Lakers/Suns Game 4: Suns’ Bench Torches The Lakers

Darius Soriano —  May 25, 2010

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Disappointment.  Frustration.  Anger.

Surely, these are just a few of the emotions that the Lakers and their fans are feeling after losing game 4 to the Suns 115-106.  The Western Conference Finals are now a best of three series and the team that was once down 0-2 is now tied and carrying a craters worth of momentum with them back to Los Angeles.

And all credit for this win must go to the Suns.  They continued to play their zone defense with good results as the Lakers weren’t able to figure out how to consistently infiltrate the gaps of the Suns’ scheme nor make the necessary shots to make them abandon it.  Especially bothered by the Suns defensive alignment was Pau Gasol who never found a rhythm and was not able to crack the code of how the Suns were attacking him when he had the ball.  I’ll let Snoopy2006 explain:

I thought the Suns’ defense on Gasol was brilliant. They’re the first team in a long time that’s been able to double Pau effectively and not get killed by his passing skills. The way I saw it, they did it with angles and energy. They swarmed Pau on the catch with 2 or 3 guys. Normally, it’s a recipe for Lakers success. But the activity and angles of the guys swarming him really cut off his vision and bothered him in a way I haven’t seen before. Pau would eventually find the open guy, but because of the intensity of the defenders, his crosscourt pass would be slow and off-target enough to give the Suns time to recover. And they really did an excellent job of doubling and then covering the open man. There was a play in the 2nd half (I believe it was the 4th quarter, not sure) where Fish was open in the corner after Pau caught the ball and drew the attention. The pass was slow enough that Nash – who was doubling Pau on the other side of the paint – had plenty of time to run back and close out on Fish. There’s a reason we’re having difficulty against the zone beyond just Lakers ineptitude. We’re not that horrible. Let’s give the Suns some credit. Whether or not you believe it’s a gimmick defense, they’re executing it well, and their activity and movement across the court is incredible.  That defense really took Pau completely out of his game. When he got semi-open jumpers he normally makes, he missed badly. No rhythm at all, and credit the Suns D for that.

Pau finished the evening with one of his lesser games in the past several months, scoring only 15 points and grabbing only 5 rebounds (3 defensive) in 36 minutes of court time.  When you consider that Andrew Bynum was able to muster 12 points and 8 rebounds in 11 less minutes, you can see that Pau wasn’t nearly as effective as he’s been recently.

But, this game was more than what the Lakers could and could not do against the Suns zone.  What mattered most to the Sun’s success in this game was the performance of their reserves.  Before this series started we talked about the advantage the Suns possessed with their second unit and specifically focussed on Channing Frye as an X-factor for Phoenix’s success.  And while neither the Suns’ bench nor Frye have had much of an impact in this series up to this point, they made up it tonight.  The Suns bench totaled 54 points on the evening and every single reserve that saw time scored at least 7 points and had a double digit plus/minus number.  Dragic, Barbosa, Dudley, Amundson, and Frye were the difference in this game as they extended leads, made huge shots, and made multiple hustle plays all evening.  I mean when you consider that the Suns bench played more than half the 4th quarter (when the game was close), faced off against the Lakers starters for large stretches and held their own, and essentially broke the game open with a 9-0 run with three consecutive three pointers, this group deserved to be group interviewed after the game by Craig Sager.

But besides the loss, and the fact that the Suns’ bench destroyed the entire Laker team, what leaves me most disappointed about this contest is how a fantastic game from Kobe was essentially all for naught.  When the Lakers couldn’t find any offensive rhythm, Kobe stepped up and hit shots.  When the Lakers needed a rebound, Kobe went in with the trees and pulled down the carom.  After Kobe started drawing double (and sometimes triple) teams, he hit open teammates for easy baskets.  Kobe simply did it all and on nights where you get to see one of the best players demonstrate his all around skill and flash his will to win, you’d hope that he has the type of support that can bring home a victory.  Instead, Kobe has a stat line of 38 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers in 45 minutes and it still isn’t enough.

On a final note, this wouldn’t be a fair recap if I didn’t bring up the elephant in the room – the refereeing.  For the second straight game, the Lakers shot less than half the number of free throws that the Suns shot (32 FTA for Phoenix, compared to 13 for the Lakers).  And as someone that never likes to complain about the referees, I am a bit conflicted.  On the one hand, the Suns zone was very effective at swarming Kobe and Gasol and forcing other Lakers to take shots – shots that were mostly taken from the perimeter.  It’s hard to draw fouls when you’re taking jumpers.  Plus, Phoenix continued their attacking ways from game 3 and went to the basket frequently with the results being a lot of fouls at the rim – not to mention the fact that the Lakers were reaching a lot on ball handlers, committing fouls that got the Suns into the penalty early in the 2nd and 4th quarters.  These factors did conspire to limit the Lakers FT attempts while boosting those of the Suns.  That said, I also thought that the Lakers did not get some whistles that I thought they’d earned when they tried to attack the basket or went into to the post.  The Suns did get away with some reaching and grabbing that seemed to be a foul at the other end at different times throughout the game.  That said, I DO NOT THINK THE REFS COST THE LAKERS THE GAME (sorry, my caps lock broke).  In all seriousness, I do see both sides of this, but in the end I think that the Lakers just need to play better and find ways to get more consistent, good looks against one of the most active zone defenses that this team has ever seen.

So here we are.  This is pretty familiar territory.  The Lakers are tied 2-2 in a playoff series.  Just like against OKC from earlier these playoffs.  And Houston/Denver from last years playoffs.  And if anything should give the Lakers fans and the team it roots for confidence, it’s that fact.  The Lakers are very much used to this scenario and have succeeded in it several times over the past two seasons.  That said, experience will not be enough.  The Lakers need to play better.  They need to find a way to attack the Suns’ zone and, even more importantly, they need to find a way to slow a reinvigorated and explosive Suns’ offense.  In two consecutive games now the Lakers have given up 115 points or more and that will not get it done.  It starts with playing fundamental defense and then securing the defensive rebound (side note – stat of the night: the Lakers gave up 18 offensive rebounds; when a team is shooting well, you can’t give them the extra possessions). Once the defensive board is gathered, the Lakers can go back at the Suns and attack their defense (which will be harder to set up when their transitioning after a missed shot).  But, getting stops will be the key.  We’ll have more on what adjustments can be made over the next couple of days, but for now just understand that we do have a series on our hands.  Both sides are now at two wins and the Lakers have just taken a shot to the gut.  But, if there’s any team that can bounce back from this, it’s the one we root for.

Darius Soriano

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89 responses to Lakers/Suns Game 4: Suns’ Bench Torches The Lakers

  1. Darius, your level-headedness is always appreciated.

    I would say that the refs favored the suns today but it wasn’t the main reason we lost. Our defense and rebounding was. I agree with everything in the recap.

  2. Though I am trying to remain positive, I actually think this Suns team has a great chance at beating us. Now they have their bench playing with confidence and that is just scary. Scary because their bench is much more superior than our bench. I am predicting the lakers to win game 5. I dont think the Suns are going to score more than 115 again and I expect someone else besides Kobe to have a big game.

  3. Hey, credit the Suns. Playoff basketball is about adjustments and inspiring your team to give an energy level that gets those oh so important “50-50 balls”.

    The Lakers still did not figure out a way to get their size advantage and inside out approach to click on any cylinders. The way to find success is with penetration. You see how the Lakers are patient and not content shooting the first 3 pointer. That’s great but then you need to penetrate. That is when we were successful, not to mention that Kobe guy.

    What really bugs me is the lack of boxing out. That is just effort and recognition. Kobe for all the great shots that he produces fails to box out from time to time and that was exposed with Richardson getting O REBS. EVERYONE needs to commit to boxing out and securing the defensive rebound.

    Offensive rebounds were the most frustrating part of the game. And can someone lay out Robin Lopez, he continually takes shots at Fisher. It’s going to be interesting heading further in the series if there’s escalation.

    exhale…….

  4. The bigs need to be stronger on the boards, there were a lot of rebounds that seemed to be in their grasp only to get bumped or slapped off the ball. I agree that most of the fouls called on the Lakers were legit but as mentioned in the post the Lakers were not getting the same calls. While the Lakers surely could’ve won the game despite those lack of calls the FT discrepancy greatly reduces the Lakers’ room for error. Giving up 32 FTA’s is pretty normal for a playoff game, Lakers only getting 13 seems very low for a playoff game.

