second half of the season as he tied his playoff career high in points (42) while grabbing 11 rebounds in the Suns’ 118-109 win over the Lakers.

Stoudemire was aggressive early and often, getting to the free throw line on four of the Suns first nine possessions, keeping both Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom in foul trouble for most of the game. His jump shot was falling, he repeatedly beat Pau Gasol off the dribble and was finishing shots around the rim that weren’t falling in Games 1 and 2. Steve Nash was finally able to find some passing lanes to feed Stoudemire and the like off of those coveted screen and rolls that they used to move past Portland and San Antonio through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Stoudemire’s improved play seemingly opened things up for Robin Lopez who finished with an admirable 20 points, shooting 80 percent from the field, hitting the wide open jumpers he was getting from defenders helping off of Stoudemire and finishing strong around the rim.

The Suns ability to get their S&R going helped them live at the free throw line as they shot 42 free throws, making 37 of them while the Lakers were only 16 for 20 from the line. The Suns were consistent in their attack of the rim while the Lakers sat around the parameter and hoped for three pointers to fall. Many will look at the 22 free throw attempt difference and claim that the officials were unfair in the way that they called Game 3, but as Snoopy2006 pointed out in the Preview and Chat comments, the discrepancy had everything to do with both teams propensity to attack the rim:

Guys, the FT difference was because of the way we played. We didn’t attack the zone, we stayed out on the perimeter and forced jumpers. We weren’t playing 5v8, we were playing some passive 5v5.

In the first half, when Kobe didn’t go to the line? He was taking (and making) all midrange or long jumpers. When he started attacking near the end of the game, he got to the line.

Let’s keep the whining about the refs to a minimum. Sometimes, it’s warranted. But you can’t just look at the FTAs and say “Look! The refs hate us!” We didn’t attack hearly as much as the Suns did. There were a few times when Amare was hit on a FG and I thought he could have gotten an and-1 after watching the replay. The Suns earned those FTs, and we earned our trips to the FT line.

The fact of the matter is that the Suns made a great adjustment on the defensive end of the floor. Moving to their zone in the second quarter really stifled the Lakers offense. The Suns first showed the zone against the Lakers reserves who failed to produce any kind of offense. Phil Jackson brought in Kobe and Gasol but still failed to see the results that he would have liked as the Lakers finished the second quarter with just 15 points. The Lakers looked to be solving the puzzle that the zone presented in the third, but you could tell that they were never really comfortable as a unit attacking the 2-3.

While playing against the Suns man-to-man defense, the Lakers shot 56.6 percent from the field. That shooting percentage dropped to a lowly 31 percent versus the zone. More importantly, their turnovers per 100 possessions rose from 12.7 to 21.4 when the Suns moved from the man to the zone (all stats from ESPN Stats and Information). The Lakers finished with 17 very costly turnovers and the Suns turned those turnovers into 11 points. In Games 1 and 2, the Lakers dominated the turnover battle, in Game 3, their high turnover rate was a huge factor in deciding the game. After a Lamar Odom free throw gave the Lakers a 90-89 lead, the Lakers turned the ball over three times in the next minute and a half, completely swinging the momentum and the Lakers were never within six after that.

What was just as turning the ball over was the number of three pointers that he Lakers took. They took 32 from long range, their most since their first loss of the postseason when they shot 31 in Game 3 against Oklahoma City. Again, those long shots lead to long rebounds, which create transition opportunities for a team that likes to run as much as the Suns do. The Suns had 18 fast break points in Game 3 compared to just 20 in the first two games combined.

Kobe finished with a near triple double, just needing one more rebound to be added to his 36 points and 11 assists. Gasol had a solid 23 and nine and Derek Fisher added an unexpected 18 points, but the Lakers just didn’t get enough from Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. Bynum only played eight foul plagued minutes while Odom didn’t really come alive until mid way through the third quarter. Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar, as expected, didn’t have the same effect off of the bench as they did in the first two games combining for only eight points and four turnovers.

