Conference Finals Clash – Game 6

MAY 29| SAT |ROUND 3, GAME 6| (1) Lakers  vs. (3) Suns : LAL lead 3-2

It was a game that had Lakers fans on the edge of their seats in Staples Center and at home. In a matter of 51 game seconds, a possible 3-2 deficit became 3-2 lead under the bank shot by Ron Artest after a Kobe Bryant airball.

Now the Lakers lo0k to close the series tonight in Phoenix to clinch a Finals berth for the 3rd straight season.

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The Lakers Game 5 103-101 thrilling victory was filled with a multitude of emotion: apprehensiveness, joy, confidence,uneasy, panic, relief.

Phoenix gained an early lead in the first quarter. But Los Angeles’ energy picked up and they were able to go on an 11-2 run to end the first 24-21. The Lakers would lead the rest of the way.

Everything seemed to go in the Lakers favor. Loose balls, offensive rebounds (19 the entire game – 5 by Odom), and defense (lead by as many as 17 midway in the second quarter).

Kobe methodically took and made incredible shot after another. In the second quarter, Bryant hit three straight 3-pointers to give L.A. a 41-27 lead. He took another double-pump shot over the draped defense of Goran Dragic, banking right in. He finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists.

Lamar played great–I mean– “lucky” again with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

But Phoenix wouldn’t go away, as they continued to chip at the lead. Cutting it to nine at halftime.

The Lakers were able to push the lead back to 15, but the Suns again would rally back.

And by the waning minutes in the fourth quarter, the momentum was shifting further and further into the Suns’ favor.

Fisher would hit two clutch 19-foot jumpshots to keep the hope alive for the defending champs, finshing with 22 points.

But all hope seemed lost as nostalgia began to haunt the Lakers Nation’s minds.

After two bad plays in a row by Artest (a mistimed 15-footer and an ill-advised 3-pointer), two straight misses and two offensive rebounds by the Suns, Jason Richardson would bank in a 3-pointer to tie the game at 101. Reminiscent to a play in the  ’06 playoffs by Tim Thomas; a game the Lakers lost in overtime.

With 3 seconds left, the time came for Kobe Bryant to save the day..

But it was in fact, Artest who would be the hero. Bryant was forced to double pump his 3-pointer attempt, which caused an airball.

Artest caught the miss and banked in the shot to etch his name in Lakers history.

Los Angeles will have to play a tighter, more consistent game in Phoenix to reach the Finals. But it will be very possible to beat the resilient Suns.

Here are the keys for the game:

KEYS FOR THE GAME:

Keep it Slow, Lake Show

The Lakers did a better job of controlling the game’s pace.  Throughout much of the game they forced the Suns to shoot with 12 seconds or less on the clock.  When they shoot with under 12 seconds left they are 26 percent from the field; As appose to 47 percent with more than 12 seconds left. But that is a much easier task at home.  The Lakers will have to double their effort in the pace, because Phoenix plays much better at home.


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.

Lucky Lamar

Lamar Odom has averaged a double double this entire series.  Amar’e Stoudemire’s lucky statement must have a bit of luck of its own.  As long as Odom is the aggressive “Suns Killer” that he’s often referred as, the Lakers have a great chance to take game six.

Live by the Three, Die by the Three

Its important for the Lakers to defend the arc. But latter portion of Game 5, L.A. began to overcompensate and left the paint wide open for Nash and Stoudemire.  The Suns are a three-point shooting team, regardless of the defense.  At this point protecting the paint is much more important for the Lakers.


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.  But the biggest issue I’ve seen is that Gasol does not  attack the zone aggressively.  In one sequence, the Suns chose to front Pau with Leandro Barbosa.  In fact the Suns have chosen their guards to defend Pau within the zone.  Once he notices Phoenix beginning to play zone he needs to take advantage of the their much smaller line up.

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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