Archives For May 2010

Thanks For The Tip

Darius Soriano —  May 28, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I’m still reliving and celebrating Ron Artest’s put back to win game 5.  Not only was that Ron’s biggest single play in his short tenure with the Lakers, but it was a very meaningful basket for this team with ramifications beyond just a single victory.  Sure, the basket only counted as two points and only won a single game.  But if that basket doesn’t go in the Lakers would then have found themselves in an overtime period against a team that just came back from 18 points down in the second half; a team that would have been riding a wave of confidence and energy that would have been tough to overcome even for a team playing on its home court.  What would have happened in that period is anyone’s guess, but if the Lakers lose that game they’d really be in a tough spot as they’d be facing an elimination game on the road against a great home team.  So, needless to say, Ron’s basket was bigger than just a single made hoop.

And thinking about all of that made me feel fortunate.  I mean, the Lakers again had things break their way when they easily could not have.  And when reflecting on that, I realized that the Lakers have actually been quite fortunate these entire playoffs.  As you’ll see below, this isn’t the first time that the Lakers have come out on top in a last second situation these playoffs.  And in each one of those contests, the winning play was the result of a tip-in/put-back.  So, without further ado, enjoy these clips from the Lakers last second wins from these playoffs:

We all remember game 6 of the OKC series, right? Imagine if this play doesn’t go the Lakers way. Suddenly the Lakers are tied with an upstart Thunder team with nothing to lose and heading back to LA for a game 7 where anything can happen. And sure the Lakers’ success at home would have made them heavy favorites, but I don’t even want to think about what could have been if things had played out that way. Thank goodness for Pau working through traffic to rebound Kobe’s miss.

And what about Wes Matthews missed tip in from game 3 of the Utah series? Based off how that series was playing out, I know few doubt the Lakers would have come out on top over the Jazz in round two. But also understand that the result of this game essentially broke the Jazz’s spirit. Had Utah won this game, the series is suddenly 2-1 in the Lakers favor, but the Jazz would have had a win under their belt and some confidence to build on for the future games. The difference between 2-1 and 3-0 is huge in a series and with this missed tip the Lakers again came out on top. I mean, we all see how the WCF turned when Phoenix got their first win.  The media (and maybe righfully so) was burying the Jazz the same way they were burying Phoenix after two games.  And look how the Lakers/Suns series has gone after game three.  I think we should be extremely thankful this play went the Lakers’ way.

And then we have last night’s play from Ron. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself and I just have to post it again. When you look at the replay, look at where Ron is when Kobe elevates to take the shot and then where he ends up to execute the put back. That was pure hustle and desire on Artest’s part.

All great finishes and all in the Lakers favor.  Like I said, I’m just grateful to Pau, Artest, and (sadly for him) Wesley Matthews.  Hopefully, the Lakers don’t find themselves in too many more situations like this in the future where a last second play has to go their way.  But if they do, I can only hope that they’re as fortunate as they have been so far these playoffs.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Phoenix Suns Game 5 NBA Western Conference Finals in Los Angeles

THE BLOGS

From Henry Abbot, Truehoop: With about a minute left in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Pau Gasol chased down an offensive rebound in the corner. Steve Nash is loaded with veteran tricks. Gasol had his back turned. Nash resolved to get a steal by sneaking up behind to poke it away. It almost worked! But at the last instant, Gasol saw the approaching Canadian and whipped a pass to Ron Artest, who was just about to ignite a hailstorm of criticism.  Nash was now horribly out of position, still in the corner. Three Lakers — Artest, Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant — were spread across the arc of the 3-pooint line, and every single one of them about as open as NBA players ever get.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: First things first: this series isn’t over. Granted, it might feel that way to Suns fans tonight. Just as their team was reaching out to steal Game Five, a guillotine blade came out of nowhere to chop off their hand, not only foiling the crime but leaving them bleeding and miserable. The wound won’t be easy to cauterize. All the same, the Suns this evening came achingly close to something neither they nor the Lakers have managed in the Western Conference Finals, which is winning a road game. The Lakers still need one more victory either in Phoenix, where they were deeply uncompetitive in Games Three or Four, or back in Staples in a Game Seven. Their ability to do so isn’t a given.

