If the Lakers want to come back strong and reclaim the command they played with in the first two games of this series, the Phoenix zone must be dissected with precision and poise, not passivity and turnovers. Passing the ball around the perimeter while burning off over half of the shot clock plays completely into the Suns’ favor and makes our offense annoyingly stagnant.
I really don’t understand how Pau Gasol did not attempt a field goal in the fourth quarter until the last two and a half minutes of the game at which point, the outcome had essentially been decided. The Lakers controlled much of the third quarter with crisp passes through the zone into the paint where Gasol was getting generous looks at the basket. Why run away from that in the fourth?
The coaching staff will hopefully emphasize cleaning up shot selection as well because going 9 for 32 from three-point range should only reiterate the need to run the offense through the post. If you’re going to tell me that the Suns’ zone defense is good enough to render our entire offense ineffective, then what more is there to be said? As even assistant coach Brian Shaw lamented to the team, the zone is not even that good.
The Lakers have to watch themselves on tape, mainly the third quarter, and build on the ball movement that was executed so flawlessly during that period. I also put the onus on Pau with this one. He needs to demand the ball with more gusto and continue working hard to seize the open lanes in the Suns’ zone defense through which he can be most effective.
To say that Lamar Odom and Ron Artest must play better at both ends of the floor would be an egregious understatement. While we’re on the topic though, Jordan Farmar must just as well, show up and play with more effectiveness. His two bonehead turnovers in the fourth quarter was nearly enough to earn himself a spot as the replacement for Phil Jackson’s endearing nickname, “Space Cadet” considering the score and time.
Farmar was not the only player however, who gave up the rock during the game, as Kobe had five himself. The Suns scored 14 points off of the Lakers’ 17 giveaways and revived their signature fastbreak as a result. That is definitely not the tempo that we want to be playing at, especially on the road.
Turning the ball over not only leads to field goals, but puts our players in unfavorable defensive positions, which further leads to foolish fouls and free throws for the Suns as was the case in Game 3. Phoenix went 37 of 42 from the charity stripe while we only took 20 attempts, hitting 16 of them.
Playing defense without fouling will be crucial in Game 4 and at the very least, we need to find a way to get to the line with relative frequency as well.
It is in all of our best interests that the Lakers put themselves in a position to eliminate the Suns back here at Staples Center in Game 5. As I said, put the talk of Boston to rest for a bit because this series, as it stands, is far from being completely in hand.
We are up 2-1, not 3-0. Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire established pick-and-roll dominance in Game 3 and have infused confidence and life back into the rest of their team.
Just two victories away from a third consecutive NBA Finals berth, let’s hope that the Lakers can extinguish the Suns in just as many games.
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