From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: I’ve seen this game too many times, and I’m sick of it already. You might as well keep it in your DVR for a while, and next year, when the Lakers go into a series up 2-1, just play this one back on repeat. If you didn’t recognize tonight’s performance, I don’t think you qualify as a Lakers fan, because this was vintage. Once again, the Lakers were put up against a dangerous and desperate team in a Game 4, and once again they were out-worked, out-muscled, and out-smarted by a team that had no business doing any of those things. Once again, they decided that 80% would be good enough, and the Houston Rockets er, Denver Nuggets um, Oklahoma City Thunder oh, Phoenix Suns made them pay for it.
From Phillip Barnett, Talkhoops: Kobe Bryant finished the game with 38 points and 10 assists. He shot 15 for 22 and the Lakers still lost. This is his second straight 30 and 10 game and the Lakers second straight loss. The Lakers cut their turnover total down from 17 to six and cut the Suns fast break points from 18 to six and they still lost. How is this possible? The answer is two fold. The Lakers failed to attack the zone with any kind of tenacity and they failed to grab defensive rebounds. On Suns misses, the Lakers only grabbed five more rebounds than the Suns did. If you’re going to win playoff games, that disparity has to be much, much larger. By comparison, the Suns had a +20 point difference on Lakers misses. If the Lakers cut the Suns offensive rebounds in half, they win this game and all of the zone talks go away.
From Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: The only point that anyone outside of the Phoenix locker room will believe the Suns can win this series is when the clock hits zero of a fourth Suns win. It’s not just the enormous disadvantages the Suns face that they’ve overcome in Games 3 & 4 or the remarkable number of things they need to go their way, but like SSR points out, we’ve seen it. The Suns need for something very unlikely to occur in order to win this series. In a game in LA, they need for things to go their way. The shots to fall for them but not for LA. The calls to go for them (and boy did they go for them in Phoenix) in Staples. And the zone to keep working. Dwyer mentioned that this series had a familiar feel to it, like the predictable horror movie that still scares you. But even with the win, there’s still that familiar feeling with it. The Lakers simply proved they still are who they always have been. The amazingly talented, brilliantly effective, world-class team that only chooses to execute when it absolutely has to, believes in its own hype, and lacks any sort of true killer instinct against good teams. And they can and will still win in spite of that.
From Marcel Mutoni, SLAM: Despite the troubles they’ve had handling the Phoenix Suns’ “girly” zone defense in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals, the Los Lakers have done just fine on the offensive end. By every metric, the offense has done enough to win games, but that has obviously not been sufficient. The reason L.A. now must play a pivotal Game 5 back at Staples Center on Thursday night, against a surging Phoenix team that’s slowly beginning to believe it can win the series, is because their defense has been so atrocious lately. Or as Kobe might say, it has “sucked.” Bryant — who once again performed brilliantly in a losing effort — was livid following the game last night, tersely addressing the assembled media about his team’s lack of urgency, and porous attention to detail on the defensive end of the ball.
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: I’ve never seen anything like it. Have you?
If it weren’t for fatigue, the Phoenix Suns would have rolled the entire fourth quarter with five bench players on the floor: Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, and Louis Amundson. That’s significant in and of itself, as that crew essentially turned the game on its ear in the second, and then the fourth quarter. The Lakers had an eight point advantage in the first and third quarters, mind you, with the Suns starters milling about. But what got me the most, beyond the bench dominance or the fact that only tired legs led to Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire (those bums) coming back into the contest with around four minutes left in Phoenix’s Game 4 win, was the way Gentry uses this bench. It’s been growing all year, but we’re now at a point where Gentry is just alternating teams. I’ve never seen anything like it at this level.
From the K-Bros, Land O’ Lakers: With 6:47 to go in the fourth quarter, both teams took the court after a full timeout by the Lakers. Jared Dudley had drained a three-pointer before the stoppage, pushing a lead to 98-89 as part of a 9-2 run. This burst represented just one chunk of a frame owned entirely by Phoenix, who began the proceedings with a slim 85-84 advantage. Even more striking, the Suns did this damage rolling with five subs: Lou Amundson, Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye. The Lakers, however, paired their three main subs with Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant, the latter a one-man wrecking crew to this point.