    Also people seem split on what’s the bigger issue the Defense or the cracking the zone, as always they are intertwined. Long shots means long rebounds but our guards never attack the offensive glass in order to prevent the break, however those long rebounds lead to a lot of 3 on 2 breaks where PHX ends up with a good look either at the basket or for 3. It is imperative that the team breaks down the zone and takes good shots at the rim to prevent these long miss breaks.

  5. Getting late, so just some bullet points:

    * The Lakers were much more patient early against the zone, not launching long shots early in the shot clock. However, the Lakers didn’t seem to have any idea/plan as to how to generate good shots that weren’t jumpers.

    * Farmar got abused in the second quarter by Dragic. Why he continues to pressure his guy 30ft from the basket only to get blown by….

    * As Kurt said the Suns’ offense went nova in the 2nd quarter. For the first time in the series they were able to hit 3′s like they’re capable.

    * The ONLY reason the Lakers were in the game was Kobe’s shot-making brilliance in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. However, they were almost all on jumpers, not a good thing over the long run.

    * When the Suns isolate Amar’e on Pau away from the basket the Lakers have to do a much better job of rotation as Pau simply can’t guard Amar’e in those situations.

    * With a chance to take a stranglehold on the series in the 4th quarter the Lakers got thoroughly outplayed by 5 bench players. NOT acceptable.

    * Phil was WAY too slow to recognize that the Suns were doing to Bynum what they did to Duncan; pulling him away from the basket and abusing his lack of footspeed.

    * Bynum played well, but due to his knee is a liability when asked to defend on the perimeter.

    * The Laker patience in the 4th went away as they started chucking up too many long j’s, by too many players not named Kobe.

    * Officiating: sure the Lakers could have gotten a few more fouls their way, BUT even when going to the bucket it’s not with as much agression as the Suns. The Laker players tend to drive to score layups, where the Suns (and most other teams) drive to dunk the ball. Also, most other teams play in louder more intense arenas than do the Lakers; everyone know that the officials can get ‘caught up’ in the emotion of a home crowd, something the Lakers generally don’t get at home.

    * I expect Pau, Odom, Brown (and Farmar?) to play better at home. Maybe even make some shots over the zone. :) However, the Lakers have simply got to play both smarter and harder or they have a good shot of losing the series.

    * But it’s not just offense, the defense must be better. The Suns have scored 107, 112, 118, 115 while only playing ONE (tonight) complete offensive game like they’re capable of. Getting better control of the tempo would be a good start. I think the ease with which the Lakers scored in games 1&2 has caused them to lose a little focus in this area.

    * I’m done thinking about this game for now, it’s not good for my blood pressure! :)

  6. One stat that should have been mentioned in the recap but slipped my mind in the haze induced by frustration and surliness is that the Suns out-rebounded the Lakers 51-36. I mentioned that Phoenix had 18 offensive rebounds, but they only surrendered 13 on the Lakers 46 missed shots. And when you consider that one of the weaknesses in a zone is giving up lanes for offensive rebounds, the Suns really did destroy the Lakers on the glass. I should have played this up more in the recap, but honestly, it slipped my mind. Serves me right for not looking at my notes…

  7. You mentioned the free throw disparity but while you briefly touched upon the 18 offensive rebounds you didn’t note the overall disparity in rebounds: 51 to 36 which includes a 33 to 23 advantage on the defensive boards for the Suns (which is not just a product of the Suns offensive boards as the Lakers took 7 more shots then the Suns and made 4 more). For a team that has trumpeted its height advantage, I would think that is unacceptable and a large part why the Suns won.

    I know you said you don’t blame the refs for losing the game, but really, give the Suns some credit; they won a category decisively they had no business winning.

  8. Simple facts.

    Suns number 1 in NBA 3 point percent.
    Lakers number 18 in NBA.

    Suns 3 best bench scoring in the NBA.
    Lakers 24 best bench in the NBA.

    So then why is this a mystery? The sample size of the first 2 games is fools gold. 82 games in reality.

    This is a 7 game series and if Phil dosen’t find someone on his staff that understands what a zone is ))))))))))))))

    Or understands you have to guard outside shooters outside. well?

  9. #7. Grinth,
    I beat you by 2 minutes. ;)

    Like I said, I meant to mention it but it slipped my mind. I’ll do better the next time. I hope. No promises, though. Ha.

  10. And never mind. You just essentially said the same thing.

  11. winferd smiley May 25, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    You forgot to mention Sunday’s game… the Lakers had 20 foul shots and the Suns had 42!!! Gasol, Bynum, Odum and Kobe have been clobbered all the time but no calls. It is sickenning!!!

  12. i agree on your CAPS LOCK point, darius. totally.

    but, sorry, i have to add a few more statistics.

    out of all 8 semifinal playoff teams, the lakers are the only team that has yet to have a game of +10 or more in free throw attempts.

    out of the 3 other conference final teams, all of them have had at least 3 games of +10 FTs.

    while the lakers have had 6 games of -10 FTs. and 4 games of -20.

    there may not be a conspiracy but there’s no denying that the refs hate the lakers.

  13. The lakers are in familiar territory and I hope their experience shows in game 5.

    Regarding Pau, the suns did do a good job of doubling him, but I also thought Pau did a horrible job of attacking the rim or looking for his shot. There were a few times where Pau received a pass had a mismatch (well everybody is a mismatch) and instead of making a quick decisive move, he waited for the double. There was also a time early in the game where he got the ball about 10 feet out with amar’e under the basket and he settled for the jumpshot(which he missed) instead of attacking the rim and forcing amar’e to make a play which most likely would’ve resulted in a freethrows(maybe not with that officiating). I was very disappointed in gasol lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end and he was a complete failure on the boards tonight. Pau never put a body on players and and never tried to really snatch the ball out of the air and secure it. The suns exploited that and knocked a bunch of balls away from Pau. This was the type of game I would’ve loved to see Pau snatch a rebound out of the air, hold it up high with both hands and swing his elbows.

    Lamar needs to get in the film room and really study whats going on because he was lost on the defensive end the entire game. I’ve never seen lamar look so confused in a game.

    Despite the officiating, the lakers had a chance to steal this game but the lack of effort, lack of execution and lack of rebounding cost them. I think its safe to say the lakers beat the suns twice at their game and the suns be the lakers at the lakers game (rebounding and defense).

    The lakers are requiring kobe to play like video game. He’s averaging 34, 9, 6. It’s just not fair to have your star playing great and your not out their giving maximum effort.

    This laker team always need’s a wake up call. Let’s see if they wake up on thursday.

  14. Darius,

    you’re fired for missing that statistic.

    haha.

  15. andre wrote on May 25, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    “there may not be a conspiracy but there’s no denying that the refs hate the lakers.”

    Oh, I don’t know about that. Maybe the Lakers aren’t earning foul calls … perhaps they should stop standing around combing their hair – to paraphrase Chick Hearn – and play some basketball. It’s not their divine right to advance. They may just have to earn it.

  16. First, I do want to complain a tiny bit about the refs, and that’s in the 1st quarter.

    The Suns got away with a lot of contact on loose balls and rebounds in the first quarter, and it seemed to plant a seed that got the Lakers out of their head by the time the second quarter rolled around. Everyone started to play the game for the refs instead of sticking to principles.

    I don’t think the refs are responsible for losing the game, the Lakers should be mentally tough about it, but it’s understandable that when you come out with a gameplan, play solid defense, and then someone hacks the rebound or jumps over your back that you would get angry.

    Second, after this season I will be happy never to see Shannon Brown or Farmar on this team again. They are mentally weak, make terrible decisions especially for perimeter players, and they don’t have the strengths to justify their mistakes (missed dunks notwithstanding).

    Finally, games like tonight remind me we are lucky to have Kobe and get to watch him play. Even when it’s frustrating, he is amazing and the best competitor in the game today. Series like this are what you bring up when haters talk about how stacked LA is and that he doesn’t deserve the hype.

