It’s just not something a coach can teach his players. Resolve is gained through experience. A team that has the resolve to grind out games in the Conference Finals is a team that has gone through all of the highs and lows that the NBA Postseason has to offer. During the course of the previous three post seasons, this Lakers team suffered an NBA Finals defeat, fought through a grueling, seven game series against the scrappy Houston Rockets and had to regain their championship swagger against a young, upstart Oklahoma City basketball team. When the Suns came roaring back to tie the game at 90 at the end of the third quarter the Lakers were put in a position where they would have to show a title defense resolve that they hadn’t shown yet this postseason.
To open up the fourth quarter, the Lakers went on a 16-5 run to open up the fourth on the strength of Jordan Farmar’s jump shot and the Lakers athletic forwards. Farmar hit two threes, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol got to the rim off of Kobe Bryant passes and even the passive Bryant hit a nice 10 footer a the end of the run, forcing Alvin Gentry to call a timeout. From that point, the game was never in question; the only thing unanswered was the final score.
It was the Lakers resolve that allowed Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown to combine four for four from behind the three-point arch. It was the Lakers resolve that allowed Lamar Odom to record his second straight double-double. It was the Lakers resolve that allowed Pau Gasol to take over the game in the fourth quarter and Kobe Bryant to become a playmaker when double teams were thrown at him. Right now, the Lakers are playing like they have a championship on the back of their collective minds.
The Phoenix Suns went into Game 2 with the mindset that they weren’t going to let Kobe beat them with his shot. So, on the night were his streak of six straight games with at least 30 points came to an end, he recorded more assist in a playoff game than he had in his illustrious career. The majority of his 13 assist came off of making the right pass when double teams came to prevent him from scoring. Kobe patiently accepted each double team and made passes to cutting big men or passes to wide open shooters on the parameter.
Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were able to pick up the scoring that Kobe literally passed up. Gasol finished with 29 and nine while Odom finished with 17 and 11 with a brilliant display of interior passing between themselves. The Lakers adjusted to the Suns double team with running high S&Rs with Kobe and either Gasol or Odom. Kobe hit the cutter, who was either able to finish at the rim, or found the other big when the defense rotated to the cutter. When the Lakers are running on all cylinders like that, they’re tough to beat.
The Suns made their third quarter run on the strength of Jason Richardson and Grant Hill, who combined for every point scored in the first six minutes of the quarter and 26 of their 34 points in the quarter. Richardson and Hill scored 27 and 23 points, respectively. Steve Nash finished with 11 points and 15 assists while Amare Stoudemire finished with 18 points and six rebounds. Jarred Dudley came off of the bench and gave them much more offensive firepower than he did in Game 1, shooting a perfect five for five from behind the arch.
Darius wrote about how well the bench has played as of late, and the trend continued in Game 2, out scoring the Suns bench 36-26. Both Brown and Farmar had those frustrating moments that we’ve grown accustomed to, but for the most part, I thought they played within themselves. Derek Fisher has done a great job against the Suns S&R offense. His propensity to fight through screens has really disrupted the things that Nash likes to do.
Last but not least, we have to be impressed with Kobe’s fourth quarter performance. In earlier years, a less mature Bryant would have been itching to play hero and take over the game on his own terms. What he didn’t know before is that him accepting the double team and finding the open man is taking over the game on his own terms. He was still able to dictate the outcome of the game with his play while allowing Gasol and Odom to get their numbers, too. It was a great team performance, and something they’re definitely going to bring with them to Phoenix as the Suns are a much better team at home than they are on the road. The Lakers will have a few days off before their Sunday night game in Arizona.
Hard Core Fan says
I am really exited with the way these playoffs are shaping up. As odd as it is I have been rooting for the Celtics in each round.
The way the Lakers have been playing since Game 5 of the OKC series is a thing of beauty. With the Championship heritage between the lakers and the Celts, I think we are heading into a final for the ages.
Lakers in 7 REDEMPION
This was a really, really encouraging win. I’m all for winning every game in a blowout, but I was especially pleased to see how the team showed poise in the 4th quarter when the game got tight. The execution and focus was brilliant.
Got to say, I’ve been annoyed with Farmar frequently, but he really did a good job defending Nash & Dragic, I just watched the game again on DVR and he didn’t give them anything easy. When he hits his 3’s, that’s gravy.