From John Krolic, Pro Basketball Talk: We all know who Kobe Bryant is — one of the most successful, dynamic, creative, and audacious scorers to have ever played in the NBA. Kobe’s passing has always been very good, but he’s generally preferred to take over games with his scoring throughout his career.

Yet in crunch-time on Thursday night, while passing virtuoso Steve Nash kept the Suns in the game by making tough shot after tough shot, Kobe was the one making pinpoint passes and trusting his teammates to make big finishes.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Wednesday afternoon at practice, Phil Jackson repeated one of his favorite expressions about the game, that everything can change “on a trifle.” The small things can add up. Little moments turn into bigger ones. The same can be said for playoff runs. On the path to a championship, there are those moments able to turn history if they go the other way. If the Denver Nuggets can get the ball in bounds during last year’s Western Conference Finals, or Courtney Lee doesn’t blow a layup at the end of regulation in Game 2 of the Finals.

From Rey Moralde, The No Look Pass: Every second counts in a basketball game. When players and coaches say that “they have to play all 48 minutes in a game”, they truly mean it. No better example than what happened in what was probably the most exciting game of the postseason so far. The Lakers truly escaped this one as a very game Phoenix Suns came close to bringing home a 3-2 lead back at the desert. And in a 48-minute basketball game, there are plenty of chances to make up mistakes that had happened earlier. If one player misses a shot, they can take another one later to make up for it. If one player turns the ball over, he’ll do better to finish the play and NOT turn it over. Basically, you keep playing. And this game was an example of getting second, third, fourth, fifth, eighteenth chances in this basketball contest.

From Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: It’s kind of ironic that one of the Suns’ core defensive strategies is to force Ron Artest to shoot the basketball. It worked when Artest hoisted up a pair of bricks with the Lakers up three with a minute left, but with Grant Hill and Steve Nash draped all over Kobe Bryant on his last-second fadeaway three, Jason Richardson forget to box out Artest, who swooped in to catch the air ball and in one motion flung the ball into the basket for the deciding score at the buzzer. And just like that Ron Artest, a player who had not scored on an offensive put back all series and had made just a single shot all night in eight attempts, shockingly became the hero in this 103-101 Game 5 victory that puts the Lakers up 3-2.

THE PAPERS

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Basketball veterans Steve Nash and Ron Artest are both looking for their first trip to the NBA Finals. After Artest’s buzzer-beating put-back of Kobe Bryant’s miss gave the Lakers a 103-101 victory and a 3-2 Western Conference finals lead Thursday night, a stunned Nash stood under the basket with his hands on his head. Artest jumped into Bryant’s arms to celebrate the winning shot — after his seven misses in eight attempts, including two open but too-quick jumpers late in the game — having brought the Lakers one victory from their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

From Kevin King, OC Register: The moment was utter togetherness for a team that had been out-togethered by the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals … and by a lot of teams this season, frankly. But the on-court celebration Thursday night was finally the gathering of a championship team, not just a pile of championship talent. Danger faced together and overcome is a remarkably unifying experience. “It’s part of the road to glory,” Lamar Odom said. At first, it was only the players to touch the ball on that last play: Odom, who’d inbounded the ball to Kobe Bryant, headlocked Ron Artest and Bryant while those two first embraced in the aftermath of Artest’s winning put-back.

From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: If there’s a faster point of redemption in Lakers playoff history, it wasn’t coming to mind, not after Jack Nicholson looked so stunned, Kobe Bryant looked so irritated and Ron Artest looked so confused.Staples Center had fallen silent after Jason Richardson banked in a three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left, not long after practically the entire crowd begged Artest to stop shooting when he missed two open looks from the left side near the one-minute mark.

From T.J. Simers, Los Angeles Times: Here I’m thinking as old as he is, maybe Tony Bennett or Billy Joel sings it, Derek Fisher talking about “All I Do Is Win,” a song that says it best about what he’s done and continues to do for the Lakers. Then he drops DJ Khaled on me, and if I ever learn how to use an I-Pod, I’m sure he or she will be on it, reminding me how much fun it is to watch Fisher pick apart an opponent. I know, I know — he’s finished, the weak link in the Lakers’ starting lineup, every point guard in the league taking advantage of him, and you hear it so often you start to believe it.

