Around the World (Wide Web): Zones, Free Throws and ‘Drew

Phillip Barnett —  May 25, 2010

Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Western Conference finals

From C. A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: The Los Angeles Lakers have completed 13 contests in the 2010 postseason, with a fine record of 10-3.  They are undefeated at home and sport an even record of 3-3 on the road.  Those three losses happened in vastly different ways.  The Oklahoma City Thunder out-lasted the Lakers in a defensive struggle to take Game 3 of the 1st round many weeks ago, before tearing the Lakers apart limb by limb in Game 4.  Then, the Lakers rattled off 8 wins in succession (including 3 road wins) before that win streak finally came to a halt last night in Phoenix, where the Lakers couldn’t keep up with a strong offensive performance from Los Suns.  Beaten with offense, beaten with defense, beaten with a stick; 3 losses, 3 very different formulas for how those defeats were delivered.  Except for one glaring similarity. Huge free throw disparity.

From the K-Bros, Land O’ Lakers: By all rights, this 2004 Western Conference Semi-Finals game should have ended in the San Antonio Spurs’ favor and given them a 3-2 series advantage. Having chipped away at a 16-point Laker lead, the Spurs were down by a point with 11 seconds remaining and a big Kobe Bryant bucket still etched in their memories. Cue the improbable, as Tim Duncan received an inbound pass from Manu Ginobli at the elbow, with Shaquille O’Neal all over him and time ticking away. Forward motion blocked, Duncan drifted left across the lane, then flung an off-balance fadeaway just as Karl Malone closed in to double him.

From Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: Last night when I wrote my piece on Robin Lopez, I joked about how the Suns thought they’d be in trouble if they relied on Robin Lopez to be their savior. Well, after taking a look at Wayne Winston’s numbers, that isn’t so far from the truth. Amare had his 42 points, sure, but Lopez was the MVP of Game 3 by the numbers. He put up an astounding +32 adjusted +/- rating, a shocking figure that factors in Lopez playing many of his minutes against the Lakers’ elite starters.

From Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: Before anyone could tell Andrew Bynum late Sunday night that Phil Jackson said he’s giving consideration to sitting Bynum out, Bynum explained his own plan. “The next game on Tuesday, I expect to come out and be ultra aggressive,” Bynum said. “Run and just really be aggressive. I’m being too passive and getting fouls and just not playing the way I can.” Bynum produced such a lame start to Game 3 of the Western Conference finals that if a higher-profile player such as Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash were to play that way after being quoted the day before obviously looking ahead to the NBA Finals and the Boston Celtics (“It’s going to be great playing against those guys again”), it would be an all-time teaching point for coaches in the NBA playoffs.

From Kevin Ding, Orange Country Register: You aren’t going to get Kobe Bryant to talk about Lakers-Celtics yet. On Monday, he even chided his home fans for having chanted, “We want Boston!” in the early games of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center, saying: “Disrespectful to the team you’re playing. It makes no sense.” So with the Lakers (and presumably even Andrew Bynum) rightly occupied with preventing the Suns from tying this series, 2-2, on Tuesday night, Bryant isn’t immersed in the coming 2010 NBA Finals or the lost 2008 NBA Finals against Boston. But Bryant did share a bit of analysis regarding the current Celtics, and to hear it in his voice after his longtime struggles to climb out of sidekick status was illuminating:

From Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: The chief topic at the Phoenix Suns’ practice Monday was the zone defense they used to stymie the Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday. The Suns also found out that All-Star guard Steve Nash has a broken nose, though Nash still plans on playing in Game 4 Tuesday at US Airways Center. He practiced Monday morning before he had a procedure to repair his broken nose and displaced cartilage that he suffered in Game 3. Still, there was so much talk about the Suns’ 2-3 zone defense that Coach Alvin Gentry couldn’t help but laugh when he relayed a story about how someone in the media described it.

From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: It was the gimmick heard ’round the NBA, and it turned a potential wipeout into a series. The Lakers had just ripped through the Phoenix Suns again, passing 30 points in a quarter for the sixth time in nine tries, taking a 32-29 lead in Game 3 Sunday of the Western Conference finals. Then the game was changed, as were the Suns’ diminishing chances. Phoenix employed a zone defense with its reserves early in the second quarter, holding the Lakers to 15 points in 12 minutes and creating a crawl space of hope for the undersized Suns.

Practice report from Mike Trudell, (with video): After nearly a month of solid basketball from L.A., which produced eight consecutive playoff victories and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers’ coaches were disappointed with the team’s play in Sunday evening’s 118-109 loss in Phoenix. L.A. struggled at times with a zone defense employed only because Phoenix couldn’t get stops playing straight up man-to-man, got only seven minutes and change from foul-plagued Andrew Bynum, and took a franchise-playoff-high 32 three-pointers while going away from their bread and butter low post game. “We played poorly, and I think their aggression at the start of the game helped us do that,” said Phil Jackson, referring to Phoenix setting the tone of the game by attacking the hoop and getting to the foul line.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: The Lakers’ length is the one dominant advantage they are supposed to have no matter which opponent they play. Kind of how Usain Bolt’s stride should allow him to beat anybody on the planet in a sprint. But in Sunday’s 118-109 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, which lessened the Lakers’ series lead to 2-1, there was significant shrinkage going on. The big letdown ended up being an accumulation of a myriad of miscues. “It was a bunch,” Ron Artest said. “We had foul trouble, we had some turnovers, some missed shots, some missed layups, a bunch of little things.”

From Johnny Ludden, Yahoo! Sports: Andrew Bynum didn’t want to hear about the Phoenix Suns’ zone defense or any adjustments his Los Angeles Lakers didn’t or did make. No, Bynum said as he stood in front of his locker Sunday evening. This was on him. The Lakers had gone eight games and a month without losing, and now they’d suddenly found themselves in a fight in the Western Conference finals. For that, Bynum saw only one person to blame: himself.

Lastly, I did an interview with Sam Holako of Raptors Republic about Chris Bosh wanting to be a Laker, the playoffs and Phil Jackson:

The next team on Bosh’s wish-list is the Los Angeles Lakers, who have the curse of needing to always field a contending team. Their current crop looks to be on path to get to the finals for the third straight year, having won the championship last season. With their core aging, they need to bring in players who can help compete for championships now, while building a solid core for the future. I checked in with Phillip Barnett of the ESPN TrueHoop Lakers blog Forum Blue and Gold to get his thoughts on the Lakers championship aspirations, Bosh rumours and Phil Jackson. Heeerreeeeeee we gooooooo! (sorry Steve, couldn’t resist):

Phillip Barnett