Redemption it is. It’s like the last scenes in “The Godfather.” First Phoenix, then Boston. Payback. Show me the teeth, Kobe, show me the teeth.
Chris J says
The past two games, there’s really been no Laker who deserves to be singled out for poor play. Bynum had a bad game one, but he played solid in game two.
Let’s hope the guys keep it up. Getting game three on Phoenix should be critical — treat it like an elimination game, because if they win that for all intents and purposes the Lakers may as well book their tickets to the Finals.
I agree that Bynum’s contributions should not be ignored tonight.
18 Minutes, 13 Points on 5-5 FGs and 3-4 FTs. 7 Rebounds (3 Offensive) and 1 Steal.
Not bad at all.
Maybe this Phil Jackson guy knows what he is doing…
“There are many moments for ruthless action – what is often called ruthless – what may in many circumstances be only clarity, seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it, directly, quickly, awake, looking at it.”
These Lakers are getting it done.
Just as I have said after a string of losses… I just don’t think these games have meant much. The Jazz and the Suns are pretty average teams. The Suns are by far the worst WCF team I can remember in the last 20 years. We will see how good this Lakers team is against a very good Magic or Celtic team. I am just not impressed or surprised with these wins. We just have way more talent than these rosters. Lets see if Gasol battles if Perkins guards him instead of Bynum. Lets see if Kobe keeps his composure when constantly zoned up against Boston’s SSZ. Lets see how we play when we are matched up against a team actually in our league. And the best part is… in a couple weeks… we will see.
And a couple of cheers for Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown. With all the kudos given to Fisher for his surprising post season (and he deserves it)… statistically Farmar and Brown have been even better. They deserve their props.
Aaron Aaron Aaron. This is a good Suns team. Last half of the season they were better then the Lakers. Tbey have been out played by the 2 best offensive games the Lakers have played all year.
Our Lakers are shooting over 50% from 3 and over 60% in total. That’s from a team that was 18 in the NBA in 3 point shooting
We should win this in 5 but it could go 6 and I promise you we won’t be shooting the same in the desert.
As for our guards. That is the first quality game Farmer has had in the playoffs and the first poor offensive game Fish has had in the playoffs and I have been on Fisher King all year.
Relax we have more games to yell about before we think green.
Through 2 games, here is the bench scoring:
PHX – 60
LA – 80
To me, that is the only shocking thing about this series. I figured we would score in bunches against the Suns, and I figured our bigs would dominate theirs. But in no way did I figure that our bench would play that well.
That said, I would be even more surprised if they are able to play as well in Games 3 and 4. I expect LO to still put up numbers, since he is being aggressive and scoring at the rim. But Farmar and WOW have been on fire from outside, and during the year they were not very effective from outside on the road.
How well those two play may well mean the difference between a sweep and a 6-game series.
Aaron if I came up and handed you $100 you would no doubt complain because it had dirt on one corner..
There’s not a doubt in my mind this team can beat the Magic or Celtics.
The Magic are proving yet again that they are a team of chokers. Vince has never been clutch and there’s no one else on that team who can really go create his own shot. Dwight still has no post game.
Meanwhile, unlike the last time the Lakers met the Celtics…they can stick a real defender on Pierce this time- and Pierce is not the same guy he was 2 years ago. Gasol is no longer the least bit intimidated by Garnett. There is no Posey to even pretend at harassing Kobe. And Kobe has a post-game now that is a zone destroyer. And Bynum isn’t 100%, but he wasn’t even available last time.
One thing that the Lakers shouldn’t do is think ahead–to a matchup with the Celtics quite yet.
The Lakers so far have just held serve. A win against the Suns in Phoenix on Sunday might be a different story–especially if the Leps win at home. . .
What we must do once more is to credit the Lakers with improving team play–game after game it seems.
Surprisingly to some, Derek Fisher has been “championship” Derek Fisher–even as his beard continues to grow: the perfect point guard complement and team spirit inspiration to five outstanding players.