THE MAJORS

From J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: The deeper these Western Conference finals go the more they feel like episodes of “Lost” with its overall theme of redemption, be it Jack, Hurley, Channing Frye or now Ron Artest. Words can’t describe the look Lakers coach Phil Jackson gave Artest as he returned to the bench after an ill-advised 3-point shot he took with a minute left in the game and the Lakers leading 101-98. And words can’t capture the sound the Staples Center crowd made when he launched it … although, after reading that the “Lost” tech guys mixed cicadas with New York city taxi receipt printers to make the smoke monster noise, I’d like to see them try. Maybe they could mix the reaction at a wedding when the bride trips and falls on her face with the screams of riders on Disney World’s Tower of Terror ride.

From Dave Mcmenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: What you’ll remember about the Lakers’ 103-101 Game 5 victory over the Suns 10 years from now will be Ron Artest’s redemption-deeming desperation tip-in at the buzzer, but that’s hardly what won the game for Los Angeles. What will be obscured and maybe even forgotten 10 days from now, after the win that puts the Lakers just one win away from their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance — “The Big Show,” as Andrew Bynum calls it — is the total team effort and increased execution that put them in position to win on Ron-Ron’s save save.

From Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports: Ron Artest had just bricked up an ill-advised, final-minute 3-pointer when everyone in the Staples Center had screamed for him to chill out and kill the clock. Oh boy, here was Ron-Ron. The shot was total hubris, an unnecessary, unforced, not-thinking decision in a career defined by them. Artest had just missed an open jumper, grabbed his rebound and, pride wounded, was trying to prove something to someone. This was Ron the Unreliable. This was Artest the Headcase.

From Mark Spears, Yahoo! Sports: Jason Richardson pulled his tie straight then continued to stand stoically in front of his locker. The Phoenix Suns’ bus was idling in the loading dock, but Richardson wasn’t moving. He stared blankly into space, replaying in his head what had gone wrong. Some 30 minutes earlier, Richardson had watched his own heroic moment disappear under Ron Artest’s miracle: a buzzer-beating putback banked in after Artest had beaten Richardson to Kobe Bryant’s air ball. The shot gave the Los Angeles Lakers a 103-101 victory and a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals while pushing the Suns to the brink of elimination. Moments before, Richardson had banked in a 3-pointer to seemingly send the game into overtime. Artest then turned the Suns’ elation into shock.

There are so many things to say about this game.  It was exciting.  It was hard fought.  It was high quality basketball.  It was two teams understanding the importance of the contest and then playing their hearts out to try and bring home the victory.  In the end, the Lakers were the team that came out on top and the Suns lost a game that must feel like a kick in the stomach.  Because after the Suns tied the game with a Jason Richardson three pointer that left only 3.5 seconds left on the clock, Ron Artest was able to play the hero by sticking a truly difficult put back off an errant Kobe Bryant attempt to win the game.  But we’ll talk more about all that a bit later.  For now, I cede the floor to Zephid so he can tell the other story to this game:

Overcoming adversity. That’s what Phil Jackson teaches our teams in the regular season, by not calling timeouts, by letting his teams “figure it out themselves.” It is not mental; it is more akin to spiritual. That willingness to give everything of yourself to win a game; to fail, and to learn from failure.

Ron Artest, so maligned for his performance this series and before, just showed what it means to overcome adversity. He is a competitor; he wants to land to knockout blow. You can’t fault him for shooting those shots; he was wide open. But he failed. Big time. Reading up in the comments, you can see the derision directed at him for those shots. No doubt he himself felt just as bad if not worse about his own performance.

However, he overcame the adversity. Everyone knows that Kobe is going to get that last shot; all five of the Suns definitely did. With all their concentration on Kobe, they forgot that the simplest of plays can make the greatest of difference: Artest came entirely across the lane, fought for the rebound, and put up an extremely difficult shot high off the glass. He could’ve easily just skulked on the weak side and waited for the game to go into overtime. But he learned, through failure, that success comes to those who overcome adversity.

But let’s not forget the other stars of this game. First and foremost, credit the Suns for never giving up, for battling hard, and putting forth everything they had to win this game. That’s the one thing that cannot be taken away from the Suns; they battled.

