Lakers Burned in the Valley of the Sun

Through the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, our defending champs looked primed to muscle their way through to the NBA Finals for a third straight year with very little in the way of resistance. However in last night’s Game 3, Lamar Odom’s “luck” finally ran out while Amare Stoudemire dominated the paint as the Suns did and got whatever they wanted, when they wanted it.

After a game in which the entire team failed to execute defensive rotations on Nash and Stoudemire’s pick-and-roll attack, the Lakers now find themselves in a series that has the look of one that can perhaps even go beyond the five games that many fans have been predicting. Granted, that heavily depends on what happens this coming Tuesday in Game 4, but the purple and gold may have put themselves in a considerably dangerous situation with the distribution of minutes in Game 3.

As the fourth quarter began, I could not help but think that if Kobe was going to play the entire second half as he did, the game had to be won. The schedule is now going to run a game every other day and with 43 minutes having been logged by the Mamba in the Lakers’ first loss in eight games, you have to wonder how the heavy minutes will affect him for the rest of the series. Kobe appeared to be running on empty in the latter end of the final stanza.

What’s more concerning is the fact that our dynamic duo both scored well over 20 points each Kobe going for 36 (one board away from a triple double), Pau for 23, with Derek Fisher even logging a strong 18.  Lamar Odom and Ron Artest however, evidently left their games back in L.A., both going a combined 8 for 27 from the field after lighting it up for 17 and 18, respectively, in Game 2.

We also have to be alarmed with the deteriorating health of Andrew Bynum. Playing just eight minutes, Drew was consistently beat on defense and labored just to move his feet laterally as he spent the entire game in foul trouble, grossly ineffective. Based on the inspired play of Phoenix’s big men, Amare and Robin Lopez included, we should all take a step back and temper our calls for the Boston Celtics because this series is not over by any means.

Make no mistakes about it, the Suns handily defeated us last night and have a heck of a chance to tie things up at 2-2 at home in Game 4. If that happens, the health of Kobe and Drew, both of whom are seldom practicing these days as it is, will put the Lakers on the front page for all the wrong reasons.

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