From Dave Gold, Momma There Goes That Man: Let me just come out and say it. The Phoenix Suns are just not that good of a team. Their Western Conference Finals appearance is a fluke and really, the Lakers should have started their rest for the NBA Finals last night after Game 4. Right after Game 2 was over with, it pretty much seemed like L.A. was gonna steam roll over the Suns and and get some much needed rest before they go up against the Doomsday squad known as the Boston Celtics.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: When you get this close to the NBA championship, love for the game should be like Robin Lopez’s hair … here, there, everywhere. It should be spilling all over the floor, past those Western Conference finals logos and right to the bench area that should look as united and animated as Phoenix’s crew was Tuesday night. Even after getting the theoretical jolt of a Game 3 loss, the Lakers just stood around in Game 4. They stood around and assumed they would stand taller. They didn’t, because the Suns used their passion for the opportunity at hand and actually jumped. “We’ve got to fight,” Phoenix’s Steve Nash said. “They’re bigger than us. Most people can make an argument that they’re better than us. But we’ve got to have a lot of heart and a lot of determination and find ways to win the little battles.”
From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: Phil Jackson had an animated day, and it had nothing to do with the breathless pregame rumors that had him coaching in Chicago or New Jersey next season. The Lakers’ coach was in the faces of his players and popping up off the bench more often than usual in an emotional game the Lakers eventually lost to the Phoenix Suns, 115-106. His activity was a prime indicator of how much Game 4 meant to the Lakers, the Suns evening the Western Conference finals Tuesday with their runaway offense. Jackson didn’t like the Lakers’ defense, to say the least.
From Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times: It was playoff basketball reduced to maddening math. The Phoenix Suns stormed through Tuesday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference finals with 10 players. The Lakers staggered around with six. The Suns were like a joyful college team, everyone playing, everyone scoring, the sidelines dancing. The Lakers were like a somber high school team with one star and five kids from shop class. “They had 10 guys involved out there, we had about half that,” said the Lakers’ Lamar Odom, shaking his head. “They had help from all over the place, and we didn’t.”
From Vincent Bonsingore, The LA Daily News: You knew it was going to happen sooner or later. It was bound to, had to happen. The Phoenix Suns shoot too well, are too deadly from 3-point range to go an entire series without getting hot from behind the arc. It was only a matter of time before Channing Frye eventually made a long-range shot – or multiple ones – and Leandro Barbosa got untracked. It was inevitable a Suns team that played the regular season as one of the best 3-point shooting clubs in league history, then used those hot hands to storm through the first two rounds of the playoff, would unleash that firepower on the Lakers in the Western Conference finals.
From Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: The Suns are unusual in that Alvin Gentry doesn’t install a traditional rotation. At the 12:00 mark of the second and fourth quarters, these five guys take the floor as a single unit. On Tuesday night, they dazzled. Dragic probed the Lakers’ defense. Barbosa was decisive with his trigger. Dudley was his usual bundle of energy and heady intuition on both ends of the floor. Amudnson did yeoman’s work up top screening for his guards (and snuck behind the Lakers’ bigs for a couple buckets of his own). And Channing Frye? After enduring one of the most brutal stretches we’ve seen in recent years from a sharpshooter, Frye broke out of his slump with a vengeance.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: The number on the white board in the Los Angeles Lakers’ locker room, representing the countdown to the wins necessary to complete their road to a repeat, remained at six after Tuesday’s 115-106 Game 4 loss to the Phoenix Suns — but the only thing on the team’s mind seemed to be Game 5 on Thursday. “Critical game,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We say they’re all critical, but this is what playoffs are about. If you can support yourself on the home court, you have a chance of going back and pulling an upset or winning the game, No. 5, and creating the momentum change. So, we’ll see what comes out on Thursday. Should be interesting.” For the second time this postseason, the Lakers jumped out to a 2-0 lead to start a series, only to lose Games 3 and 4 on the road. Against Oklahoma City in the first round, Los Angeles was able to take Game 5 at home and Game 6 on the road to close out the series before it went the distance.
From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los Angeles: There are no time limits anymore, no command to shoot 3-pointers like there’s a never-ending ball rack off to the side. And yes, there are such things as bad shots in Phoenix these days. Mike D’Antoni took the “seven seconds or less” era with him when he left for New York two seasons ago. But that’s not to say that this calmer, gentler version, this “11 or 12 seconds or less” offense, doesn’t look like the old days every so often. When the 2010 Suns offense is flowing, as it did Tuesday night in Phoenix’ 115-106 win over the Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, it can still burn hotter than any offense in the NBA.