So many other Lakers shined. Kobe Bryant, the leader, came through throughout the game and in the clutch, keying our offense when we were going stagnant. With a game high 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists, as well as 4 blocks, he successfully outdueled Steve Nash and put our team on his back in the 4th. Derek Fisher, like Artest, so maligned during the regular season, has hit so many momentum altering shots that I can no longer keep track. 7-12 for 22 points with 4 assists to boot? On a day when Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar gave almost nothing, Fisher showed why he’s the starter, why he’s the veteran, and why he has Phil’s faith. Lamar Odom, so derided for his mental lapses and lack of effort, took the battle to the Suns, grabbing 5 offensive rebounds and making some aggressive moves with his hook shots to the tune of 17 points and 13 rebounds.

In a game we needed to win, our main players showed up and took this hard fought game. Could we have played better? Certainly. But it’s when we don’t play at our best that the team shows its heart.

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This truly was an amazing game, though.  Besides the game winner and the Suns’ fantastic push to get back in the game after being down by 17 on two different occasions, the intensity level and chess match between both teams was just great theatre.

A few observations from a game that will probably only be remembered for Ron’s redemption:

*The Lakers defense tried to switch up their approach to playing the Suns’ sets.  Literally.  On a lot of the Suns’ P&R actions, the Lakers not only hedged hard, but had their big man stay with the ball handler for that extra second and ultimately switch on a lot of the ball screens outright.  This led to Bynum, Gasol, and Odom playing Nash one on one in space on many possessions.  Meanwhile, the rest of the Lakers weak side defenders crowded the paint on Amare’s dives to the rim while the strong side help defenders stayed glued to the Suns shooters.  This strategy paid dividends early in the game as it allowed the Lakers to better cover the passing angles that Nash loves to exploit on the P&R (limiting his assist numbers) while also keeping the defensive rotations more manageable.  This led to the Lakers playing much better on the ball defense with a ratcheted up intensity that we haven’t seen in several games.  However, with the Lakers’ bigs playing Nash a lot he was able to go off scoring the ball…

*Nash ended the night with 29 points – easily his highest output of the series.  And even though the Lakers were limiting his assist numbers early, he still ended the night with 11 dimes.  I know that as Nash has aged and his defense has remained sub-par those facts make it easy to place him below guys like Deron, CP3, or even Rondo on the PG totem pole.  I also understand that there will always be some Nash backlash from his back to back MVP awards.  However, it’s nights like these that show you how great a player and competitor he is.  His shot making, court vision, and feel for setting up his teammates is simply amazing and it will be a sad day when he’s no longer around and we can’t watch his exploits on the hardwood.  Yes, he’s the opponent – the enemy – but he’s one hell of a ball player.  Tonight, he did everything he could to lead his team to victory.  His team fell short, but it wasn’t because of his lack of effort.

*Phil extended his rotation tonight and it paid dividends.  On a night where Farmar (13 minutes, 0-2 FG, 0 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds) and Shannon Brown (6 minutes, 1-4 FG, 2 points, 1 rebound) didn’t play that well, Phil called Luke and Sasha’s numbers and got some quality minutes out of those two players – especially Sasha.  In 9 minutes of game action, Sasha played inspired defense on his countrymen Goran Dragic (getting under his skin with his trademarked pestering style), made 2 of his 4 shots, scored 5 points, and had a few other hustle plays (including a chase down tip from behind on Leandro Barbosa on a Suns’ fast break).  I know there have been many that have wanted to see what Sasha could do with some burn and tonight he rewarded the coaches with some solid play.  Whether or not Sasha can play well in his next stint is an unknown, but tonight should give the coaches some confidence to give him the chance.  And while Luke didn’t have a good game statistically and missed a bunny underneath, he did pick up a key charge on Amar’e and moved the ball well on offense.  You know, he did Luke Walton things and overall I was okay with his brief stint.

*On offense, the Lakers did make some subtle adjustments in attacking the Suns’ zone.  They did a much better job of flashing players in and out of the high post in order to set up the passing angles to set up the high low action that really hurts the Suns’ scheme.  Gasol and Odom combined for 9 assists working from that high post area as they were able to slide in to the creases and make themselves available to receive the ball.  The Lakers also started to set ball screens on the guard that was defending Kobe at the top of the zone.  This allowed Kobe a bit of extra space on his jumper and then forced a second defender to help – creating some open passing lanes for Kobe to hit open teammates.  Kobe matched Pau and LO by getting 9 assists of his own and a lot of that was based off how the Lakers positioned Kobe on the floor (using him on the weak side against the zone) and then the screens they set to free him up.