  17. Key to game 5 Gasol. He has to be more aggressive. He has to secure rebounds and start swinging elbows if guards want to sneak in from behind and strip the ball. He has to make decisive moves when he gets the ball in good position. Gasol was a no show mentally. The lakers need 20 and 10 not 15 and 5 and 66% from the line and 6-14 from the field.

    But the lakers are just standing around watching Steve Nash and forgetting about the shooters. Lamar gave up so many open 3′s. He needs to wake up.

    Game 5 Thursday can’t come soon enough.

  18. Maybe R or maybe Stern decided not to fine Phil or suspend him for prior comments.

    This time he decided to punish us all for his smart remarks!

    Is it just me or is Phil getting totaly out-coached by a Clipper Coach?

  19. #12 Andre: “there may not be a conspiracy but there’s no denying that the refs hate the lakers.”

    But if the refs hate the Lakers and are calling fouls accordingly….isn’t that a conspiracy? :)

  20. There are a few reasons for the last two games…

    1. Phil Jackson either is the only NBA coach in history who can’t figure out a zone defense… or he has a bigger picture in mind. Running out a zone defense in the NBA playoffs has never been done before for a reason.

    2. 71 to 33 FT advantage for the Suns in Arizona, after the FT disparity was about even in Los Angeles. The refs should at least try to make it look like the games are on the level.

    3. Kobe is playing the best playoff series of his life. The man is a jedi. This isn’t why the Lakers lost… I just needed to say that. Don’t worry Lakers fans… just as much as the NBA can’t afford to have the Lakers sweep through the WCF… they definitely can’t afford to have the Lakers out of the Finals all together. Rest easy tonight. What goes around comes around… the refs will get just as nosey in game 5 if the Lakers need the help.

  21. #17. conspiracy is all the refs getting together or being ordered by someone high up and agreeing on calling it against the lakers.

    referees hating the lakers is just simply that alot/most of the referees just dislike the lakers for their own personal reasons (kobe, shaq, the lakers owning the league for the past decade and 60 years) and individually just calling the game against them.

    there’s a difference.

    the good teams get this. boston gets it to some extent. san antonio.

  22. #17. Ken,
    It’s just you. I understand though, you’re always the first to criticize Phil. But it wasn’t Phil that gave up 54 points to the Suns bench. The players need to play better and follow the game plan, too.

    Mind you, I’m not defending Phil, per se. But, when looking at the big picture, Phil rode Kobe for 45 minutes tonight and stuck with the starters for 35 minutes each (save Bynum – 25min and Fisher – 33min). The fact is that Brown and Farmar were pretty bad tonight (-21 and -9 respectively) in limited minutes (14 and 15 minutes respectively). Remember too that the Lakers play on Thursday and that will be 3 games in 5 days.

    Like I said, the players need to play well and execute the plan. And when the Lakers essentially go 8 deep, there aren’t many options to turn to when those other guys play poorly.

  23. re Brown and Farmar’s plus/minus, is there somewhere to see that stat on a per-minute basis? For Shannon to be -21 in 13:38 must look even worse when adjusted to a 48-minute rate.

  24. ken

    don’t worry. apparently the coach you think is lazy and is a terrible coach will be coaching in chicago or new jersey next season. Its amazing that those teams would want such a bad coach to coach their teams. im as shocked as you!

    give credit to the suns for employing a defense that forces the lakers to shoot outside. expect 2-3 all day thursday.

  25. #20 Andre:

    I’m sorry, but the idea that the refs hate the Lakers is silly. Most other fans, and most impartial watchers of the NBA, would say that the Lakers get the *benefit* of officiating more often than not. I’ve been a Laker fan for over 30 years and they’ve gotten more questionable calls in their favor than not (probably because the Lakers have had more stars over the years, and stars get calls).

    It’s not the refs being biased, it’s FANS being biased. The first response to teams losing games is almost ALWAYS for fans to complain about officiating. I live in Phoenix, and after almost every playoff loss during the last few years (especially against SA) fans would flood the talk radio shows complaining about the refs costing the Suns’ games. One of the hardest things for fans to do is not blame refs.

    As a tangent to this, Kobe must start driving to the rim, rather than settling for so many jumpers. Kobe is one Laker who can regularly garner double-digit FT attempts.

  26. Darius, I’m glad you mentioned the referreeing. At this point, it’s bigger than the elephant in the room.

    There should be no chicken little threads because the Lakers will win Game 5 when the calls even up and the game is called fairly.

    Sorry, it’s just the truth.

    The Lakers aren’t having any problem with a zone.

    Robin Lopez is attacking Pau with a chainsaw under the rim without having to worry about having a foul called on him (see, that was called in Game 1 and 2), which is why Pau has disappeared.

    I know the Lakers are supposed to “play through it,” but it’s a lot easier said than done.

    When ALL THE FREAKING CALLS are going against you, it’s hard to maintain your focus.

    Fish can do it. Kobe can do it.

    Pau has trouble adjusting. He’s not a bruiser. If the opposing team’s post players are allowed to play rugby, he just can’t compete.

    Bynum is too young to adjust.

    And Odom turns into a basket case when the calls are going against him during the game.

    This is the truth.

    Game 4 of the NBA Finals last year was exception that proves the rule.

    Trust me, when the calls are even (or, dare we dream? ACTUALLY FAVOR THE LAKERS), the Lakers will have suddenly figured out Phoenix’s zone and Pau will suddenly be a rebounding machine again.

    My only concern about Game 5 is fatigue. This team (especially Kobe) is starting to wear down again.

  27. Darius,

    I somewhat agree with Ken about Phil, so far Gentry has made the adjustment, and Phil hasn’t. I also think Phil is very “untimely” with his timeouts. I mean in the first quarter he calls a timeout when the lakers were up 19-16, but in the 4th the lakers actually go up two points then waits until they are down 9 to call a timeout. I mean the suns have dish out 11 straight to get a time out. He has to call timeouts as soon as the suns start to get rolling, not wait until it’s too late, this team just doesn’t “play through it” as well as past teams have. Also did I see the lakers go into zone in the forth quarter with the second unit? Either they attempted the zone or they were all lost defensively.

  28. Mike Penberthy May 25, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    From the pevious post. 239, i don’t know why you think that not expecting your team to win but still rooting for it is such a horrible thing. If the Lakers do end up repeating i will be very pleasantly surprised.
    And you’re right that unexpected wins are often the most satisfying. Witch goes back to my point. Van Exel/Ceballos team upsetting the Sonics in 95 in the 1st round is still one of my best Laker memories, even though you knew that team wasn’t winning any championships.

  29. I am pissed why Bynum would ever guard Amundson or even Lopez on a high screen. Let them have that shot. The weakside help has to come from our length, and the reason we can’t get any dang rebounds is because our bigs are out of position when the Suns are shooting. Put Bynum on Stoudemire, and Gasol on Lopez. And stick to your man. They can’t beat us 2 points at a time – the tale of the game was the 3 straight 3′s from the corner in the 4th. If the suns get no 3 pointers, they cant beat us. Stick to your man and get him off that line.

    I will not blame the officials – it is a copout. Were there momentum changing calls – sure (there were a couple plays where Suns players just fell down – Nash included – but the Lakers got called for fouls even though they weren’t touched on the replay) – but a great team GENERATES their own calls. We are not posting up. We are not cutting into the lane. We aren’t make them work on defense and it is effecting our defense because they are more energetic and sprinting to the offensive ends/boards.

    As for the offensive rebounds for Suns – its because the Suns are not afraid of our guards on the break, they encourage it – so they are sticking back in the lane while the Lakers have to retreat on D. Boxing out or not, Kobe can’t stay back with Richardson (or Odom on Frye), or the Suns will leak out on wide Open 3′s if we miss the rebound.

    Game 5 is about which Laker team shows up – in both games in Phoenix we had the opportunity to step on their throats in the 4th quarter and take the game and did not execute. That is the next step of our evolution, and a needed won not to win a championship, but THIS SERIES.

    Time to man up. This is a serious series.

  30. I only followed via gamecast, so this may be totally off, but you only need to referee biased the first quarter.

    You call ticky tack when Lakers defend the paint, and let them play when Suns defend the paint.

    Keep that up for one quarter, and any team that ‘adjusts to officiating’ will end up resorting to jump shots and will be timid defending the paint.