In the end, you just have to credit Alvin Gentry for making the right adjustment and rolling with it, however, I don’t see this working for the remainder of the series. The Suns had to play a near perfect game to pull out a game that was within reach until a few ridiculous turnovers midway through the fourth. Stoudemire is not going to average 40 nor is Robin Lopez going to average 20 for the remainder of this series. The Suns still aren’t getting much from the bench that was supposed to be a major advantage over the Lakers reserves (is Channing Frye going to hit another shot?). I think Phil Jackson will make the right adjustments in the way they attack the Suns zone defense. Game 4 is going to be interesting to say the least. Hopefully there will be a lot less attention being paid to the Celtics and more focus on their current opponents. More respect for the Suns from the Lakers organization is in line after tonight. Game 4 will be on Tuesday at 6 p.m. PST on TNT.

Phillip Barnett

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43 responses to Lakers/Suns Game 3: Amare, Suns Finally Get In The Zone

  1. How was Bynum? I didn’t get the chance to watch the game, but I just read ESPN’s article on the possibility that PJ may sit him due to his “ineffectiveness.”

  2. Almost can’t help but feel this game was karmic retribution for the “laker fans” going over to the valley of the suns and just TRASHING posters over there. I called one of them out…doubt he listened, though.

  3. Andrew looked slow and hurting. 2 points and 3 fouls in 8 minutes. Phil said Andrew is not playing in game 4.

  4. From the previous post:

    It is a bum deal about Bynum, because without him we go from a deep front line to a thin front line. But the kid just doesn’t look right out there, and from all reports, hasn’t even practiced in weeks. How can we expect much…. Kind of wish he would have had the little mini surgery and spent the two or so weeks recovering. He’d be coming back right about now – I think we could have beaten Utah w/o drew…

  5. Yeah, after seeing Bynum tonight, we will be without him (a non factor) for the rest of the Playoffs, IMO. Just like the previous years, unfortunately for the Lakers. This was an exciting game to watch, anyway, for me. The Suns appear to be a WCF caliber team, after all.

  6. 1st of all Phil NEVER said Bynum isn’t playing in the next game. He said he may sit him if he continues to play the way he did today. And also that he will talk with Andrew about it. Just Phil trying to motivate a player. You would think that after watching him all this time, Laker fans would know Phil just a little bit
    As for Odom, at 30 years of age he is what he is as a player. Consistently inconsistent. That’s why there were plenty of people who didn’t lose any sleep over a possibility of him leaving this past offseason.

    Odom’s typical season goes like this: 50% of games he’s absolutely invisible. You know those game where his body is present but his mind is in some other universe. In another 40% he actually does something ( 10 pts 6 rbs something like that) however he still makes enough mental mistakes that whatever good he does is outweighed by the bad. And then in about 10% of games he actually plays like he did in the 1st 2 of this series where you see why he was compared to Magic coming out of college.
    That’s the kind of player Lamar is ELEVEN years into his NBA career. So getting angry at him for having a game like he did today is like getting angry at Kwame Brown for having hands of stone, or getting angry at Kobe for shooting too much, or at Fish for blowing layups. Consistency has NEVER been something that Odom brings to the table, so why expect this to change now.

  7. It seems every several games or so this team forgets what makes them great or has some trouble and ends up following in love with the 3pt shot. This game was no different. Instead of attacking the zone and aggressively going to the basket we settled for the 3. I’m disappointed but by no means discouraged.

    Also I don’t get the Bynum criticism. He got in foul trouble and Phil went with Odom who had been killing it. I don’t see a reason to write him for the rest of the playoffs based on this game

  8. People are probably writing Bynum off because he can barely move…

  9. This was entirely expected, though the game was much closer than I figured it to be. If we could’ve been more patient in the 4th and not resort to those 3 pointers, we could’ve stayed in the game, and ticky-tack fouls in the penalty really hurt us.

