As pointed out in the previous post, I am a Lakers fan. Last night was easily one of the most frustrating games I’ve watched in a while. For anyone who’s watched the Lakers – Suns series, it is obvious that the Lakers are the superior team. In terms of talent, the two teams don’t even come close. So why have the Suns been able to tie the series?
Largely, this is series is tied due to a lack of effort. There’s often been a chorus of criticism towards Kobe Bryant whenever the Lakers underperform, but his play has been so out-of-this-world in this series that even the most ardent Kobe hater couldn’t blame him. Much like LeBron, Kobe Bryant right now is stuck with teammates not pulling their weight.
There is no doubt that the Suns deserve credit for their zone defense. Its sent the Lakers into a complete mess. However, any of us who have ever played basketball knows exactly how to beat a zone. Quick ball movement, a few deep shots, and *pow* the zone defense is done. The Lakers clearly understand the shooting the three part of defeating the zone defense. They put up 28 three-pointers last night. However, they only hit 9, shooting under 33% from three. A defense, especially a struggling defense, will settle for that. What the Lakers have not done is move around without the ball or moved the ball in general. The play last night was eerily reminiscent of the Lakers-Suns series of a few years ago where Kobe had to do everything himself, lest he depend on Smush Parker to produce. The difference is that the Lakers now are much more talented and yet they seem perfectly content to watch Kobe play basketball and shoot (and miss) an open shot when it comes their way. There is no desire from the rest of the team to take control of the game themselves.
While this is very distressing for a Lakers fan, all is not bad. In Game 3, Steve Nash had a 15:1 assist to turnover ratio. That’s nuts. They also had a +21 point advantage at the free throw line. They deserved it, but its still awfully rare. On top of that, Amar’e, Robin Lopez, and Jason Richardson combined for 81 points. In Game 4, the Suns bench combined for 54 points, which was a +34 (!) point advantage for the Suns. Despite these ridiculous circumstances (and poor play by Lakers role players), the Lakers still had a chance to win both games.
If the Lakers show up with a little heart in the next two games, the series will be over in 6. Ultimately, the Suns just don’t match with the Lakers. However, the effort that was displayed last night cannot ever show up again this year. If it does, we’ll watching another team celebrate a title for the second time in three years.