    Still, that does not excuse the number of offensive boards we gave up, but that’s partly because they space out well with their horde of shooters and draw out our bigs.

    So, while it may be true that we resorted to jump shots, it may STILL be true that it was due to officiating.

  31. Amazing. Blame the refs. In games one and two the Lakers took 17 and 16 three point attempts respectively. Games 3 and 4? 32 and and 28 3 point attempts. Right about a 50% increase.

    But you’re right. It’s the refs that made the Lakers start jacking up 3′s and its the refs that made them miss them. It’s the refs that let the Suns out rebound the Lakers. It’s the refs that made Artest and Fisher stop shooting 58% from the floor. It’s the refs that allowed Amer’e to score 42 points, and then in game 4, it’s the refs that let the Suns bench score 49 points from the floor while Amer’e and Lopez were basically non-scorers.

    Just for once I would love to see a Lakers fan actually admit that as a team they were outplayed and that’s why they lost a game.

  32. 26. The sad part about the lakers opportunities in the 4 quarter in Phoenix is the lakers have executed poorly down the stretch all season. The only times they have executed well has been because of Kobe. There were a few possessions kobe was screaming for the ball but they didn’t give it to him and wound up taking bad shots. From then on kobe brought the ball up himself. I just don’t know why the lakers can’t execute when it matters. I really think it’s because they all want to be the ones to make the big shot. And the 2 or 3 times they did execute they couldn’t make the shot.

  33. #24 Burgundy: “The Lakers aren’t having any problem with a zone.”

    :)

    I’ll ask you the same thing I asked Lesha in the previous thread: if you’re so convinced that the officiating is biased (and seemingly according to you, intentionally so) then why do you watch? If it’s all about the officiating, rather than making adjustments, such as figuring out how to attack the zone, that YES, the Lakers are having trouble with, then what’s the point? If the Lakers win the championship it’s all *meaningless*, even the championships, if the league is rigged by officials.

    #25 Mike Penberthy: Very well said! I’m rooting intensely for the Lakers to win, and think they still can, but I’m far from certain of it. Like you I’ve sensed something ‘off’ all year that has me less confident than I was last year. That Laker upset of the Sonics (in which Van Exel destroyed The Glove) is one of my favorite Laker memories as well. (not as much as winning championships, but… )

  34. I was just thinking as I watched Kobe’s post-game video (“we lost this because our defense sucked”). Is that really true?

    If you look at the box scores, Phoenix’s offensive output has been basically the same in all 4 games. Similar points, similar FGs, with a bump in FTs in game 3. They actually shot three-pointers better in game 2.

    So… is it really the Laker defense that’s the issue? The only major change I can see is the 18 offensive rebounds PHX picked up tonight. If LA could have finished off their defensive performances this might have been their strongest defensive game of the series.

    Meanwhile the real roller coaster is the Laker’s offense.

  35. 27. If you actually read the game rap up, Darius isn’t blaming the refs. But even you have to admit, the officiating was completely one-sided today. The Suns were not called for any ticky tack fouls and the lakers were called for them. Yes home court advantage and what not, but I I just don’t like when officials tighten the whistle on one end of the floor and forget its in their mouths on the other end. Game 3 it was more the suns attacking and the lakers being passive. This game the lakers did attack but the refs just wouldn’t call a foul. There was a play in the fourth where Frye bumped kobe knocked him backwards while taking a shot right in front of the refs and nothing was called. It’s not the refs fault the lakers lost, but it sure didn’t help.

    I guarantee the if the game is officiated evenly game 5, the lakers win big.

  36. Yeah, we sucked on the boards. Last I checked, we weren’t playing a 2-3 zone, so I don’t know why we were out of position so much. To be fair, a lot of the offensive boards were long rebounds, but it all comes down to the activity level. Quicker feet and hands. That’s what I saw from the Suns all night, whether it was hustling to the loose ball or swarming Pau and recovering.

    19 – I think there’s a simpler answer: Phil knows how to figure out a zone defense, but the players are having trouble executing. Phil isn’t tossing games to teach the team a lesson. Even at halftime of Game 3, it was reported that Brian Shaw diagrammed exactly how to find the seams of the defense.

    Right now it’s our execution. Part of it is our personnel (no sharpshooters to punish the zone, no explosive penetrators to draw the zone in). But I’m also not seeing the crisp passing we’re used to from this team. There was a couple plays that stand out in my mind (Gasol flashing to the open space and hitting a cutting Lamar, or Kobe drawing defenders with a drive to the left and Lamar shooting the gap), but there weren’t enough of them. I saw a lot of confusion with where to go, and how to get the ball there. That’s more on the players than the coaching staff to me. But I do hope the staff has some other alterations to make.

    I think the defense problems will right themselves at home. We were allowed to get away with contact in Staples that we weren’t in Phx. The tightened whistles made for a lot of backpedaling defense (although there was no excuse for slow rotations by Drew/Lamar to help on a driving Amare). In that sense, I do think the refereeing affected the game, and we should see a tighter interior defense just from that standpoint in Game 5.

  37. NyChris – This is just my opinion, I don’t have Synergy to back this up or anything, but I thought we did a lot poorer job of marking the 3-point line in our transition defense. The % may have been similar, but to my eye, they had a couple of cold streaks (0/8 during one stretch) that were just missed uncontested 3s, and then some torrid streaks.

    I also thought – especially when the bench broke the game open in the 4th – it seemed like we weren’t communicating on defense. Our defense swung to one side and we left shooters open in the short corner, with our closest defender actually in the paint. You have to keep at least 1 defender on the weakside to rotate out in time, and I think we just collapsed mentally. (I haven’t gone back and re-watched the play so my memory could be off though).

  38. Penberthy,

    There’s a difference between the Van Exel Ceballos Laker teams compared to this one. To say they are similar where you feel they have no chance to win a championship, makes me question your perspective.

  39. grinth, its not just these 2 games. sure, the zone caused the lakers to shoot more 3′s and drive less, but we’re talking about stats for the entire playoffs and the playoffs before this one.

    lakers are -5.2 in FTs for the playoffs. to put that into perspective not a single semifinal team has had such a high negative discrepancy since the 2003 mavericks (a team which took the 3rd most 3 pointers in a single playoffs over the last 10 years) and not a single defending champion has had a discrepancy that high in 10 years. closest ones? SAS 2004 -3.5 and BOS 2008 – 2.1. oh, look its the other teams the refs dont like because they keep winning. coincidence?

    as i said earlier, the lakers opponents are shooting 9 more FTS compared to the regular season while other winning playoff teams only have given out a maximum of 3 more FTs on average.

    the lakers are the only semifinal team to not have any 10+ free throw discrepancy games and have four – 20 FT playoff games.

    its not that the lakers arent getting calls on offense but theyre getting called for fouls when they are not a high fouling team. (they were 2nd least in the regular season at giving up FTs.) what does artest jacking up 3′s have anything to do with artest getting called for a ticky tack foul on the other end?

    some may say that the lakers have played teams that tend to draw fouls (utah, okc and phoenix are number 2,3 and 8 respectively at drawing fouls for the year). not valid. the lakers faced denver, utah and orlando last year (number 1,2 and 4 in the regular season at drawing fouls) and yet were only at a -.08 last year FT differential.

    the lakers have gone to the finals 48 percent of the time since 1947, have missed the playoffs 5 times EVER. we win and the refs don’t like us because of it. just like the non-laker fans. they dont like the lakers because they keep winning. its only natural.
    and not all refs are immune to this natural feeling. even if they are pros.

    i, for once, would want a non-laker fan to admit this.

  40. “We lost the foul line both nights,” said Jackson, his team taking 13 foul shots to 32 from the Suns. “We have to do a better job in that activity. It seemed like every time we went near them they fell down.”

    nUFF’ said by Phil.

  41. For only one second reflect and hush up Kamenetzky type write-ups.
    Lakers in 6,Darius for president though!

  42. 29. not the defense per se but the defense rebounding sucked. thats where they lost it. even if the suns bench scored 10 – 15 more points but the lakers won the rebounding, lakers probably would’ve won.

    more rebounding = more effort

    more effort = better games by pau and odom.

    good games by pau and odom plus monster game by kobe = win every time.

