Lakers/Suns: Someone Had To Win

Phillip Barnett —  March 23, 2011

In the game preview, I mentioned that if the Lakers had a chance to throw a knockout punch, they had better make sure it landed. With about 4:40 left to go in the third, Kobe hit a three-pointer to put the Lakers up by 21. After an awful defensive first half, it looked as if the Lakers had corrected all of their defensive problems as the Suns had only scored eight point up until that point. With a 21-point lead late in the third, all the Lakers needed to do was keep the defensive intensity up for another four and a half minutes and they’d find themselves up big going into the fourth, with the starters getting rest for much of the final period. But instead of the starters getting a break, the game was extended 15 minutes longer than the normal 48, ending with a Lakers two-point overtime win.

As mentioned, things were sloppy on the defensive end early. Steve Nash performed beautifully in the first quarter, finishing the first 12 minutes with seven assists. As soon as Marcin Gortat came in for Robin Lopez, the Suns pick and roll game was elevated to a level that was seemingly impossible for the Lakers to stop. If Nash wasn’t feeding Gortat on the hard roll, he was taking it to the basket himself. If he wasn’t getting to the rim, he was kicking it out to willing jump shooters. Nash’s penetration continually collapsed the defense, and when the ball was kicked out, all Suns on the floor became willing passers, taking advantage of the Lakers slow rotations and finding the open man for easy baskets.

Offensively, the Lakers were a bit out of character, shooting way too many threes (as was the case around this time of the year last season), and taking unnecessary shots early in the shot clock. The Suns went to a zone when the reserves came in, and the three point shooting just increased. The Lakers didn’t have a problem moving the ball against the zone, but instead of attacking a shifting zone off of ball reversals, they continued to launch threes, leading to long rebounds and great Steve Nash passes. When the starters returned in the second quarter, the offense began to look like the triangle we’re used to seeing. Kobe and Pau were able to slow things down and work for better shots. By the end of the second quarter, Kobe began to take things over either scoring, or assisting on, all Lakers points in the final three minutes of the half, helping the Lakers go into the half up six.

Fast forward to the last moments of regulation. With a little over a minutes left, Kobe sunk a deep jump shot, putting the Lakers up by six (remember, they led by 21 in the third), which seemed to be the haymaker to put the game on ice. Instead, the Lakers miss a defensive assignment and leave Channing Frye wide open for a three pointer to cut the lead in half. The Lakers turn the ball over on a shot clock violation on the ensuing possession, giving the Suns an opportunity to send the game to overtime. Vince Carter missed a mid range jumper, but the Lakers allowed Grant Hill to grab the offensive rebound. He kicked out to Vince Carter who looked for the shot, but kicked over to Hill, who had ran to the corner and knocked down the game tying three-pointer. Overtime. The first of three.

At the end of the first overtime period, the Lakers were up again in a position to win, but another Suns offensive rebound led to Channing Frye getting fouled, beyond the three point line by Lamar Odom, with about a second left to play. Frye knocked down all three free throws and send the game into the second overtime. Toward the end of the second OT, Kobe found himself trapped way behind the basket, and threw a fantastic pass to Pau, who was fouled down by two with just a couple of seconds left on the clock. Pau knocked down both freebies and sent the game into a third overtime. The third overtime was brutal to watch. All of the guys on the floor were exhausted. There were at least seven missed shots around the rim combined from both teams, but in the end it was the Lakers who would come up with the big plays. First, Kobe hit a three pointer over Jared Dudley, which seemed to spark a little life back into the team. Then Ron Artest finished off a Laker fast break with a beautiful left-handed jam over Channing Frye. Finally, Artest hit a leaning 15-footer to put the Lakers up five. Channing Frye would hit another three pointer, but the Lakers would prevail in a thrilling triple over time win.

Despite Lamar Odom’s foolish foul at the end of the first overtime, he played a fantastic game finishing with 29 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and a block. He continued to make huge play after huge play throughout the course of the game and was easily the most consistent Laker on the floor tonight. Kobe finished one assist shy of a triple double and recorded 42 points, his first 40-point game since the Lakers loss to the Celtics at the end of January. Also, Matt Barnes had his most effective game since returning from the injury. He finished with 13 points and five rebounds, but as always, his contributions came in the form that aren’t found in the box score. While he was on the floor, the offense seem to move better with his constant slashing and cutting and he was on the ball, or very close to it in all 50/50 situations.

All-in-all, this was a good win for the Lakers. They survived the Bynum suspension with two wins — two tough wins that they had to gut out in the final minutes. Thankfully, they don’t play again until Friday against the Clippers.

Phillip Barnett

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10 responses to Lakers/Suns: Someone Had To Win

  1. Old School Donnybrook!!!

  2. That was exhausting to read, let alone play. I can’t imagine how tired our Lakers must be. They’ll definitely be sleeping tonight!

    I think tonight was a fantastic win in that there were key mistakes we made at the end of regulation and each overtime that Phil can point to and that our players can think about and remember. We were punished by playing far longer than we needed to and got a win. It’s a good lesson about closing out when we have the lead, playing smart within the system, and not making silly fouls.

    Learning a crucial lesson while getting a win? Painful as it was, I’ll take it. Especially this close to the playoffs.

  3. Awful bench sloppiness rescued by Kobe and Lamar.Despite some exhaustion mistakes Kobe was incredible, somehow Phoenix games revive him.He is ready to play 48 minutes if comes the occasion.