*Speaking of Kobe, the man is amazing.  I mentioned his 9 assists, but he also had 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 4(!) blocked shots.  Kobe was everywhere tonight and he did everything for his team.  Just as I credited Nash for being a player that competed his hardest to try and get his team the win, the same is true for Kobe.  His level of play is astounding (even for his standards) and he’s controlling the game like few perimeter players can or even ever have.  He’s just superb.  I mean, look at his series stats: 33 points, 9.6 assists, 7.4 rebounds, 53.5% shooting (stats from Marcel Mutoni).

We’re now at the point where the Lakers have a 3-2 series lead and only need one more win to advance to the NBA Finals for the third straight season.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Tomorrow can be a day to forget that fact and focus on what the Lakers need to do to actually get that precious victory.  But tonight, celebrate like the team you root for did after Ron sunk the game winner.  Smile.  Be happy.  This was a fantastic game and the Lakers came out on top.  Yes there were things that were bad about this game (you know that I know what they were based off the comments in the game thread), but those things can be discussed another time.  Enjoy this win.  Games like this don’t come around too often – especially not in crucial contests in the WCF.

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For a while now, the mantra of FB&G is that the Lakers will go as far as their defense takes them.  When the Lakers are dialed in on defense, they’ll always have a chance to win and more often than not will pull out the victories they need.  Against the Suns, the defense has been lacking of late and we’ve all witnessed the results. 

So, as we go into game 5, the onus is on the Lakers D to get the necessary stops in order to prevail.  We’ve already discussed some of the defensive principles that the Lakers need to get back to, so I won’t expand on those now.  But I will say that much (if not all) of tonight’s result will depend on effort, desire, and how those charateristics mix with smart play and execution.

Much like we called for before game 4, the Lakers need to play smart and poised.  The need to play with desire, but they can’t let that desire overwhelm them into making rash decisions that don’t serve the greater purpose.  The Lakers need to trust in eachother to make the right play as a member of the team, and then follow through to prove that the trust given is warranted.

Really, this has little to do with X’s and O’s.  Sure, the Lakers will need to attack the Suns’ zone in different ways.  By making quicker decisions with the ball and forcing the Suns weakest defenders to match up in isolation on our better offensive players, the Lakers can better infiltrate the Suns defense.  By being more selective with the shots that are taken from the outside and making the Suns’ zone move in ways that it’s not accustomed to, the Lakers can score the points they’ll need to get the win. 

But, none of those adjustments on offense will mean much if the Lakers are still giving up 115+ points and letting the Suns offense get the shots that they want.  If the Suns are able to execute their P&R exactly how they’ve diagrammed it or beat their individual defenders off the dribble or grab nearly as many offensive rebounds as the Lakers grab defensive ones, this game will look much like the last two when final clock shows 0.0 seconds.  If the Lakers don’t close out on shooters or contest shots or mark the Suns’ shooters in transition, frustration will reign supreme again. 

So, while I do look for better execution on offense (as that will help the Lakers transition to the defensive side of the ball), I’m really looking for that extra effort and the will that’s needed to win.  And, really, I think we’ll all see it.  As I’ve mentioned before, the Lakers find themselves in a familiar position.  As was the case against OKC, Houston, and Denver in recent playoff series, the Lakers are facing a game 5 at home with the series knotted at two games a piece.  In all those games the Lakers won by playing the caliber of basketball that they’ve shown capable in their recent runs to the Finals.  They won by stepping up to the challenge that was in front of them.

All that said, relying on experience will not be enough.  The Lakers just can’t show up and expect that because they’ve done this exact thing before that it will just happen again for them tonight.  The Lakers will have to put in the required work if they expect to achieve what they’re setting out to do.  As Phil Jackson has said, if the Lakers can’t step up to this moment, why even advance to the Finals?  The test is in front of this team and it’s time to pass it with flying colors.  I’ve said this in the past, but if put in a position where a team has its backs against the wall and need to get a win to salvage its season, there’s no other group of guys I’d rather have than this team; the team led by Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, and Pau Gasol.  This is a group I trust in times like this.  Six o’clock tonight can’t come soon enough.  It’s time to get that win.

What Would Tex Say?