  43. I agree with both sides as far as the officiating goes. On the one hand, the lakers were frequently called for weak touch fouls or in cases where a suns player simply fell down. I think this element took several lakers out of their attack frame of mind making them instead cautious or hesitant. To see the number of calls go from relatively even in LA to nearly 2:1 in PHX is very disappointing as a fan… If what was a foul in LA was consistently a foul for both teams in Phoenix I’d be happy even if the lakers were blown out.

    On the other hand, the lakers needed to force the issue and create their own luck. Go to the rim, draw contact, and put the officials in a tough spot. Don’t settle for the outside jump shots, have faith and patience in ball movement through the triangle, and avoid the missed 3 rebounds leading to fast breaks.

    Individually, Gasol frequently looked overwhelmed in the post in the second half. His confidence / attack mentality was shot… (Shades of the 08 boston series). I would have liked to see him ball fake the double team away or to see a lot more laker wing players cutting to the hoop instead of dug in behind the three point line.

    Frustrating game, big swing of momentum… I think the Lakers will come out strong in game 5. I just wonder if any of the suns bench players will show up huge again…? Kobe was spectacular as always. Go Lakers!

  44. A perfect image of the defense they played against Pau:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_CqDk4jAv_Y4/S_yxJQ2sbUI/AAAAAAAADl8/EoNe3KGP3zY/s400/15.jpg

    That’s 3 defenders around him. Wait, 4 – you can see Danny Crawford peeking out from behind Pau.

    Other good ones from Doc Funk’s recap:
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_CqDk4jAv_Y4/S_yxIRzeg0I/AAAAAAAADlk/z1VeoAMzdKM/s400/12.jpg
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_CqDk4jAv_Y4/S_yw7CarEmI/AAAAAAAADk8/q2mt8KcRwy0/s400/07.jpg

    And the best one, that sums up the series:
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_CqDk4jAv_Y4/S_ywzFy8PeI/AAAAAAAADkU/K6yFc4tpCSQ/s400/02.jpg

  45. I am as demoralized as the team, I imagine at this moment, just bummed out tonight… Every single J that was fired up by their bench hit on target, unbelievable indeed. I am more worried with this Suns team, than the Thunder for some reason, they have experience and there is history involved here.

  46. Mike Penberthy May 26, 2010 at 1:25 am

    ray, i never said they were similar. I expected this team to go far ( the finals). I just didn’t see them winning the WHOLE thing.

  47. Derick Johnson May 26, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Play SASHA! Play SASHA! Play SASHA! Play SASHA! Do you understand Phil Jackson? Will someone please relay this message to the MOST OVERRATED coach in NBA history. Sasha plays in the Euro league and he is use to playing against zones. He is the missing piece to start the 4th quarter when the Lakers use their 3 guard offense with Fish and Kobe. This is not a series for Ron Artest after the 1st quarter when the pace speeds up. WHY ARE THEY HATING on Sasha. Is he still being punished for his feud with Bryan Shaw? Are people JEALOUS because he is dating Maria Sharapova? What’s the deal? We had two games to see if he can contribute. Shannon Brown and Farmar are NOT playing that great for Sasha not to be given a shame. This is PLAIN STUPID by Phil. Brown and Farmar play better against man to man pressure than against zone. You dont have to pay someone 12 million dollars to figure this crap out. This is why Phil NEEDS TO GO AWAY. He makes simple crap difficult!! PLEASE go coach LeBRICK!

  48. ghost of Darko May 26, 2010 at 2:58 am

    @25 CDog: did you really suggest putting Bynum on Amar’e? you did see Bynum repeatedly fail to get to Amar’e when he was the secondary defender, right? look, no one on the Lakers can guard Amar’e 1×1. the problem comes when you shade other defenders toward Amar’e, PHX has other shooters to make you pay. on the other end, Amar’e can’t really guard Pau or Bynum 1×1, a major reason why LA shredded PHX in games 1 & 2. then PHX’s zone changed everything.

    don’t let Phil’s blowing smoke with the media, nor the not-as-close-as-it-seems 9-point margin full you. LA’s offense is in trouble. if not for an otherworldly near-70% shooting display by Kobe, this game was a blowout.

    this zone is LA’s kryptonite. here’s why:

    1) the Lakers are an execution-based team and the zone disrupts the timing, rhythm & spacing of the triangle. by execution-based I mean LA has length, but they’re not particularly athletic or quick (except for Kobe).

    2) Kobe is the only Laker who can threaten the zone off the dribble. these days Kobe is more surgical in his off the dribble attack, primarily seeking space for his deadly mid-range J’s.

    3) the zone greatly reduces LA’s post-up opportunities by clogging the basket area. PHXs individual defensive liabilities are masked and the advantages of LA’s length & Kobe’s post-up brilliance are diminished.

    LA should be able to crash the offensive boards effectively and they were to an extent in Game 4. I suspect they have taken a controlled approach to the offensive glass for not wanting to unleash the Suns in transition. if nothing else, Phil certainly knows that points are getting harder to come by for his team, so he doesn’t wanna create easy opportunities for PHX to score more.

    it’s not a question of the zone being impregnable. it’s a question of the relative ease in which each team scores. in Games 1 & 2, LA carved up PHX and got everything they wanted. the secondary scorers never took a shot under pressure. now with LA’s scoring down from 128 in Game 1 to 106 in Game 4 (and knowing PHX is very likely to be in the 110s), those secondary scorers will be facing pressure on those wide open shots. (like Phil said, they’re open for a reason.)

    The Suns know they’re gonna score. so PHX is basically saying ‘we’ll give Kobe 40. if Artest, Odom, Fisher, Brown & Farmar can beat us by making open jumpers, so be it.’ it will be fascinating to see how this plays out over the rest of the series – especially given PHX’s bench advantage and the every-other-day schedule.

    if LA takes more than 24 3′s per game, PHX wins the series. that number of 3′s will indicate that LA hasn’t effectively figured how to consistently get the ball inside against the zone.

    side note: does anyone still think replacing Ariza with Artest was a good move for the Lakers? LA got older, less athletic & swapped a great triangle/play with Kobe fit for a bad one.

  49. Critical issues with the Lakers performance:

    1) Rebound: Pat Riley used to say: “no rebounds, no ring”. The Lakers big men looked lost in the mist of watching the Suns quick passing, and 3-point shooting, they forgot to position themselves to rebound. They lost their instinct of playing basketball. Their reaction was a fraction of a second slower than the smaller Suns.

    2) The guards need to penetrate to feed the ball to our BIG men. This is the only effective way to break the zone.

    3) Farmer and Brown need to be yelled at with a 12″ amplified speaker to wake them up!!!! They looked like they were couple of kindergarten kids who wandered into a busy street. They were completely lost in there and didn’t know what to do. They were hesitant to shoot, taking bad shots, lost on defense. Particularly Farmer, he was passive, weak, and scared.

  50. well i guess we’ll have to make some adjustments most specially on defense and more contribution with our bench…i like to see sasha hit those 3s again like he did before with boston wayback 2008. the way luke, dj and powell played before should emerge too in order to give the starters a much needed rest. lakers will take game 5 and i guess they’ll steal game 6. go lakers! mabuhay ang noypi!!!

  51. For all the fans who think the refs took over the game…grow up.

    There were two key things I noticed about this game.
    1) The Laker bigs were retreating on shots, not moving to the basket to contest any miss — therefore we ceded rebounds to the Suns without effort. This is where Andrew and Lamar usually move down low and grab a lot of balls – not this game.
    2) When we drive the lane we tend to toss up shots instead of throwing them down – Lamar, I am especially looking at you over your entire career. This is just not going to get it done with playoff referee standards. You will not get calls unless you are trying to actually put the ball in the basket when you are hit.

    No matter how good Kobe is, he still has that broken finger and this impacts his ball handling. This is most notable when he is driving toward the basket in traffic. This means our most effective ball handler is somewhat limited in an area where we have no other players who can effectively attack the seams of the zone. The Suns have figured this out and, I believe, this is a major reason their zone is so successful against us. Don’t give me Lamar; he is only effective when he can see a direct path to the basket – or near the basket.