Derek’s PNR crashing behavior coupled with some deadly three pointers have made Steve Nash into a mere mortal–and it may take more than mere mortals to beat the Lakers.
you are still the master at the backhanded compliment of Fisher.
we get it, he’s the worst point guard in the league
is it too much to ask for more defense? i know we won, but the Suns scored 112. the lakers just outscored them.
we saw how the team handled Hill and Richardson during the 3rd quarter letdown. we cant do that in the finals if get past the suns
Wow, I forgot how much of a chucker MJ was. 49 shots? That’s 3 more than Kobe in his 81 game. Still a fun article/video for those who want to take a trip back in time:
just re-watched the game… fishers defense in the first quarter was just awesome. he did everything right… amazing. i actually think that this suns team is very good, just not against our guys. just too much size.
i would love to get revenge vs the celtics (have been rooting for them to make the finals, so that we can give back what they gave us 2 years ago). im just scared of rondo, but they have nobody to guard kobe either, so its ok. would be a killer series
No love for Ron Artest? 18 points on 67% shooting, and 75% from the free throw line (better than earlier this season), is not a bad stat line for a guy who was supposed to be our 4th or 5th offensive option. And is it just me, or does he seem to be a lot less of a nutcase than he’s been made out to be?
Next game will be more difficult. The Suns play well at home, and they are not going to just give up and roll over without a fight. I said Lakers in 6 before this series and though I’m tempted to change that to “Lakers in 5” I’ll stick with my early prediction.
@ #5, Aaron: “The Jazz and the Suns are pretty average teams …. We just have way more talent than these rosters …. We will see how good this Lakers team is against a very good Magic or Celtic team …. Lets see how we play when we are matched up against a team actually in our league.”
I couldn’t agree more (However, I believe the Jazz were definitely average, but I would consider the Suns a good team). As a matter of fact, my last comments (# 218) from the Lakers/Suns: Game 2 Preview & Chat are similar to your thoughts regarding Inferior Competition. Check it out:
“Well earned victory. Got interesting in the 3rd, but I truly believe that games LIKE THIS will benefit us in the long run. Too many easy games tends to soften up a team (i.e: Cleveland in the first 2 rounds of last years playoffs and Orlando in the first 2 rounds of this years ‘offs.)”
I just believe that when things come to easy (just glancing @ our offensive stats in this series, so far), it doesn’t benefit a team in the long haul. With that being said, it looks as if Boston will have an easier Conf. Finals than us, considerin’ they’re going home with an opportunity to close out. So hopefully, when we meet up, both teams will be in need of some type of “Competition Adjustment.”
John Morris says
For me, all season I have thought of Odom and Artest’s box score stats to be combined as the Lakers 4th option on offense. Last night was close to 40 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. If the Lakers can get those numbers from them for the rest of the season it would be like having Magic Johnson our there statisticly.
Mimsy, I’m with you, in the interviews he still seemed really focussed on the task at hand, as his play also proved. Not an outstanding defensive showing by him so far in this series, but still solid. Plus he’s making great decisions and is still good with his post entry passes.
What I really liked about last night’s game was the interaction between teammates. Certain writers (at ESPN.com – cough, cough) have described the Lakers to be professional at best, not really enjoying being/playing with each other. That was not what I saw in game 2. A lot of heart-felt joy and encouragement, everybody giving the praise around. Kobe made it a point to put the momentum swing early in the 4th on Jordan Farmar to keep him confident. Granted, the smooth sailing since the end of the OKC series makes this a little easier. But I think this attitude is also responsible for some of the great ball movement we are seeing in stretches, and not just vice versa.
“we get it, he’s the worst point guard in the league”
What Aaron meant is that he’s the worst point guard in the league to have started every game in the last two finals.
I agree about Artest – he is slowly but surely getting comfortable in the offense, and when that is combined with his stellar defense …
Dave McMenamin on Artest:
Craig W. says
The thing about Phil is that he coaches a team, not a collection of players. When we evaluate a team we too often do player-by-player comparisons and call that analysis. Rick Adelman is another coach who coaches to a team – he just doesn’t have as much talent to work with.
I think ESPN has really fractured our ability to look at a team. All this “King James” crap and individual highlights. We get so excited about people we forget how the team can overwhelm an individual.
Aaron, stats don’t tell you everything.
There’s no stat that shows two offensive fouls Fisher caused Amare to commit by taking a charge by smartly setting up in front of Amare and by punishing him when he tried to set a pick.
They may not seem matter to you, but those are momentum switching type of plays that Farmar and Brown usually make in favor of opposing teams.
