Dragic love
Strong bench play led to even stronger man love in Phoenix last night.

The Los Angeles Lakers: Last night, I got to watch the game with long-time commenter and site contributor Wild Yams. To my dismay, I found out that he's a pretty cool and intelligent guy despite being a Lakers fan. It was kind of like meeting a serial killer who donates to charity and volunteers at the local homeless shelter. But it was a good time nonetheless...even better because the Suns won the game.

Let me be frank: I expected the Suns to lose this one. I did. I figured that, in Game 3, they made the only adjustment they could make...going to the zone defense. That and Amar''''''e Stoudemire went bonkers. To me, it was a gimmick win, something that couldn't be duplicated.

And it wasn't. Turns out, it didn't have to be.

Going into Game 4, I felt there was no way Phoenix could be the Lakers straight up. The Suns apparently felt otherwise. Mind you -- unlike Boston's stink bomb in Game 4 of their series against the Magic -- the Lakers didn't play poorly. They scored 106 points on 50 percent shooting and committed only 7 turnovers for a mere 4 points going the other way. L.A. outscored the Suns 42-32 in the paint and held the run-and-gunners to only 6 fast break points.

And of course Kobe had one of "those" games: 38 points, 15-for-22, 6-for-9 from downtown, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds. That's the kind of stat line you usually associate with LeBron James...the kind of line that LeBron fans use as evidence that James is in fact better than Bryant.

But it wasn't enough.

The Suns -- so much weaker up front than the Lakers -- won the rebounding battle 51-36, including 18-13 on the offensive glass. Think about that. Did you think this Phoenix team could ever grab 18 offensive rebounds against this L.A. team? If you said yes, I'm calling shenanigans. But sometimes rebounding is simply about wanting the ball more than the other guy. And get this: Steve Nash finished with almost as many boards (4) as Pau Gasol (5). What does that tell you?

In addition to their rebounding deficit, the Lakers could not handle the Phoenix bench. That's right: The Suns' much-maligned reserves rose from their mass grave to score 54 points on 20-for-32, including 9-for-20 on threes. And check this. Here are the plus-minus scores of the Phoenix starters: Grant Hill (-3), STATUE (-5), Robin Lopez (-3), Nash (-9) and Jason Richardson (-4). The reserves: Channing Frye (+12), Leandro Barbosa (+13), Louis Amundson (+14), Jared Dudley (+12), Goran Dragic (+18), Jarron Collins (HA!).

TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz breaks down the Suns' bench play:

And because I want to, here's Dragic's sick layup around Fish and the Candyman:

Now, I'm not seriously suggesting that the bench players are better than the starters...even if Dragic was 27 points better than Nash on the night. But their effort and intensity changed the game. Frye -- who entered last night 1-for-20 for the series -- hit four treys, including a "Rally Monkey" shot in the fourth -- he drilled it right before the shot clock buzzer buzzed -- that was followed by threes from Barbosa and Dudley. Boom, boom, boom...and the Lakers never really recovered.

In terms of final tallies and raw numbers, the Suns' bench outscored L.A.'s pine riders 54-20 and outrebounded them 23-11. And as ESPN's J.A. Adande pointed out:

The unit of Frye, Dudley, Barbosa, Goran Dragic and Louis Amundson played the first seven minutes of the second quarter and turned a tie score into a 10-point lead even with Bryant on the floor for the Lakers. It was part of a 41-point second quarter. And after the Lakers won the third quarter it was that same unit for the Suns that played deep into the fourth and won the game on a night Amare Stoudemire scored only half of the 42 points he put up in Game 3 and Nash made only three of 11 shots.
L.A.'s defense: Well, let's see: They've given up 233 points over the last two games. In Game 4, the Suns scored 115 points, hit nearly 50 percent of their shots, and earned 32 free throw attempts.

Yeah, I'd say defense is a problem for the Lakers.

Of course, I've been beasting on the Lakers' D for a couple weeks now. It sure ain't what it was during the regular season, when L.A. ranked 4th in Defensive Rating. Now they rank 10th out of 16 playoff teams...giving up 111.1 points per 100 possessions. My take is that Andrew Bynum's general ineffectiveness is the root cause. With Gasol and Bynum at 100 percent and patrolling the paint, the rest of the Lakers could overcommit on their assignments without fear. After all, their two big men would swallow up anybody who got past them.

Well, Bynum has been hampered by a bum knee, and he isn't the defensive force he was. If L.A.'s perimeter defenders overcommit, opponents are getting to the rim or earning fouls. If they don't overcommit, guys are dumping in threes. And, well, there you have it.

But hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe D isn't the problem. Let's see what Mamba has to say:

"Our defense could have been much better, I think."

"Coming up here, we lost a sense of urgency defensively. I think our concentration was focused on how to attack the zone."

"I think it kind of flipped our attention to detail defensively. Our focus was on the other side of the floor, which doesn't win championships. So we need to get back to ground zero when it comes to that."

"We lost the game because our defense sucked."

"Like I said, we've got to do a much better job defensively. Paying attention to [Phoenix's bench], all of them, and staying in front of your man and things like that."

"Looking forward to the challenge. I know my guys are. [We need] to get back to the basics of playing defense the right way."

"Our attention needs to be on the defensive end, period. That's second-chance opportunities [as well]."

"I was more aggressive in the second quarter. Felt the game slipping away, got going, make some shots [and] kept it going. But that has nothing to do with us getting to the next round. We can't -- offensively, we scored enough points. We've got to do a better job defensively, period."

"That's not what wins championships. Everybody wants to talk about the offensive side of the ball. It has nothing to do with it. Gotta defend."
And, well, there you have it.

L.A.'s offense: The Suns played a mix of man-to-man and zone...and the Lakers offense wasn't bad, per se. Like I said, they finished with 106 points and shot 50 percent. BUT...Phoneix again succeeded in seducing the Lakers into chucking an awful lot of jumpers. The result: L.A. attempted 28 three-pointers and only 13 free throw attempts. And as hot as Kobe was, he did most of his damage on contested jumpers of the "No, no, no...yes!" variety.

Is that a formula for success? I don't think so.

The Zen Master doesn't think there's a problem, nor does he think the Suns' zone is having an affect on his team's offense: "We shot 49 percent, didn't we? That's pretty good. Nothing wrong with that. I wouldn't say we're struggling against the zone. I think we're struggling at the defensive end. That's where I see it."

Maybe P-Jax watched a different game than I did, because I saw "clutch" three-point attempts by Ron Artest (1-for-5 on treys) and Lamar Odom (1-for-3 from distance) that bricked badly. I also saw Shannon Brown go 0-for-4 from way out there. Derek Fisher was 0-for-2 and also bricked a crunch time three.

For what it's worth, Bynum thinks he knows what the problem is: "It's the zone. We're settling for outside jump shots. They were out there moving that ball, they were confident playing at home and they really just shot the ball well. They had everybody spaced out so everybody's running around."

Hey, remember back in Games 1 and 2, when Phoenix was scoring points and shooting reasonably well but couldn't get it done? Isn't that basically what's happening to the Lakers right now? Sure, defense is L.A.'s biggest foil...but jacking up contested (and even contested) long-range jumpers sure hasn't helped their cause down the stretch in Games 3 and 4.

Reader comments: Here's where Basketbawful readers' voices can be heard, er, read:

From Miles:

As a Suns fan for decades, I can only say "That - was - effing - beautiful."

As a basketball fan for longer than that, I can only lament that the Phoenix Runs shot the ball unusually well when it counted (even for the the Runs), and that the Lakers blew it when it counted, and that I don't expect this trend to continue even for one more game this series. (Don't get me wrong, I'm still crossing my fingers).

Phil is too great a coach to let a defensively weak team like the Suns run all over his Lakers with zone defense for three games in a row, I doubt it will happen again.

Kobe, Gasol, Odom, Bynum, Fisher are too damn good to not put up a better combined performance for three games in a row, I doubt it will happen again.

The Suns bench, god bless them, are pretty good as far as benches go, but they PROBABLY won't have another 54 point game, and "Stat" PROBABLY won't have another 42 point game in this series.

I will weep like a baby if we can see Nash in the finals for the first time in his career, but I still can't help but think it's going to take a miracle.

Still, tell me you didn't jump out of your seat and spill chips and salsa all over your crotch when Frye hit that first tre.
From Heretic:

And the lakers do it again, pull out a bazooka and blast their own feet. This game is a prime example of why during the playoffs I prefer the aggressive Bryant than the passer. Took very few shots in the first quarter and his team still fucked it up. As talented as Gasol is, he's so soft that I'm surprised he hasn't been named "The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man". Wtf is it about Europe that produces the softest, most pillowy players on earth? I thought all the pussies were in France but apparently once a country joins the EU they're contractually obligated to remove the testicles of their basketball players.