Bill Bridges —  May 27, 2010

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All basketball fans have been heartened over the news over the last 6 months or so that Tex Winter is doing so much better. Since he is doing better and presumeably watching Phil Jackson’s team, we can guess that Phil and Tex have spoken recently about the problems Phoenix’s zone defense has posed to Tex’s beloved triple post offense.
Phil: Tex, I’m returning your call. I presume you want to talk about our execution – or lack thereof against Phoenix’s girly zone defense.
Tex: Phil, actually I think the triangle is being run well. Guys are getting some penetration via post passes, splitting the top of the zone on occasion and the shots we are getting are usually wide-open.
Phil: Yeah, our shots are wide open…
Tex: But the shots we are getting are exactly what Phoenix wants to give us.
Phil: Your triangle teaches the players to take the first open shot available. In fact, we criticize our players when they pass up wide open shots.
Tex: Hey, don’t call it my offense, by now, Mr. Hall of Fame, the offense is as much a part of your legacy as it is mine.
Phil: Hmmm
Tex: Phoenix isn’t really playing a traditional zone trying to cover all attack zones on the court. I mean, a priority of most zone defenses is to stop the corner 3, the most devastatingly effective shot in the NBA. The girly zone actually is begging for our guys to take the corner 3.
Phil: Not all our guys, just Artest and Odom
Tex: And Farmar, Brown, even Kobe and Fisher. They don’t want to give up layups to Pau.
Phil: And because in the triangle, we have taught our guys to take the open shot…
Tex: Artest shoots the open 3 whether early in the shot clock or late.
Phil: The other problem Tex, is that we are just not drawing any fouls.
Tex: Yeah, foul shots would slow the game, stop their transition offense, give Kobe a rest, and…
Phil: Instead, the long 3’s are creating long rebounds and fueling their transition game. I’m not sure what to do ….
Tex: You have to disregard the zone.
Phil: What do you mean?
Tex: You look at the Phoenix’s zone and see a 2-3 zone with defenders at each attack zone.
Phil: Yeah, that is a zone… I don’t know what you are getting at.
Tex: Instead, just look at the tape.
Phil: OK
Tex: After the first triangle set-up pass and the ball is in Fisher’s hands on the right wing, what do you see?
Phil: (Stops the tape). I see the zone setting up…
Tex: No , what do you SEE?
Phil: What do you mean?
Tex: WHO do you see
Phil: I see Nash…
Tex: Stop, who is behind Nash.
Phil: Stoudemire…
Tex: Who is in front of Nash?… Forget this. I’m faxing over a diagram for you to look at…. Did you get it?
Phil: Kobe… aha…. I get it.
Tex: It is obvious isn’t it?
Phil: Crystal
Tex: Swing the ball quickly to Kobe. Now you have Kobe Bryant one-on-one against the most defensively challenged guard in the league. Kobe will get past Nash easily or draw a foul. After he gets past Nash…
Phil: Amare has to cover..
Tex: The most defensively challenged PF in the game…Kobe scores or draws a foul.
Phil: If Lopez comes over to help..
Tex: Dunk for Pau.
Phil: You know if they were playing man and put Nash on Kobe, I’d go to him every single possession and why am I not exploiting this match up just because they are playing zone.
Tex: This strategy also solves your other problem.
Phil: What is that?
Tex: Other than Kobe and Pau, your players are dumb
Phil: Hey, they are your players too.
Tex: All the players that can drive to the basket, Odom and Artest, should drive on Nash and Stoudemire.
Phil: They will get some charging calls against them, Nash is a world-class flopper.
Tex: So what, a few charging calls. But at least you’ll be initiating the contact and knocking Nash over a few times will wear him out and will help your defense by the 4th quarter. Tell your guys…
Phil: Attack Nash
Tex: Or Dragic or Barbosa
Phil: And Stoudemire to get penetration. Which will result in layups, dunks or fouls.
Tex: And if, and only if, all else fails take the open 3 late in the shot clock. And never early in the shot clock because that open corner 3 will always be there.

All basketball fans have been heartened over the news over the last 6 months or so that Tex Winter is doing so much better. Since he is doing better and presumeably watching Phil Jackson’s team, we can guess that Phil and Tex have spoken recently about the problems Phoenix’s zone defense has posed to Tex’s beloved triple post offense.

Phil: Tex, I’m returning your call. I presume you want to talk about our execution – or lack thereof against Phoenix’s girly zone defense.