I think you make some interesting points, like the Lakers being a more talented team-but they tend to be plain obvious and repetitive.
I understand that this win shouldn’t cause fans to be over-confident of the team’s chances in the Finals against either the Celtics or the Magic, but your constant negativity makes me wonder if you ever enjoy watching this Laker team play.
The Lakers are just clicking on all cylinders against a poor defensive team. We’ve shown that we can play defensive style vs. OKC, and now shown that we can play offensive style .vs Utah and the Suns. Neither the Celtics nor Magic can do that. The Lakers are averaging 126 points in this series and are on an 8 game winning streak. Enjoy what they are doing. Win is a win whether it’s by 1 or 20, but the Lakers are doing something very, very impressive. Give them some props because when we play the Celtics or the Magic, the scoring will be in 80-90s again. i hope you don’t complain that our offense stinks because we win by only 3 or 5. This team is ready to win against any kind of opponent in any style, and it’s showing it on the court.
RC FROM TEXAS says
I think everyone should be in agreement that this team is playing it’s best basketball of the season. All 8 players last night played well. Kobe did a great job of letting the double team come and find the open player. I loved it last night when he just kept feeding the ball inside to Gasol, and let him just do work. But again all we have really done is just won the first two home games. I think we still have a long way before the series is over. We need to come out even more focused on Sunday because no doubt the Suns will play better. But the good thing to remember is I think this team can and will play better defense this series. Let’s just be fortunate that we all are LAKERS fan and realize there are 26 other teams that are not in our position.
Amare is overrated. He’s a one dimensional scorer. Take away the easy shots and he’s a liability out there.
And he’s not that bright. Calling out Lamar and Pau is just plain dumb. I loved how Kobe was just feeding Pau the ball and watching him pic Amare apart.
The Lakers should win this in 5 but I’ll say Lakers in 6 because the Suns could get hot and shoot lights out for a game or two.
In the end size and smarts will win.
Well, now I know why I had never heard of McMenamin before: I hardly ever read ESPN during the regular season.
Thanks for the link Kaifa! 🙂
I was stubbornly against signing Ron Artest before this season started, but I’m very happy to see he’s proven me wrong in nearly every aspect. Not crazy (at least not in a detrimental way), frighteningly good at playing defense, and he’s turning into an offensive weapon as well now. I’m starting to like the guy.
Oh, and I agree with the previous comments on team chemistry. The Lakers look like they’re having fun together out there! Take a look at the last minute or so of this video, and it’s really showing.
Sean P. says
Silly to say that the Suns aren’t a good team. They were 36-9 (.800 w%) in their previous 45 games to this series, and didn’t lose more than one game in a row during that entire stretch.
But styles makes fights, and they simply cannot match up with us. The only question is whether our players will stay focused in the face of such an obvious mismatch (a problem that we’ve had all year).
My real concern is that this series is doing nothing at all to prepare us for Boston, who are healthy again and are playing downright nasty. We’re going to have to play with a different mentality when we go up against them.
We went to OKC up 2-0 too, I think.
So nothing’s done yet.
But signs are definitely positive.
i really liked what i saw out of farmar yesterday. forget that he made all his 3s. there were a couple of instances where he turned the ball over a couple of times, overdribbled, etc., but he didn’t let that affect his performance.
i also liked his body language. for most of the year, when he’s found himself free on the perimeter, he’d anxiously wave his arms, worried his teammates weren’t looking for him, didn’t see him, couldn’t find him. none of that last night.
farmar has always had confidence in himself, but i wonder now if he hasn’t always trusted his teammates to make the correct play. i’m going to cross my fingers and hope he truly trusts them now. good things happen when he’s in the flow.
“Aaron if I came up and handed you $100 you would no doubt complain because it had dirt on one corner..”
Stop worrying about the “quality” of our opponents. Could it be possible that the Lakers are just that good? Just what do you need to see for the Lakers to prove themselves? I mean, aren’t they defending Champs? Hasn’t their performances against Boston the past 2 season (with KG all 4 games) shown you a glimpse that 2008 will not repeat itself. I’m not worried about Boston overloading on Kobe because they can no longer afford to. The Celtics won’t be getting virgin Pau. They baptized him, and he’ll know what to expect. Same thing with Lamar. We saw what Drew can do against them. This year? We have the advantages. They’ll have to adjust to us. Not vice versa.