  52. Seriously Laker fans….U blame your two loses on the refs!? The Phx Suns beat you….plain and simple!

  53. swedishmeatballs May 26, 2010 at 5:38 am

    I feel the Lakers fear of losing is greater than their desire to win at this point. And their premier defensive mechanism against it is simply arrogance, which actually decreases their chance of being successful.

  54. In the last game I didn’t think the refereeing was bad despite the huge FT disparity. In this game however, I thought it was pretty one-sided. The Suns were allowed to grab and push and jump over peoples backs for rebounds all night long, and anytime the Lakers had a little contact going for a rebound the whistle was blown. Don’t know how many times I saw someone Pau, Drew or Odom out of the way to grab a rebound, then a few plays later a Lakers player would get called for a lose ball foul with far less contact.

    Thats not the reason the Lakers lost, they lost because they couldn’t play defense against the Suns second unit and the suns were extremely active on the boards.

  55. Swedishmeatballs….är du svensk!? :D

  56. Disappointing evening, especially in the “hustle” category. Outrebounded by such a large margin, with most loose balls going tot he Suns. You have to admit, they are a fun team to watch. Ghost of Darko is spot on. The Ariza-Artest swap is a loser for us. Artest can’t make a three in the clutch if his life depended on it and just seems very stiff on the floor. Pau spent more time whinning than grabbing rebounds and was nonexistent when it counted the most. Farmar just has not progressed at all in the last two years. When he hits first couple shots, he generally plays ok, when he misses, he becomes MIA. Odom had a mediocre game as well. Expect the team to play better but I am concerned. Our bigs need to get tough. Most of the comments on FBAG are excellent. The Refs? a sideshow but troubling the disparity in free throws.
    We need to be more aggressive. Period. Will Phil make more adjustments to combat the zone? Stay tuned as this series is fascinating.

  57. The Lakers in the post-season still have yet to be outscored from the field. Still.

    Also, I didn’t Tivo the game, so I’m back to square one on what I, as a fan, did wrong.

    Maybe each series is different. The two games that we’ve lost, I’ve been hanging out with my brother, who’s a Spurs fan. Maybe he’s bringing that bad Spurs juju with him.

    This makes 2 great games by Kobe Bryant that have been wasted by the team. I’ve seen a lot of Suns fans taunting that Kobe sucks, but the man is playing pretty masterfully. The bench is just not getting it done.

    The good news: We go home for the next game. The bench plays better there, their bench will play worse, and the free throw disparity should only be about 4 or 5 in their favor based on the pattern we’ve seen this post-season (I kid, I kid…technically it’ll be all of 2 in our favor instead of 20 in theirs).

  58. Ghost of Darko,
    The reason you put Bynum on Amare is because then Pau becomes the help defender in the post. Amare is driving past Pau anyway – his quickness is impressive – so using a hobbled player to help recover the D is the Mistake. Pau would then be the help and show guy on the screen and roll, which should provide more success to the Lakers D because Pau is quick enough to get back and contest.

    It has been more difficult for our offense to score against the Suns D, give em credit. Now its time for the Lakers to put pressure on the Suns O to score! Even in our blowouts the Suns scored around 110 per game, we are putting no pressure on them to get the ball in the basket. This is primarily because second shot opportunities.

    Like I said, this series has gotten way more than interesting. We are in a dogfight, and whining about the Officials or Lamar’s head, or Pau’s “softness” or Brown’s ineptitude one is shortsided, and two ignores the point all together. We win as a team. We die as a team. The Lakers as a team have to step up in game 5.

  59. Forget the refs, we got beat. They outhustled and outplayed us. They got to the rim and we hucked up tested 3s. Amazing what intensity, hustle, and confidence can do. Either the team comes together or we are done. Kobe went off and we still lost. Kobe will not be able to beat this team on his own. Look at the offensive sets, they are all over the place , with great spacing, and we are playing catch around the 3 pt line. Coach, time to give KB a break in the second quarter, he looks real tired in the 4th and we can’t finish a game.

  60. 48, Bynum did well on his few possessions where he was isolated on Amar’e. This is because he stays off Amar’e and forces him to take jump shots. I’d rather Amar’e take 10-15 foot jump shots than bulling to the rim and getting ticky-tack foul calls drawn.

    I don’t blame the team for taking more threes than they usually do; against the zone you get some pretty wide open looks. I do, however, blame the team for relying on threes to get them back into the game when they were down 9 with 6 minutes to go. They acted as scared and frightful as some of the fans around here and started jacking up threes to get back into the game quickly. That’s 3-5 possessions, so all you need is 3-5 stops plus scores to tie the game. We had the stops; we just didn’t get the scores.

    We had one play that was killing the Suns where we had Kobe on the weak side and Artest, Odom, and Gasol on the strongside, with Fisher in the weak side corner. At least three times, Fisher would pass off to Odom, cut to the weak side corner, Odom would pass to Artest on the strong side, then Artest would dribble over to the weak side and give a cross-court pass to Kobe. Now this seems like a lot of perimeter passing, but it accomplished one thing; isolating Amar’e Stoudemire on Kobe. From this, Kobe had choices: shoot over Stoudemire, pass to Fish in the corner, or break down Stoudemire off the dribble. I saw at least one instance of each, although Kobe chose the first option quite a few times, knocking down at least 3 threes in this manner.

    Just a guess, but Phil may be waiting to play Sasha against the zone when he’s got the home crowd behind him. Sasha is a pretty mentally weak dude, so it’s important to get him confident or else he may get into a massive rut, Channing Frye style. Only he may not have enough time to get out of it the way Frye has.

  61. So, if the referees don’t matter… why are they on the court?

  62. Stern wants to send Kobe to Akron lakes,Lebron needs a fishing partner.

    And I really boo those who have watched the game and seen such blatant non-calls and still try to trail things off the main issue,the 50 meter frickin sauropod in the arena…

  63. Most veterans of this site hate mentioning let alone blaming the officials.

    That Phoenix got more foul calls certainly is influenced by their aggressive “roll” to the hoop and their zone defense.

    But two points stand out as glaring non-conformance to the NBA’s own rule book.

    1. Law of Verticality. The NBA’s own rule book classifies as legal when the defender jumps straight up.
    http://www.nba.com/videorulebook/category.html?cid=35

    In every single instance that this rule was adhered to, Andrew Bynum was whistled for a foul.

    2. Defensive 3 seconds. Virtually every Laker possession over 14 seconds and where the ball was swung to one side, the weakside backside zone defender had at least one, sometimes two feet in the paint with no Laker in the vicinity for the entirety of the possession. The Suns were called once, I believe in the last game and not a single time in game 3.

  64. @30 Grinth

    “It’s the refs that made the Lakers start jacking up 3’s and its the refs that made them miss them. ”

    I know you meant this sarcastically, but it’s been stated many times on this blog that when you players get hacked repeatedly around the basket with no calls they are usually relegated to outside shooting to try and make something happen. So while the refs certainly did not make the Lakers miss, they played a part in the “jacking.” Literally.

  65. I was following the 1st quarter via gamecast and within the first 5mins of the game the Lakers had 4 team fouls to 0 for PHX.

    I stopped following as I knew that PHX would win this game

  66. Good things the Suns defense hasn’t improved at all, or the Lakers would have really gotten killed!!

    As a group, this Lakers team doesn’t have a “high basketball IQ” – when an opponent’s tactics require patience and thinking to counter them, they have problems.

  67. I’m sick and tired of all the conspiracy talk. It’s one thing to acknowledge that the refs may have missed some calls (which is what I tried to do in the recap). It’s another thing entirely to make it seem like there’s some anti-Laker agenda at play where the refs are blatantly calling things unfairly in an attempt to make the Lakers lose games. That’s a bunch of farfetched bs, plain and simple. If that’s your take, I’m unsure as to why you’re a fan of the game or even watch the contests. Watch dancing with the stars or something, I hear that’s popular.

    Now, on to some of the other comments…

    #46. Please grow up. You want Phil to leave? You think Sasha is the savior? YOU LIKE WRITING IN ALL CAPS? It doesn’t make your point any stronger or any more well received (maybe I shouldn’t have tried to make a joke in the recap about my caps lock being broken, but I digress). And try to keep the talk to actual basketball – no one cares about who Sasha dates and making claims of jealousy makes you sound foolish. Again, grow up.