Bryant pretty much bailed them out from a blow out. For god's sake the suns were playing the zone!! how hard is it to destroy zone defense? High school students can do it. Even if the lakers do end up winning this series they really don't deserve to. Schooled by a team that would have been legally labeled as midgets in 28 states. I honestly prefer to watch Bryant fire away from half court than watch Bynum trip over his own feet as he looks confusedly at the orange sphere in his hands.

The bench don't even warrant a discussion, its been long established that Phil Jackson has murdered them and replaced them with cardboard cut outs. Hopefully next season everyone one the bench with the exception of Odom have been traded (yes even Shannon Brown). Another game they could have easily won shot to pieces with the laker tommy gun of ineptitude.
From Karc:

The Lakers were totally owned tonight. That vaunted "length" of the Lakers got crushed on the boards (at least 50, including a gazillion offensive boards), got crushed by the Suns bench (at least 50 points), and were exposed in the second quarter, giving up 41 points to the Suns, despite having the "4th" ranked defense in the NBA. Note to Andrew Bynum, this is exactly why you do not look ahead to the Boston Celtics. You are not winning this series right now.

Hell, look at the trend. The Lakers scoring has been 128, 124, 109, 106. Meanwhile, the Suns score 107, 112, 118, and now 115. Their offense is getting better, and their defense is getting better. The LA media is going to freak. I love it.
Channing Frye, quote machine: How did that 1-for-20 shooting through three games affect him? Apparently, not at all: "I told you guys I'm just going to continue to shoot, and my teammates believed in me and I continued to just believe in myself. Why work so hard and why still be playing when it's almost June if you're not going to go out there and just have fun and let it ride?"

As for whether his confidence was shaken: "Come on, man, you're asking the wrong dude. My confidence is great every day. I'll be honest, last game I was what, 0-for-7? If I shot another seven I thought I was going to go 7-for-14."

Jared Dudley, quote machine: "You could tell right away tonight that they wanted to take away Amare (Stoudemire) early on. Once they did that, we just set up like target practice."

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Anonymous Baal said...
an I the only one who's thinking: "If they only had Lopez during that 07 series against the Spurs... they could have beaten the them that year with a simple "play" like that..."

Blogger Cortez said...
"And as hot as Kobe was, he did most of his damage on contested jumpers of the 'No, no, no...yes!' variety."

Pretty much.

I found myself repeating the following line all game...

"Man, that's a terrible s-h-h-h-h...damn, that was a good make!"

As for the Suns win, Bryant is 100% correct. Their defense is the main problem. I can live with guys missing open shots for a stretch. Shooting a basketball is fickle like that sometimes. Even the greatest marksmen ever had terrible slumps.

But there is zero excuse for lack of defensive effort. Some of the Suns shots were so open it looked like they were at practice with the assistant coach. Add to that, when STAT gets the ball 18 feet from the basket (and is hitting the jumper) Gasol has little hope because he certainly can't close out effectively.

Maybe the Lakers should flash Kobe (or Gasol) to the middle of that zone and get some baseline cuts from the 3-4-5 every play.

Blogger Unknown said...
I LMAO when I saw WTF Lopez was doing there last night.

NBA: where screaming orgasms on national TV happen.

Blogger tonious35 said...

The Laker's bench, with exception to Odum because he can be a starter, is a 1-81 W-L lineup if you make them start an in NBA game with only 5 minutes per game. They just suck ballz. Farmar can have his anomaly GOOD game and Shannon Brown can hussle all the time, but Powell, Vujacic, !TACOs!(Mbenga), Walton, and Morrison are useless pieces of meat and mustache.

Blogger Dooj said...
Found some bawful on the mobile ESPN site when I checked the score this morning.


Apparently the Lakers didn't score at all...

Blogger David Robinson said...
Bawful...even if he seems like a nice guy, Yams is stil a Lakers fan. That immediately makes him public enemy #1. Make sure to watch your back or he'll sic his black mamba on you.

Just kidding, yams you actually seem to have a good basketball mind, and even though you're a lakers fan, you call it like it is. I am interested on your take on this game.

We have a 3 game series now, just gotta take 1 in LA and we're finals bound!

Anonymous The Other Chris said...
Lopez looked like a giant, hairy, over-excited frog, on drugs of a strength which Hunter S. Thompson would heartily approve of.

You could see that play coming as soon as he got the ball, Dragic is like.. You're going to guard me one-on-one with Derek Freaking Fisher? Please.

That is enough man-love to qualify for a Pride Parade.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Man, it's quiet today...

Blogger geremy said...
today we're still basking in the afterglow.

it's at a time like this i like to remember that a year ago suns fans were facing the cold hard fact that our nash-era had ended and that phoenix would merely be a grazing ground for hill and nash until retirement while we built a new team that could POSSIBLY make the playoffs three years from now...