Tex: Phil, actually I think the triangle is being run well. Guys are getting some penetration via post passes, splitting the top of the zone on occasion and the shots we are getting are usually wide-open.

Phil: Yeah, our shots are wide open…

Tex: But the shots we are getting are exactly what Phoenix wants to give us.

Phil: Your triangle teaches the players to take the first open shot available. In fact, we criticize our players when they pass up wide open shots.

Tex: Hey, don’t call it my offense! By now, Mr. Hall of Fame, the offense is as much a part of your legacy as it is mine.

Phil: Hmmm

Tex: Anyway, Phoenix isn’t really playing a traditional zone trying to cover all attack zones on the court. I mean, a priority of most zone defenses is to stop the corner 3, the most devastatingly effective shot in the NBA. The girly zone actually is begging for our guys to take the corner 3.

Phil: Not all our guys, just Artest and Odom

Tex: And Farmar, Brown, even Kobe and Fisher. They are desperate not  to give up layups to Pau.  Yeah, that Phoenix defense is like a siren, a temptress that lets you nuzzle her navel all night long but…

Phil: But won’t let you go any lower…  And because in the triangle, we have taught our guys to take the open shot…

Tex: Artest shoots the open 3 whether early in the shot clock or late.

Phil: The other problem Tex, is that we are just not drawing any fouls.

Tex: Yeah, foul shots would slow the game, stop their transition offense, give Kobe a rest, and…

Phil: Instead, the long 3’s are creating long rebounds and fueling their transition game. I’m not sure what to do ….

Tex: You have to disregard the zone.

Phil: What do you mean?

Tex: And forget about the triangle

Phil: What? What are you saying, forget the triangle and forget the zone. Tex, I thought you were feeling better.

Tex: You look at the Phoenix’s zone and see a 2-3 zone with defenders at each attack zone.

Phil: Yeah, that is a zone… I don’t know what you are getting at.

Tex: Instead, just look at the tape.

Phil: OK

Tex: After the first triangle set-up pass and the ball is in Fisher’s hands on the right wing, what do you see?

Phil: (Stops the tape). I see the zone setting up…

Tex: No , what do you SEE?

Phil: What do you mean?

Tex: WHO do you see

Phil: I see Nash…

Tex: Stop, who is behind Nash.

Phil: Stoudemire…

Tex: Who is in front of Nash?… Forget this. I’m faxing over a diagram for you to look at…. Did you get it?

Suns Zone

Phil: Kobe… aha…. I get it.

Tex: It is obvious isn’t it?

Phil: Crystal

Tex: In a situation with 10 equal players, the triangle gives the offense the advantage.

Phil: (a delighted glee escapes from his lips)

Tex: But you don’t have 10 equal players. Swing the ball quickly to Kobe. Now you have Kobe Bryant, the best one-on-one player in the world against the worst one-on-one defender in the league. Kobe will get past Nash easily or draw a foul. After he gets past Nash…

Phil: Amare has to cover..

Tex: The most defensively challenged PF in the game…Kobe scores or draws a foul.

Phil: If Lopez comes over to help..

Tex: Dunk for Pau.

Phil: You know if they were playing man and put Nash on Kobe, I’d go to him every single possession and why am I not exploiting this match up just because they are playing zone.

Tex: This strategy also solves your other problem.

Phil: What is that?

Tex: Other than Kobe and Pau, your players are dumb

Phil: Hey, they are your players too.

Tex: Maybe I’m not being kind. What I mean is, instead of trying to be smart, run the triangle and take open shots…

Phil: As you taught them to…

Tex: All the players that can drive to the basket, Odom and Artest, should just drive on Nash and Stoudemire. or Dragic, Barbosa… with aggression. And not try to over think how the triangle functions against the zone.

Phil: They will get some charging calls against them, Nash is a world-class flopper.

Tex: So what, a few charging calls. But at least you’ll be initiating the contact and knocking Nash over a few times will wear him out and will help your defense by the 4th quarter. Tell your guys…

Phil: Attack Nash

Tex: Or Dragic or Barbosa

Phil: And Stoudemire to get penetration. Which will result in layups, dunks or fouls.

Tex: And if, and only if, all else fails take the open 3 late in the shot clock. And never early in the shot clock because that open corner 3 will always be there.

Phil: I knew I should have adopted the Princeton offense…

Tex: (Hangs up)