For the first minute and a half of Game 1 on the Western Conference Finals the Suns looked amazing. Steve Nash was buzzing around the court, driving and finding the open man. Robin Lopez was filling the middle. Jason Richardson hit two quick threes.
Here’s an indication of how the rest of the first half went…Richardson went into halftime with just those six points.
The Lakers were able to take advantage of their size and length, force Phoenix into set plays, and beat the Suns at their own game on their way to a dominating winning 128-107.
As I predicted, Andrew Bynum did not play much in this game. He didn’t play partly because of his knee injury, but mostly because of the stellar play of Lamar Odom. Lopez played valiantly, but was no match for the combo of Odom and Pau Gasol. Odom came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 19 rebounds. Gasol added 21 points.
So what went wrong for the Suns? The first thing was their set offense. The Lakers forced the Suns into shooting late in the shot clock. The Suns were not able to hit shots when forced into this situation. At one point, about halfway through the second quarter, the Suns were 11 of 18 when shooting in the first 12 seconds, but only had only made 3 shots in the second half of the shot clock.
The Suns couldn’t get the ball inside. Steve Nash and the other guards were not able to drive the lane as much as they wanted. Odom and Gasol were able to defend inside and outside, as I predicted they would. Most of the shots the Suns took were forced or contested.
The other issue for the Suns, in short….Kobe Bryant. Grant Hill tried to guard Kobe, and did an admirable job, but he was outclassed. The worst was late in the second quarter when Kobe crossed over and left Hill literally on his rear end. In the third quarter, when Hill was on the bench because of foul trouble, Kobe went off. He scored 21 of his 40 points that quarter. And after Kobe’s monster quarter the Suns gave up.
The Lakers beat the Suns doing what the Suns do. They scored 62 points in the first half, which was the most they had scored in a half in these playoffs, until they scored 66 in the second half. They shot 58% from the field for the game. The Suns just have no answer for Kobe or the size and athletic ability of the Lakers’ big men.
The Suns need to step it up for Game 2, because all in all, it’s ridiculous to score 107 points and be outscored by 21. Feel free to play defense.
Let’s look forward now to Game 2.
Let’s begin with Amare Stoudemire and his comments about Lamar Odom. He said this after Game 1,
“He had a lucky game in Game 1. ”We’ve just got to make sure we box him out. I think I focused so much on Gasol and Bynum to where he sneaked in there and got 19 boards.”
That’s big talk from a guy who only grabbed three rebounds and watched Odom grab 19. Amare should probably keep it down off the court until he and his teammates play better on the court.
I expect Game 2 to be closer than 21 points. One can’t expect the Lakers to shoot almost 60% from the field again. I also expect the Suns to hit more threes. They made only 5 three-pointers, on 22 shots. They are the best three-point shooting team in the league, so they have to make more in game 2, right?
I think the Suns could be in some trouble though. A team can always hit more shots or play tighter defense. But they can’t get taller. And they can’t simply invent a defender to cover Bryant.
Maybe they do need to go back to being the “Seven Second Suns.”
About the Author
Written by Gabriel Rodriguez
Born in Germany, early childhood in NYC, raised in the D.C. area, currently reside in Charlottesville, VA. Big fan of the NY Giants and San Antonio Spurs.