    #45. Mike Penberthy (still love the handle – classic), You’re very much entitled to your opinion about the Lakers prospects, and since you’ve had them since early on the season I respect your resolve. That said, I did take umbrage with your comment from the game thread where you said that even if the Lakers advance to the Finals that you’ll be rooting against them. That’s why I questioned if you’re actually a Lakers fan. I can understand having an opinion about what a team’s chances are – we all have an opinion on that. What I don’t understand is actually rooting for your opinion to win out rather than the team you supposedly cheer for. I don’t know how that works, really.

    #26. Joel B. I think it’s simplistic to say “Gentry made adjustments and Phil hasn’t”. I agree that Gentry has changed up his defensive approach, but we can’t say what Phil has or has not done, we can only say what the players are and aren’t doing. I think Gentry deserves credit, but I think we’re also falling into the trap of giving the coaches too much credit or blame based off how the players play on the court. Scheme only gets you so far – the rest is on the players will and want and execution. I give the Suns credit for playing well these past two games and I give Gentry credit for giving them the blueprint. From the Lakers side, there’s not much credit to go around because no one (outside of Kobe and flashes from the other players) has played particulary well in the last two games. I don’t know what the game plan is, but based off Phil’s post game remarks from both games 3 & 4, I don’t think firing up 32 and 28 threes and defending by fouling were part of the game plan. I don’t think “Bombs away” and “Hack city” were written on the whiteboard in the locker room. That’s just a hunch though. I’ve always said that coaching is tricky in that there are times where the players fall short. And when that happens there are times where that’s on the coaches, times where it’s on the players, and times where it’s circumstance (i.e. game situations that dictate the failure). And while I’m not in the Lakers lockerroom, I’ve been in others and I know that most, if not all, coaches are telling the players what needs to get done for the team to be successful. The fact is, it just doesn’t always work out the way it’s planned.

  68. 61.

    there were 2 key plays somewhat regarding law of vertacilty that i thought were instrumental in contributing to pau’s sub-par game and the inconsistent officiating.

    one of the first plays, pau clearly had position for the rebound and practically had the ball in his hand and j-rich flew from behind and bumped him, pau lost the ball, no foul called.

    few plays later, dudley has position but pau, simply so much taller, jumps straight up and tips the ball from behind and gets called for an over-the-back. his 2nd personal. he has to sit for like 8 minutes. loses his groove and doesn’t have a good game.

  69. #65. I’ve moderated your comment and deleted the one that called you a name. I apologize for letting the first comment get by me – we don’t tolerate that kind of stuff here.

  70. There are issues with the way the Lakers played last night, but I think part of the reaction on his blog is that the Suns weren’t given much respect and, after the first two games, that respect was practically non-existent. Since we fans are manic-depressive individuals to start with, we suddenly went off the depressive end.

    Truthfully, I suspect the role players on the team – almost the entire team – also didn’t give the Suns much respect. I think that’s why the defense in the first two games – never mind the last two – was substandard. Our role players really thought this was just a tuneup for the finals. I hope that attitude has been beaten out of them and we can expect more effort in the next game.

  71. During the regular season Kobe (7.4), Pau (5.6) and Bynum (4.0) contributed 17 of the Lakers 24 free throw attempts per game (71%). Last night Pau (5) got his, but Kobe (4) and Bynum (0) did not.

    With Bynum’s injury and lack of mobility it’s not surprising that his FT’s are down. Kobe’s lack of attempts was due almost entirely to the fact that he was shooting jumpers; only 5 of his 22 shots were in the paint.

    Kobe’s got to get into the paint more, either on dribble penetration, post ups, or cuts. Not only will that generate for FT’s for him, but it’ll break down the Suns defense which always leads to more reaching and fouling.

    Anyway, I HATE the whole officiating stuff, fans just use it to make *excuses*. You, nor the team, can control the officials, so concentrate on things that you CAN control.

    Ghost of Darko laid out a number of good reasons the Lakers have struggled against the zone; it’s unbelieveable that team can get away with playing a zone for two games in the playoffs!

    Be more aggressive, get into the paint, move the ball better, attack the offensive boards… those are the things to do to get Phx out of their zone. Oh, and having someone other than Kobe make a shot over the zone would help too!

  72. Darius,
    It is amusing hearing Lakers fan complain about conspiracies; you go on to the blogs of every other team but the Celtics, and the fans will be complaining that a Celtics-Lakers final has been pre-determined by the league.

  73. So the two main theories I have seen on refs are that they flat out hate LA or that Stern is rigging this. On the first one, I find this hard to believe due to the Lakers’ recent success. If the refs are focusing on keeping you down, four titles in a decade with seven really good teams sure seems like a stretch. If Stern wants to extend the series, doesn’t this help LA long-term. Stern wants the biggest markets and most marketable players in the Finals, so that would imply that LA would get that “help” in the most crucial games of the series. (Though the theory doesn’t account for things like the pretty boring second round or LeBron failing the last two seasons, but whatever)

    Now that last explanation may leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths. It seems disrespectful to the game to see it that way, with the commissioner aiming to give the Lakers something rather than let them earn it. I answer with this. Criticizing the refs in the way I’ve seen here is purely disrespectful, because it robs opponents of any credit or agency. There seems to be an underlying belief for some that any time the Lakers lose, it is because the refs took it from them. Many fans act like the only reason LA is not 82-0 for the season and 12-0 in the playoffs is because for every loss the court itself was simply tilted toward their opponent’s end. Guess what, LA was 57-25, 10-4 in the playoffs, and gets to go home as the better team with a great opportunity to get to the finals. It isn’t that bad. Sometimes you lose to the other team. There are reasons for it that always go beyond just the arbiters of the game and the imagined “persecution” Lakers fans believe in. Those reasons rest on the teams, the moment, and sometimes even a little luck. As a friend of mine once said, them’s the breaks. If LA isn’t strong enough to win two of the next three games, they weren’t really as good as we believed they were anyway.

    I’ll offer a final explanatory aside about why calls sometimes look different on each side of the court. The three refs are positioned differently as they try to keep up with the best athletes in the world. The Baseline ref is not the same on each side (as he/she would have to do far more running then his/her counterparts). I’ll admit that I’m unsure of exactly how they adjust and rotate, but that does explain some of the shifts in calls over short stretches.

  74. 66. I, for one, have not mentioned sterns name before this and while I have theories, they don’t involve anyone conspiring. I’m not gonna repeat them but I watch the game because I can’t help but love it. I speak out about officiating because it’s the one thing that bugs me about the NBA and I notice it in non-laker games too and it sure as hell makes me mad watching baseball too (although I like that they keep the same officials for an entire series and they add 3 for playoff games).

    Believe me, I keep telling myself to just watch tennis and stop buying league pass and stop the NBA.. But it’s hard.

  75. Darius,

    Great, great recap. Very astute – the most astute, I think, that I’ve read (and I’ve read lots last night and this morning).

    The biggest thing I think you hit on is the effectiveness of the Suns’ zone, or rather, the REASON for its effectiveness. I listened to the TNT guys and read others saying how easy it should be to break down. However, that “ease of breakage” doesn’t happen when the feet of the zone players themselves are moving so quickly and with so much determined effort and well-placed energy. If the Suns were merely content to stand around and “guard their area,” then yes, the zone would be much easier to break. But they’re not, and consequently, it’s not. THAT’S why the zone is working so well, and what other analysts are missing. Bravo.

    The rest of your analysis is spot-on as well. If I were a Laker fan, this would be my haven. But since I’m not -

    GO SUNS! :)

  76. As a former Clipper season ticket holder (and Laker), I just want to say that Gentry is an outstanding coach and deserves a ton of credit for his team’s hyper-kinetic defensive efforts and, with Nash, executing a highly intelligent and diverse offense. Their offense is quick to adjust and exploit. Watching them put Bynum in a P’R blender and then find his assignment was impressive.

    Under Gentry, the Clippers got good minutes from Darius Miles, Olowakandi, Jeff McInnis who did nothing else for the rest of their careers. Plus, he had Cory MAggette, Lamar and Elron Brand playing hard. I canceled my season tickets when they fired Gentry because I assumed they just didn’t care about winning.

