I couldn’t be more disappointed with the performance of the Lakers on the road. They were supposed to win at least one game in Phoenix. It was pre-determined. Didn’t they get the memo?
All the while, the flow of the game was making it real easy to see that there was a number of problems that L.A. couldn’t overcome — that Kobe Bryant’s 38 points couldn’t overcome. The Suns’ zone defense (which received way more hype than it ever deserved) shackled big plays in the post that Pau Gasol had seen in the first two games. He still managed a tough 15 points. Amare Stoudemire continued his ass-kicking reign of fire in Game 4, dropping 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds in only 31 minutes on the court. And then, the Suns bench went all Game 3 San Antonio on the Lake Show, with Channing Frye remembering how to put the ball in the cup, Goran Dragic putting moves on Derek Fisher, and Jared Dudley firing from long distance. And with Leonardo Barbosa chipping in 14 points, the Suns’ starters didn’t see much playing time in the fourth, keeping a steady lead of six to eight points until the waning moments when the all-stars were needed again.
The Suns bench outscored the Lakers bench, 54-20. Most notably, Shannon Brown had 2 points and Jordan Farmar had 3. Lamar Odom finished with 15 in 35 minutes.
But what’s worse than the Lakers bench getting outplayed by the Suns’, is that the Lakers seem to be confused about how to attack the Suns’ zone. For one of the few games in Fisher’s life in a Laker uniform, he was constantly pushing the point and running the set offense. It was weird to see that because he’s not the type to cut and break down a defense in those situations. You have to be able to split defenders and he hasn’t been able to do that well for some time. In fact, that’s what Kobe’s best at (hence, 38 points). It seemed more like a job for the young guys, Farmar and Brown, to do while allowing Kobe to run things. Instead, we saw plenty of time from Fish and Ron Artest on the wings with Kobe, watching Black Mamba go to work. This is not to say it’s the two are terrible at these things, it’s just not their strongest trait. And in the end, when going up against a zone, you’ve got to be ready to fire up an open three at a moment’s notice. Fish doesn’t have that problem, but right now Artest does.
So yeah, I’m a little surprised by the outcome of the game. I would’ve thought that Phil Jackson would’ve made the necessary adjustments — whether by personnel or strategy — to get the job done. Game 3 was a given for the Suns, which were playing off two shots of emotion and adrenaline. Game 4 was supposed to return to the chess match. So far, Alvin Gentry has outcoached the Zen Master. Who would’ve thunk it?