    I hope we didn’t waste a great game by Kobe stat-wise: He had the most rebounds on our team and he’s not one of our 7 footers. Funny how his near triple double gets so little attention from the media: had it been James, we would’ve seen numerous mentions of the near triple double ;)

    In perspective though, we were having too easy a time scoring at will. We need some fight from PHX to wake us up, have our players deal with defense and prepare us for the next level.

    Sure we must get through this one first, but even with the FT disparity (whatever it is that caused it), heaps of turnovers and a no-show from Lamar and Ron, we were still in it until Lamar launched that three, Ron turned the ball over and launched yet another three…

  10. I think this is a blessing in disguise. I’ve been worried that we would have a similar situation coming into the finals as ’08, where the team seemed to be rolling and then hit the SSZ and intensity of Boston’s defense and couldn’t make the adjustments.

    Again, we find the offense humming since the end of the OKC series, through the Utah series (against a depleted team) and the first 2 games of this series. My worry was the team getting soft. Now, I’m hoping the Lakers pick up their intensity and play smarter with the ball.

    The Lakers need to get back to getting stops.
    They need to run to the offensive side and get into the O early in the clock.
    They need to stop sending the ball side to side and instead take advantage of the bigs making plays.

    The rest of league would kill to have two bigs who can see the floor and find cutters like Pau and LO. Get it to them in the middle of the D. It’s the only way this team gets #16. That, and get stops. I repeat, get stops.

  11. While Odom can be inconsistent, he is not as consistently bad around the rim as he showed tonight!

    I wish Bynum all the best, just because he’s not playing well while injured doesn’t mean he’s soft or all that.

    Bounce back lakers, take some lessons from this, come back stronger and smarter next game.

  12. ken,

    it’s always nice to get you back to the “sky is falling” posts that you’ve been so good at this entire season.

    They won at home. With a crowd that is really pumped for them to get a win.

    The adjustments against the zone will come in the 4th game.

  13. damn I’m studying in Israel and there’s only one lakers fan that I know of in the entire city I live in (of 50,000)! I wish I could teleport some of you guys over to watch and discuss the intricacies of our beloved squad! Or vice versa teleport myself back over to LA (I live in Encino at home).

    I didn’t see the game, but as others have said, the way you break the zone is really quick n’ crisp passing, which shannon, jordan, and ron are not always capable of. Hopefully fill and the staff can make them a little more aware of that, because unless the suns are idiots – which they’re not – they’re going to do the same thing next game. So we’ve got to have 5 guys on the floor that are going into our offensive set knowing the ball will be passed quickly at least 4 times before a shot goes up. The only exception would be if a wing player sees an opening. I always loved zipping it to a post player down low from the top of the key if I saw that opening- such a tight-looking play. Anyways, if we can make that basic adjustment, we win game 4.

    And obviously, we need to continue doing defensively what we did in the first two games, and hold ‘em to their season average or less. I haven’t checked but I would imagine they had a losing record in the regular season when they scored less than their average, and especially if when they scored less than 100.

  14. So is it good that lakers bigs got a litle embarrased tonigh to prepare them for the Celtics or is it bad for their confidence?

    I know, I know… we may loose to the Suns, but just thinking Bynumesque.

  15. All this political correctness and stuff some of you guys uttering no offense but FT’s and foul calls were the key,no not the ones in the 4th quarter,the ones very early in the game..Refs made a statement in the first couple of possessions.How come Lakers are on the worst end of this through the playoffs and possibly the regular season?In LA zone or no zone still Phoenix had the edge. It baffles me.
    And yes they played nightmarish to Zone,Pau was atrocious in defense and the bench was, well like the old times.Still it was a winnable game.My prediction was Lakers in 6.It still stands.Might still be in 5 though.Kobe’s monster night is wasted in the meantime.