  4. Its Gasol (not Odom) replacing Bynum

    Of course a huge win for the Lakers… They all are now. It should be no surprise the Lakers have struggled the past two games and have had to grind out wins even at home. This game after all is about talent… And the Lakers have been playing without their best player since the all star break. What hasn’t been talked about is who is actually replacing big Drew. For those who praise Lamar they are correct, but he is replacing Gasol at PF not Bynum at Center. Against teams like the Suns with small finesse PFs Lamar does a great job filling in for Pau and forget about who has to fill in for Lamar off the bench. The major problem is how Gasol does filling in for Bynum. Of course it’s not fair to ask a finesse PF like Pau to fill in at Center and do the same things Andrew has been doing. For one Gasol isn’t as comfortable or effective in the low block with his back to the basket against Centers. The biggest difference of course is on the boards and on defense where Gasol even against the Suns Gortat is out muscled and and out weighed. The problem with implementing a defense around one player like Bynum is that it’s a big adjustment when he isn’t around, especially when you don’t have a back up Center on your team. I again want to praise Gasol for not complaining when the Lakers force him to play out of position at Center. Many superstar PFs (KG, Duncan, Malone) have cried loudly whenever their coach would even suggest putting them at Center for a portion of a game. The Spurs went through a plethora of borderline NBA Centers since David Robinson retired to keep Timmy at his most effective position of PF. Even now they announce Antonio McDyce or Blair as Centers in the starting line ups. And Pau is the soft one?

  5. I missed virtually all of the regular time as I was stuck all night at work and traffic didn’t help things, but I happened to TiVo the game. It seemed to be pretty much everything you guys talked about in the Preview and Chat, poor defensive execution, WAYYYY too many 3s and mental lapses. This game reminded me of last year’s game @ GSW, it was roughly around this time (mid-March, i think). They turned what could have been an easy wipeout into a nail-biter.

    How can you go up by 21 and still have to win after THREE overtimes? I won’t read too much into this game, as Phoenix are a decent side whose record doesn’t properly reflect the reservoir of talent they actually possess, but I don’t like what I saw and hope it doesn’t continue. There were so many poor possessions it’s a wonder how the Lakers got up by 21 in the first place. This game was a perfect antidote to the “Kobe-is-a-ballhog” naysayers. It seemed like during the 2nd and 3rd overtime, nobody actually wanted to run any offensive sets. I get that they were worn out by that point, but that is the result of unnecessarily prolonging the game.

    Hopefully this is a bad habit, and not the symptoms of a lingering problem.

  6. Aaron

    Strong Power Fowards and active Centers give Pau fits. He is more of a finesse foward than a power foward. Is he soft? No, but he is not a brute either. He is an intellectual. He tries to have discussions in game with referees. He demonstrates the harm he could have inflicted after fouls are called (tonight he swung his elbow to show the ref what he could have done; I thought this hilarious).

    Yes, he is the one who has to man the middle because the Lakers choose not to employ a serviceable center other than Andrew. He does not come out and complain because he knows that making that type statement will forever label him soft. He does plays soft in some situations. Even tonight I thought he was going to pass out on the second free throw in overtime with the game on the line (the Lakers trailed by two when he first stepped to the line and he hit both). You could see the his nerves getting the best of him.

    Being cerebral does not always benefit a person in game situations. Instincts are what make Kobe what he is, an assassin. You can not think about the consequences of your actions or what happens if you don’t succeed. Envisioning failure leads directly to failure. Pau is not soft, he is just too smart for his own good.

    Lastly, Antonio’s last name is spelled McDyess.

  7. From the AP recap:

    “I wish we would have put them away when we should have,” said Lamar Odom, who had a season-high 29 points and 16 rebounds while playing over 55 minutes filling in for suspended center Andrew Bynum(notes). “But we found a way to win, and that’s all that matters.

    “I’m tired. I want to go home. I’m in the mood for pancakes.”

  8. Thank God for Vince Carter!

    In these last two games we really see how Andrew has a completely different impact on the game than Pau and Lamar.

    He is just so much bigger! Longer arms, stronger etc. But great battle from the two remaining bigs.

  9. For all those who want Shannon Brown to replace Derek Fisher, last night was an example of why Derek (who went 0 for 7) is a much better option than Shannon. Shannon’s brain goes into overdrive under pressure, while Derek’s simply remains calm. We needed calm at the end of the 3rd qtr to run our offense and maintain our big lead – opps.

    Also, both Lamar and Pau naturally move either to the perimeter (LO) or the high key (Pau), regardless of their supposed position. This left only Kobe (on the bench) or Barnes (mostly on the bench) to attack the basket last night – and this against a perimeter team.

  10. I turned the TV off here in the Rockies after the Suns tied it and set up the first overtime. Somehow I went to sleep thinking the Lake Show would pull it out. But, man 3 overtimes? When the Suns get hot from the perimeter, they can wipe out a lead in what seems a blink in the eye.

    Bynum is so much bigger than Pau and also tougher when fully healthy. What is with Shannon Brown? His shooting is so inconsistent — he looks like last year’s version. I heard the guy spent hundreds of hours in the gym working on his shot last summer. Didn’t help. Barnes was the best sub on the floor. Blake was better. I don’t consider LO a sub. Lakers made mistakes but I actually thought they played well overall. Having Drew back is huge.