Conference Finals Clash – Game 4

MAY 25| TUES |ROUND 3, GAME 4| (1) Lakers  vs. (3) Suns : LAL lead 2-1

Lakers fans may have had to put their brooms back in their closets, but the series still boasts in the Purple and Gold’s favor.

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Phoenix was able to take one at home with a 118-109 victory over Los Angeles. Amar’e Stoudemire was a bit more aggressive in this game that was filled with 3-point attempts and fouls (mostly in the Suns’ favor). He finished with a game-high 42 points and 11 rebounds.

Kobe Bryant tried his best to will his team with 36 points, 9 rebounds, and 11 assists. But it was to no avail.

The Lakers didn’t seem to get in the rhythm that they’ve been accustomed to in the last 8 playoff games. Two of the biggest things that may catch a stat reader’s eye may have been the 32 3-pointers Los Angeles attempted. Or maybe even the 42 foul shots the Suns were able to take. But if there’s nothing else, Lakers fans know this: Phil Jackson despises turnovers. Which they garnered 17 of to the Suns’ 7.

Phoenix also played the infamous zone defense for the entire game. This is an uncommon thing for a team of the Suns’ caliber to stick with. But when the opposition, in a sense, plays zone for them (like the Lakers did in Game 3) throughout the entire 48 minutes, it makes that plan much easier.

However, the Lakers only lost by nine points. Which means the Lake Show only needs to make a few adjustments to take Game 4 for a 3-1 lead.

Here are the keys for the game:

KEYS FOR THE GAME:

Keep it Slow, Lake Show

The Lakers can make it much harder for the Suns by playing a half-court game. So far its been a bit faster than L.A.’s usual pace. The “early offense” Suns have a difficult time scoring when using more than 10 seconds of the shot clock. The Lakers can’t be complacent with the same tactic.

Sticking to the Script

The Lakers let the Suns take them out of their plan of scoring and defending the paint. Although they scored 44 points in the paint, Los Angeles allowed the Suns to have 40 of their own.

Making Stoudemire Jump-shot Happy

Although Amar’e Stoudemire is capable of knocking down the 15-18 foot jumper, its not where he wants to be. The Lakers did a great job of forcing him out of the paint  and left him to only take jump-shots. They should keep this up to take away the impact of the Nash/Stoudemire pick & roll game.

Lamar Odom & Co.

The bench has actually scored better than the “dominating” Suns bench. But with their leader Lamar Odom having limited time on the floor due to foul trouble in Game 3, they weren’t able to make much of a difference.

Defending the 3 ball

The Lakers have done well defending the 3-pointer this series by holding the Suns to a dismal 25-percent so far. This should continue to ring true in Game 4 with the Lakers being the better balanced defensive team.

Stopping the Pick and Roll

Nash and Stoudemire were able to finally use the pick and roll successfully in Game 3. But it was mainly to the benefit of Andrew Bynum only playing 8 minutes on the floor with early foul trouble. If Bynum can stay in the game, expect the Lakers to defend the pick and roll much better.

Bynum and the Post-Artest

There’s no question that Bynum’s health is a deep concern for the Lakers as they progress further and further in their pursuit on a repeat. But even an injured Andrew is a handful for the Suns. If Phil believes he’s OK to play in Game 4, then he should be ready to go.

Another concern may be Artest’s shot selection. 7 of Ron’s 13 field goal attempts were from 3-point territory. Artest, however, is even stronger than the Suns’ big men, including Stoudemire. I believe he will much more effective by posting Jason Richardson or Grant Hill will Phoenix’s attention is focused heavily on Kobe Bryant.

Entering the Zone

The zone is something that is high risk/high reward. But it holds one of the hugest flaws when the opposition finds the glaring holes it possesses. The fortunate thing for the Lakers is that a team usually isn’t able to pull it off more than once. L.A. will adjust to this defense very very quickly.

PROJECTED STARTERS:

LAKERS:
(C) A. Bynum
(PF) P. Gasol
(SF) R. Artest
(SG) K. Bryant
(PG) D. Fisher

X-Factor: Lamar Odom and bench play. Front-court and three-point defense. Forcing the pace.

SUNS:
(C) R. Lopez
(PF) A. Stoudemire
(SF) G. Hill
(SG) J. Richardson
(PG) S. Nash

X-Factor: Three-point shooting.

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