  16. While I agree that the Lakers will adjust to the zone and Stoudemir and Lopez will come back to earth, I also think there is no way the suns shoot that poorly from 3 in game 4. Dudley, Barbosa, Dragic, and Frye all missed some good looks. Have to think they will knock a few more of those down in Game 4

  17. please, whats all the panic about?

    amare played a killer game and deserved the ft´s, but this was just a night where all of his shots seemed to fall for him. same goes for lopez. the suns may win another game if they pull another performance like that, but i highly doubt it.

    the zone did wonders in the 2nd quarter, but our guys figured it out to start the 3rd, so that sort of defense wont be an issue any more. they still have nobody to guard kobe or gasol and our bench is still playing very decent. we could´ve easily won this game if artest or bynum showed up/avoided foultrouble. just a couple of mistakes at the end and a very strong game from kobe/fisher/pau was wasted… its a shame, but it wont happen again

  18. Great games from Kobe & Pau. Fisher was the third scorer; that’s never a good thing. I think the difference in the game was the lack of offense from Ron and Lamar that we got in the first two games.

    Too many turnovers but they weren’t ugly turnovers. By this I mean that many of them came on attempts to make tough interior passes which is never a bad idea for this team.

    If the Suns feel that they have the right game plan to be the Lakers they aren’t looking at the box score well enough. If they bank on shooting 21 more free throws than the Lakers and 10 less turnovers they are crazy.

  19. The free throw disparity will probably not be repeated. I foresee a much more aggressive game plan from the Lakers in game 4. I also see big potential for a breakout game from at least one of the Suns subs; Dragic, Dudley, Frye, Barbosa?
    Also, I don’t see the absence of Bynum as such a negative, at least not in the shape he’s in. With his limited mobility, he hurts more than he helps. Sitting him and getting a more mobile lineup may benefit the Lakers, though it does alter their substitution options.

  20. Could anyone with greater bball knowledge than I (a nonplayer) possess help me with answers to the following questions:

    1. should the Lakers attack the zone via the dribble (OKC series) or through crisp passing? what if there are 3 guys surrounding the post player and the entry just isn’t there?

    2. is the farmar/brown backcourt really capable of beating the zone in either fashion? Wouldn’t it make sense to play one of them with sasha or luke who are better passers and can shoot the 3 if necessary?

    It was smart of gentry to wait to introduce the zone until that lineup was on the court, but I must say I don’t see that lineup ever beating a zone. brown almost never passes inside and farmar is too quick to shoot if the initial post pass is unavailable. certainly passing the ball back and forth around the 3 point line while the zone shifts with the ball, accomplishes nothing.

    there were bad memories for me last night of the detroit ’04 series, in which 3 sets of long arms (r. wallace, prince, b. wallace) surrounded shaq in the post and, contrary to the media clusterf*** that proclaimed that kobe was selfish, the entry pass was often unavailable/too dangerous.

    any help would be appreciated. this is probably bball 101 to those who played, or maybe not given what we saw last night.

  21. “All this political correctness and stuff some of you guys uttering no offense but FT’s and foul calls were the key,no not the ones in the 4th quarter,the ones very early in the game..Refs made a statement in the first couple of possessions.How come Lakers are on the worst end of this through the playoffs and possibly the regular season?”

    Because they’re not? Go to any message board after a semi-close loss and some to many fans will be blaming refs. It happens at every level of basketball and in other sports as well. Now what is more likely, that all the other 29 fanbases are wrong, or that fans just notice the calls against their team more? If the game was reversed would you come on here and discuss how the refs made a statement early in LA’s favor?

    Opponents shoot free throws at a lower rate (FTA/FGA) than all but one team in the league. Does this mean that LA is just playing other-worldly defense in a 5-on-8 game? Or does it mean that the whole LA always getting screwed by the refs thing is merely something that every fan base perceives is happening to their team?

  22. I’m guessing the best way to attack the zone would be to plant Pau in the high post, therefore pulling the center guy up, and have him feed guys on the baseline or shooters who come open on the wing. Good high post work tends to disrupt the zone well.

  23. You can’t say:
    “The Suns had to play a near perfect game to pull out a game that was within reach until a few ridiculous turnovers midway through the fourth.”

    Immediately followed by: “The Suns still aren’t getting much from the bench that was supposed to be a major advantage over the Lakers reserves (is Channing Frye going to hit another shot?).”