  77. My two cents on the reffing.

    99% of the time, a disparity in foul calls is a result of a lack of aggressiveness.

    The exception to that rule is when a lack of aggressiveness is a result of a disparity in refereeing. I believe that a couple of inconsistent calls got the Lakers off their game, and in the words of Magic, they need to get back into their game.

    And to KeZ, refereeing in the past has been pretty much even. It only seems tilted now, in my opinion, because fans outside of Los Angeles and Boston are the ones blaming the refs first.

  78. This game changed in the 4th quarter when Frye hit that 3 as the shot clock expired. I believe the Lakers were up 2 at the time, and the Suns had been 0-8 on 3s in the second half up to that point. However, when that shot went down it got the entire crowd and Suns bench fired up and they hit two more corner 3s to push the lead to 9 (while we missed two open 3s on our side of the court; as Van Gundy always says, it’s a make-or-miss league)

    Another point, why did the Lakers (I noticed Fisher especially) stop giving the ball to Kobe in the middle of the 4th? I agree with another commenter in that Kobe is having arguably the best series of his career, and the the 4th quarter of a tight game there were several straight possessions in which Kobe never touched the ball, resulting in missed jumpers from others. It was quite befuddling to me.

  79. How can people complain about referees when 2 finesse teams are involved? Please! When the celtics are mashing up the lakers, there’s a clash of styles and it’s hard for the refs to sort it out – you either call every little touch or you make judgement calls the whole game and hope for the best. When Dragic gets the play of the game by contorting his entire body at the last second to shoot with his right – and odom can’t seem to make the correct adjustment – I think that says it all about the lakers defensive mindset and how the refs responded. You either put dragic on the floor or you make sure you are inside his shirt if he’s gonna make that ridiculous shot. The suns clearly wanted it more (aside from kobe’s unbelievable play – i’m quick to forget he’s playing on a bad leg and busted finger on shooting hand). Amare is getting good position and beating guys off the bock and the help is generally late, which only lets the guys on the perimeter bomb away, which they made. As many have said before, you beat the zone by penetrating and forcing them to collapse, which leads to a kick out or a layup. The 3 ball is not always the answer, especially when you miss and jump start their transition – remember the OKC series?

  80. Ben, interesting take At the end. If angles are an issue why not add more refs on the playoffs ( baseball does it) that are stationery. Why not add a replay official ( hockey has it). As far as the theory goes and the lakers winning, since you asked, in the early aughts there was 1-2 teams that were good enough to beat l.a at the time. League was alot weaker. It seems like there are only a few teams dedicated to winning consistently. Interestingly, there have only been 7 NBA champions in the past 25 years. MLB has had 16. NFL has had 14. NHL has had 12… Only 7! Favors the lakers but no wonder the rest of the league thinks a celtics lakers final is pre planned!

  81. yes, the lakers defense and rebounding was horrendous. but i will say this. as much as tim donaghy’s character’s been assassinated (rightfully so), he did call this game on the Dan Patrick Show yesterday morning. i recently saw the 60 min interview he did and it does bring a lot of what’s happening into perspective. while this does not excuse the Lakers terrbul performance, there’s no hiding the fact that a ref can dictate the rhythm of an offense and defense. offense, whereas a player will continue to drive and not get calls. defense, a player will not play as hard D when he knows touch fouls will be called. that being said, the lakers intensity and focus to execute was not there last night, 42 FTA in Gm3 and 32 FTA in Gm4, you gotta admit something fishy is going on.

  82. Lungs, what do you mean by Tim Donaghy calling the game?

  83. I don’t believe in conspiracies. My only point about the refs was that Phoenix was allowed to hack and jump over the back to get rebounds and loose balls in the first quarter, and that might have contributed to a sense of frustration and lack of effort from LA. The negative thinking of “why bother working to get these boards when they can just bang us and get the ball without a call?”

    That’s an excuse and not winning thinking, and the Lakers need to rise above it, but that’s what I think happened mentally.

    @Snoopy you’re probably right about the rotations, it’s questions like that where I think about signing up for that fan Synergy plan, but then I think, “Am I really going to pay money to watch a bunch of bad Laker plays cut together in a row?”

  84. @ladial go to Dan Patrick’s website and check out Donaghy’s last interview w/ Dan Patrick. I think it was yesterday. He said he’s 14-1 in predicting winners for the 2010 playoffs

  85. ghost of Darko May 26, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    @CDog @ Zephid: Bynum has even less lateral quickness than Gasol, so it’s not likely he’d be any more effective on Amar’e. Amar’e on the foul line extended ISO, already very effective against Gasol, would be deadly against Bynum. the ISO actually creates even more space than the screen-roll because the help defender has to come from farther away. if playing off Amar’e is LA’s most effective defensive approach, then Gasol is still their best option as primary defender.

    Zephid – I agree with your assessment that LA was most effective against the zone with Kobe on the weakside. I expect them to go to this more in Game 5. inexplicably they went away from this in the 4th quarter.

    …AND they went away from a white-hot Kobe. he was 15-22 from the field primarily on 3s & deep 2s!!! and at least 4 of the misses were late shot clock/quarter-end heaves. so he was really more like 15-18…from deep. in the MJ days Phil would’ve junked the triangle & put the ball in MJ’s hands every time down the floor.

    @SBCinAZ: thanks for the shout out.

  86. I do not think that the statistics outlined in CA’s post on SSNR support any theory that the Lakers somehow get jobbed by the referees. I do, however, believe that CA’s statistics completely debunk the myth that the Lakers are favored by the referees.

    It is very debatable (and quite unlikely) that the Lakers just got the short end of the stick in these games. Lots of great reasons have been given to the contrary, including the Sun’s aggression, the Lakers passivity, the zone defense, etc. However, it is completely conclusive, in my opinion, that the Lakers are not favored by the referees.

  87. ghost of Darko May 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    this is not mine…it was posted by ‘ErnestoT’ on yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie…articulates the FT disparity very well:

    For all you laker fans touting the difference in free throws saying that is proof of the refs favoring the Suns in the last two games. Here is some stats:
    You tout:stats:
    game 1 and 2 FT’s: PHX: 58, LAL: 56
    game 3 and 4 FT’s: PHX: 74, LAL: 33
    And you think it proves your point,
    But
    game 1 and 2 Lakere 3 pt attempts 35
    game 3 and 4 Lakere 3 pt attempts 69
    Almost double of attempts. Add to this the shooting of midrange jumpers, and it is easy to see the problem, the zone has taken away the biggest advantage of the Lakers and they are struggling to find offense outside of Kobe.
    Why, the Lakers are trying to shoot down the zone (and doing a rotten job of it) and not going insider, hence they don’t get the calls. Zones are design to take away the inside, ask the orange of Syracuse. Take the outside 3 and see if you can make enough to beat the Suns. So, the Lakers are trying to do that and they are not getting to foul line.
    Second, they are down late and foul to get back in it. The reality is not that the refs are giving the game to Suns, but the Suns and the zone have revealed a huge weakness, the Lakers lack a second outside shooter.
    Phil is great coach, but he has very little experience in attacking a zone. I have yet to see the lakers post a wing for Gasol to have an outlet when he gets doubled inside. I have yet to see an overloading of the zone. What I have seen is a drive to the middle of the zone and a kickout for wing 3. Just like the Suns hope for. If they continue to attack the zone that way, time for the Lakers to book their vacations early.

  88. Here is a perspective from a Suns fan.I was at both games here in PHX.After game 1 and 2,I thought the Suns were in trouble.They didnt play their game at all.But after games 3 and 4,they have the Lakers playing their game too,and if this continues the Lakers wont win.They dont have the shooters to match up.Kobe is incredible.Having watched him knock down almost every attempt the last two games was very impressive,but after that,where to turn.I am sorry but Pao is softer than a used baby diaper. He cant guard Amare 1 on 1 on a good night,matter of fact,no one on the Lakers can.And anyone who thinks the refs are biased,Kobe should have fouled out last night.I was sitting right off the court and he got bailled out on three fouls they put on someone else.A true fan will admit this.The way I see it is the Lakers have better players 1-5,but the Suns have a better TEAM, and I dont think you can deny that.