Ever since Game 3, all we’ve been hearing is the Suns’ zone this, the Suns’ zone that. It may have taken three games, but in Game 6, the Lakers were able to force the Suns to abandon their game plan.
For much of the first half, Lamar Odom was camping out on the baseline as the Laker guards asserted themselves into the paint with dribble penetration and worked the ball to LO, who was able to either score himself or set up Pau and Drew with easy scoring chances. As Doug Collins said, the “seams and pockets” of the zone defense were being exploited for buckets and even offensive rebounds (14 for the Lakers).
In the second half, Phoenix eventually shifted back to man defense, which ultimately paid the most dividends in the fourth quarter when Kobe was able to use and abuse whomever he was being checked by. Outshooting the Suns from the three-point line (10-24 Lakers, 9-26 Suns) surely impacted Alvin Gentry’s decision to go away from the zone as well.
The Lakers also made defensive adjustments of their own by quickly sending a help-defender to Amare Stoudemire as soon as he caught a post-entry pass. While he did score 27 points, most of his damage was done at the line (13-15) as he shot a forgettable 7 for 20 from the field.
As Bruce Bowen harped on during NBA Fastbreak on ESPN, the reason why Amare is not a max-contract player is because he does not make his teammates better when double teamed.
STAT was clearly frustrated by the Lakers’ swarming defense and he only managed a mere four rebounds while committing three turnovers with no assists. When you’re attempting to force the defending champions into a Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals, those STATs are hardly going to make that dream worthwhile. Perhaps he should have asked Leo for help.
Too bad he’s a Laker fan, ha.
I’d have to admonish myself if I didn’t mention the play of Derek Fisher. It may have only been one of his four field goals, but the running baseline jumper that he nailed in crunch time to push the lead back up to seven undoubtedly assured the possession game in our favor. For all the criticism he endures, with such class and dignity, you have to admire and appreciate his Cool Hand Luke demeanor in the playoffs, regardless of time and score.
The defending champions from 2009 may have nearly flubbed their chance at closing out the Phoenix Suns last night, but now, a shot at redemption against the champs from 2008 awaits.