    Which is it? It’s either perfect or it’s not – you can’t have it both ways. Stoudemire may not average 40 nor Lopez 20 the rest of the way, but the Suns’ bench can (and most likely will) find another contributor or two to step up along the way (i.e., Dudley, Dragic, Barbosa, or even – gulp – Frye).

    The Suns’ starters played an excellent all-around game (you could call it “perfect” if you want). But their bench was MIA, and they were only 5-20 from the 3-point line (many of which were wide open, thank you very much). They can obviously play much better in these two keys areas.

    GO SUNS!

  24. Troy,

    Thanks for visiting Forum Blue and Gold. I think what was meant was that part of the reason Amare played so well was due to the continued poor play from the Phoenix bench players. He had to stay aggressive because other than Lopez and Nash, no one else was playing consistently well (possibly Richardson). While the Phoenix starters played closer to an excellent game than their showings in LA, I don’t think we’ll see Amare go for 40/10 again. Maybe he finally had a “lucky” game. That said, that was closer to a perfect game for los Suns ;) . We don’t have too many absolute black/white principles here, but what we do know is that Phoenix played better and that if our Lakers can cut down on the turnovers and silly fouls and work the ball inside more, we’ll have a better chance of winning game 4 and returning home one win away from our 3rd straight trip to the Finals for a chance to win back to back titles.

  25. Funky Chicken May 24, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Wow, there appears to be almost no understanding of what caused the loss last night. Does anyone actually remember the final score? The Lakers gave up 118 points in a conference final game. They did not lose this game because of a gimmick defense used by the Suns (which the Lakers saw in game 2 and, according to Phil, expected to see if game 3).

    Our big guys were thoroughly dominated by Amare and Lopez. Those two guys scored 61 points. If Bynum and Gasol went for 61, we’d all be killing Stoudamire for his terrible defense, and with good reason.

    This game was lost because the Suns wanted it more, and played with more effort. By contrast, our guys took the night off and gave up 118 points. We won’t win too many road games by giving up that many points, so let’s not fall into the lazy “zone defense” excuse.

  26. The Lakers failed to remain disciplined on offense. They took wild shots, many of them challenged 3’s, resulting in disheveled defense on the other end.

    Unless they play a more disciplined game, they’ll lose tomorrow too.

  27. Lakers don’t have that slew of turnovers to open up the 4th, it’s a close game and I think they would have pulled it out. Regardless of free throw disparity or whatever happened in the first three quarters, Lakers were right there.

    Phx made their push because of those turnovers and teams traded baskets the rest of the way. People can point fingers all they want, but if LA had taken care of the ball, they would have been in a position to win. I would have liked LA’s chances at that point.

  28. @21,

    Nice Sternish try;

    Would you be so kind to check basketball reference playoff summary page for opponent statistics and sort it for the FT Attempted column?
    And oh for the regular season Lakers were 17th at attempts with all those impossible to guard bigs and second to last at attempted against.This further proves my perception.
    I know you think Lopez ”accidentally” cracked on Fish’s head.

  29. I know it’s important to focus on “things you can change,” but GOOD LORD, the Suns, a small-ball, jump shooting team just shot 42 free throws, which happened to be 20 more than the Lakers, a team that lives in the paint.

    Look, I know the Lakers shot 32 three pointers, but how many of them came in the 2min when the team was jacking up threes in an attempt to make a comeback?

    Lamar kept missing layups because he was getting HACKED with no call (whereas Amare was getting rewarded from incidental contact on the other end). The whistles came quick and early against the Lakers, almost like it was predetermined.

    Kobe took a lot of jumpers, but he also took it to the hole a ton – he just wasn’t getting any calls (and neither was Gasol).

    I mean, Lopez was seemingly allowed to take swings at the Lakers with little repercussion (hitting Fish in the head was no accident).

    I thought the Lakers (outside of Bynum) played pretty well, given the circumstances. Kobe was fantastic. So was Gasol. So was Fish.

    When the game was called evenly in the third quarter, they came back and tied it.