Besides a good all-around game, Artest was also quite charming in the post-game interview with the TNT crew.
On the NBA TV postgame show, Webber was asking whether A’mar’e deserves a max contract… I said it a couple of threads ago, Pau is the Casino (Gasino?) — he is taking fools’ money.
29) Sean P.
“My real concern is that this series is doing nothing at all to prepare us for Boston,”
A tough series can be beneficial, especially for teams without a lot of playoff experience together. I think was part of the problem with the Lakers in the Finals in 2008. But this roster is very experienced in the playoffs. Also, the biggest issue the Lakers have right now is health, and they don’t need a tough, physical series that gets them banged up prior to what will likely be a tough, physical series, especially when the likely opponent is having a relatively easy series.
The other major problem the Lakers have had is running the offense, and taking what the other team gives them. These playoffs have been very good practice in that regard.
The morning links are up.
We’ve been up 2-0 against the Suns in the playoffs before. Anyone remember how that ended?
Yeah. Let’s not break out the champagne and the Boston game films just yet, okay?
Joel B. says
I agree and partly disagree with some of the comments so far.
I disagree that this isn’t a tough series, just because the lakers are dominating the suns, doesn’t mean it’s easy. The Suns aren’t beating themselves, they are making shots. They are for the most part playing their game, the lakers are just making it a bit harder. This isn’t like the hawks/ orlando series where the Hawks just didn’t play well at all. Orlando didn’t even have to play well to win. The lakers are still working hard. The suns just can’t defend the lakers. I said that, as many others said, before the series started.
This series is a tough mental test. Other then the 3rd quarter of last game, the lakers have shown they are mentally ready. They aren’t getting baited into the Suns style of basketball. They are executing to perfection. So that will prepare the lakers for the finals as the Celtics will try to get in the lakers had and frustrate them with pushing, grabbing and hitting after the whistle. Most importantly lakers found their rhythm.
Also I’m not sure why everyone is so surprised about how Kobe is playing. Kobe has always done what he felt was best for the team deep in the playoffs. Kobe is the true mark of greatness. He can do everything extremely well, just as lebron can. But the difference is that Kobe what’s needed at the right times, Lebron tries to do everything all the time. With that being said I was a bit disappointed by Kobe’s defense in the 3 quarter. He took too many plays off, and the lakers got burned. Next game I do look for the lakers to make those adjustments and give a better and more consistent effort.
It’s also hard not to look ahead to the finals, but i’ll keep it short. It’ll most likely be celtics/lakers. Ron Artest stated 2 years ago, he’s coming to L.A. and said what happened in 08′ will never happen again. And i’ll leave it at that.
I understand people aren’t reading this site all year long… but i have been one of the only readers to say after every loss… “It doesn’t matter how many losses this team racks up because if healthy they have the most talent in the NBA and hence will probably win a tile if relatively healthy. All I am saying is these wins aren’t impressive because of the talent differential. I was more impresses with our series win against OKC because they have some ball players.
lets not get into another boring Fisher discussion. I though that debate ended when a reader but up all the PG’s in the NBA and 40 of them were better for the Lakers and their triangle offense than Fisher. That makes him the worst starting PG in the NBA. Its not that big of a knock on Fisher. PG is the most stacked position in the NBA… there are just so many stars.
As a huge Magic fan I can not say i like the lakers. None the less I believe they are a well put together team, but I really wish they don’t win this year. Visit my blog, I’m trying to obtain more traffic. Thanks
Coach Nick says
Stoudemire and Richardson will be benched for Game 3. My video recap explains it all:
snowass dave says
sweet win especially because of the grit shown by the entire team in Q4. Farmar can be a difference maker in the Finals.
Relax, Lake Show lovers, it will be our team and the Celts in the finals. No way Phx wins four out of the next five games.
I agree with comments about this year’s team being seasoned and ready for the Celtics compared to two years ago. Artest will be another key. Can’t wait for another epic battle with the Green.
I dont think everyone agreed with you that there are 40 better point guards for the system. I know I didn’t. And save a few point guards (D. Will, C. Paul, [gasp] Rondo) I wouldn’t take anyone else over Fisher. I don’t care what stats you throw at me. I don’t care how “Hollinger” you get and throw stats, PER, Scoring, %. I’d take Fisher for this team.