    Then it slanted again, the Lakers made a few sloppy mistakes, and that was the ballgame.

  30. It is (hopefully) the next stage of development in Bynum’s game: Enforcer.

    Especially in a game like last night, and especially when he is not contributing as much as he would like to because of his injury.

    I would love to see Bynum commit a couple of good hard fouls on driving players. He doesn’t do that yet, leading to far too many And One conversions against him. Dragic and Stoudemire both had an And One against Bynum last night.

    When the calls seem uneven or are going against your team, if the whistles seem to be blowing at the slightest contact, the thing to do is become more aggressive, not less.

    A good hard foul accomplishes that. Kind of a “You call that a foul? That wasn’t a foul. THIS is a foul!” sort of thing…

    The playoffs are all about adjustments. The Suns made theirs, now it is the Lakers turn. Phil Jackson has shown time and time again that he makes the correct adjustments.

    Go Lakers.

  31. Mr. Nimble

    I don’t know why you should be surprised by that number, it’s a raw value. You can’t look at total free throws since, the Lakers have played more games. Than all but two of the other teams.

    A quick rundown shows that the Lakers give up the fourth most free throws per game (a better metric), but you might still say that it is too high. Well then consider the fact that your first two playoff opponents ranked second and fourth in free-throw rate during the season which probably further skews the numbers.

    And then there’s this contradiction: “And oh for the regular season Lakers were 17th at attempts with all those impossible to guard bigs and second to last at attempted against.This further proves my perception.”

    The 17th thing caught my eye, but then I looked back and realized that every Phil Jackson title team with a guard as it’s top player (the MJ years, and the last Laker year) was below average in free-throw rate. If Phil’s best squads didn’t do it with MJ, is it really indicative of much now? If they are seventh to last in attempted against, doesn’t that mean that the refs are usually not calling a lot against LA? If so, how are the Lakers on the short end in the regular season?

  32. Funky Chicken May 24, 2010 at 11:11 am

    For Burgundy:

    “The Suns attacked the the hoop today and earned 42 foul shots” (Phil Jackson, on the free throw disparity)

    “Stop hacking” (Kobe Bryant, on how the Lakers can improve)

  33. I´m in Spain for three weeks and havent´t seen a game – things sound a heck of a lot better than against OKC, stay positive.

    Too bad about Bynum, I thought he should have vseriously considered the surgery.

    If someone could reply, does Boston look as good as all the hype?

  34. #20, you beat the zone by passing the ball and making the defense rotate. Someone on the weakside should slash to the basket. Shooting a 3-pointer is exactly what a team using the 2-3 zone wants you to do.

    Will we ever have a useful Bynum in the Finals? Three years and counting.

  35. Funky Chicken May 24, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Separate note:

    Anyone know why Sasha can’t get minutes?

  36. To Funky Chicken:

    Because Sasha is not very good in the game we all like to call Basketball…

  37. Ben,

    It seems you and I do not see eye to eye,let’s leave it at that.Thanks for comments though.
    Just gonna say this,if Lebron or MJ had ever received a non benefit of the calls always like these,former would have gone to be a quarterback and the latter would have stuck to pitching in the fields.

  38. Funky Chicken May 24, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Cdog, that doesn’t stop Farmar from getting minutes, nor did it prevent Sasha from getting some time against Utah.

  39. From what I saw, I think the game was within Lakers grasp, the defense was decent enough and the offense wasn’t bad despite the bench not producing as much (specially Brown I thought misfired badly several times). The game was decided by bad attacking decisions in the 4th allowing the Suns to break the game up.

    Though it is true that in the 3rd quarter the Suns zone defense wasn’t as effective, the Lakers lame passes into the zone resulted in several lost balls, and impatience led to too much rushed & failed outside shooting. Thus the zone was a big factor in the final outcome.

    In attacking the zone, I noticed that inside men, especially Gasol, would drift towards the outside to be closer to the passing man, but that resulted in him being surrounded by 3 men and passes to him being lost or stolen. To create spaces between the zone, the big men must move and cut through it and create room for better passes. Once they get the ball they can either try to score, force a foul or if the zone collapses quickly on them they can get the ball to a free man outside to shoot it. The other alternative to break a zone is great 3pt efficiency, forcing the team to abandon zone to get 1on1 and better cover ouside shooters (and last night the Lakers were poooor at this). So, the yellow offense wasn’t good and patient enough to break the zone. They must focus more on proper spacing to allow better passing inside next game.

    I also noticed some things on how the Suns broke the Lakers defense:

    – many times, when the big man showed to help cover Nash out of the P&R, Nash would force the big man to stay with him, unlike previous matches, where usually Fisher recovered to continue guarding him. I think Gentry must have noticed this trend and get advantage of it to force a switch on defense with mismatched players. This led to several occasions where a Suns big man would post up and get a basket and/or a foul from eg Fisher, or the Suns guard outdribbling the Lakers big that stayed in front of him. They must be aware of this next time to try and avoid the Suns from getting easy plays like this.

    – other times, Nash would go to a side and quickly cut baseline under the basket to the other side and get out again. He messed up the defense like this, blowing assignments and usually finding a man left open. Againg, Lakers should be aware of this and not let him roam freely under the basket. This would require a big man to block his path when he tried and, of course, solve the other defense weakness I pointed out where Nash ends up with a big man able to run away where he wants.

    I believe if these shortcomings are solved Laker will be in position to close the series quickly.

  40. Funky Chicken…
    I think Phoenix is a bad matchup for Sasha actually, he’s not fast enough guard Nash, and not smart or strong enough to guard Richardson – who leaks out on the break after every shot and could easily post Sasha up. He could be used as a zone buster I guess, if he remembered how to shoot, but it isn’t like he is terribly efficient at entry passes, and Phil might be worried he would feed into the Suns hands by kacking up 3’s and allowing for long rebounds.
    Also, he played some pretty forgettable basketball against Utah, while Farmar has at least been hitting some threes recently.

    More importantly though, Kobe played 43 minutes – pretty effectively I might add – and Brown and Farmar were in a rhythm from the two previous games. They didn’t hit a bunch of shots tonight, but I think Phil was going with what was working before.

    I also don’t think Phil likes Sasha all that much – his demeanor or his game. Throughout the season he often wouldn’t even come in at Taco Unit times.

  41. I never want to see Sasha Vujacic get another minute of p.t. again for the Lakers in my lifetime. Boooo Sasha!

  42. Funky Chicken May 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Cdog, ok, that’s more like it. I’m not really advocating one way or another on this issue, but I find it odd that Sasha can’t get any minutes. Kobe’s 43 minutes might have been efficient, but that’s too many minutes for a guy that age.

    Although last night is good evidence not to, as I look ahead to a matchup with the Celtics, the Lakers are going to need Sasha. Ray Allen will run Kobe through so many screens, that there is simply no way he’s going to make it through a 7 game series as an effective closer. We need a guy to play defense and to space the floor, and it seems to me as though Sasha is as good as anyone on the Laker bench at those things (admittedly, this isn’t saying much…).

    I’m no defender of Sasha’s performance, but I think Phil can be very stubborn at times, to the detriment of the team, and this might be one of them. Sasha has clearly struggled this year, but he hasn’t gotten consistent minutes, and if the Lakers are going to come to him in the next round (as I predict they will), it won’t really be fair to criticize him for not playing well when he will have been out of game action for so long.

    Part of Sasha’s problem is that he hasn’t gotten any significant minutes alongside Kobe since 2008 (not coincidentally, the year that “justified” his new contract). Ever since, his role has been to come off the bench when Kobe sits, depriving him of the one guy who best compliments his game. Sasha is much better when playing with Kobe, because Kobe can draw defenders away from him better than anyone else. I don’t understand why he can’t get a few minutes against the Suns when Ron goes to the bench, letting Kobe slide to the 3. Seems at least worth a shot if you’re going to call his number against the Celtics.