...feels good man.

Blogger Andrei said...
Looks like Lewis shitting himself on the court has been caused by shitting himself off of it:


As for last night's game. We all knew that there would be a game in the series where the Suns catch fire and hit a ton of threes. What the Lakers need to do is to stop trying to get those threes back. They need to have more discipline in moving the ball around and trying to get it inside. If they're throwing up threes and missing, the Suns can run out and get open looks in transition. If the Lakers methodically grind it inside and score on high percentage looks they can go back and set their defense. However, as a Laker hater I hope guys like Farmar and Brown keep chucking it up though.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Question -

I ask this to stimulate discussion (given the "man it's quiet" comment):

Do you (other viewers of this series) honestly believe Phoenix will have a 20+ FTA/game advantage at any point in Staples?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I think it is quiet because:

* The fan bases of 26 teams are now mostly thinking about the draft/trades/FA.

* Despite recent wins by PHO and ORL, it still seems very likely that we are looking at another BOS/LAL Finals. Most fans of the other 28 teams are sick to death of those two teams. We've all heard enough about KG's scowls and Kobe's killer instinct to last 5 lifetimes.

* Everyone is already very tired of discussing the Summer Of Mebron.

Will be nice when a few coaches are hired, and even nicer when the draft and FA happens.

WV: telytriz: Failed spin-off involving the Tellitubbies and Trix cereal. Silly TV execs, Telytriz is for no-one!

Blogger Unknown said...
So lewis has had a viral infection for those 4 games? I don't believe it lol

Blogger stephanie g said...
The newest slamdumb comic is pretty fun:


Blogger Viscant said...
To anonymous about the officiating:
The Lakers probably did wind up getting the short end of the stick but you can't just look at FTA as the reason. The Suns were driving to the hole, the Lakers were shooting jump shots and their bigs were barely touching the ball. It's hard to get FTs at the perimeter.

In Staples the Lakers will probably get more of the 50/50 calls. To start the game off, I'm pretty sure Kobe, Gasol and Artest all hit the deck on calls that were 100% fouls by rulebook definition but will only get called 50/50 in an actual NBA playoff game. They obviously didn't get those calls yesterday, but they might get a few more tomorrow. Phil Jackson and the Laker organization as a whole are pretty good about sending in video to the league office when they aren't getting calls. Also, as a long time NBA observer, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Amare gets called for a moving screen in the 1st quarter tomorrow. He got away with a handful of them and Phil was starting to get testy about it by the end of the game.

There's still a lot of series left to go. I would love to be a fly on the wall at Lakers practice today just to see how hard Kobe/Phil are killing Gasol. I'm a big Gasol fan, but his defense, effort and rebounding were awful. The entire media was crucifying Amare for this in Games 1 and 2 and what Gasol submitted last night was pretty close to just as bad.

Anonymous Bryan said...
Ill give props where props are due. The suns bench killed it last night and the suns did a pretty good job on everyone but Kobe. But what was up with all the flopping. The suns fell down on nearly everything. Does anyone have the a gif or vid of J rich in the 1st quarter and Nash in the 2nd falling down like they had just been shot after what seemed like minimal contact. When Nash did it i thought he had blown out his knee.

Anonymous Bryan said...
"The Suns were driving to the hole, the Lakers were shooting jump shots"

Not to necessarily disagree cuz i dont have all the stats but the Lakers shot 28 3's and the suns shot 30. Seemed both teams were shooting a lot of jumpers but the Lakers were getting hit with fouls on the perimeter. I know at one pt in the 3rd tnt showed a stat the lakers were -2 in points in the paint. That might have changed by the end of the game. My point is it seems both teams took it inside relatively the same. But home cooking is part of the game and ive accepted that as a basketball fan.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

'nuff said

Blogger chris said...
Anyonmous: "The fan bases of 26 teams are now mostly thinking about the draft/trades/FA."

Or in the case of Sacramento, hoping that this year's draft forestalls any relocation plans for at least another 12 months...

CAPTCHA: "rhoobero," an ailment caused by drafting Johnny Flynn. Kevin McFail is the most prominent sufferer.

Blogger geremy said...
"...home cooking is part of the game and ive accepted..."

this statement is true by itself, but the example you cite is not one.

as i posted in yesterday's thread, phoenix had a 19FTA advantage, yes. which looks like home cooking, BUT 12 of those attempts came with less than three minutes to go in the game when LA was hacking anytime the ball got inside the perimeter EVERY TIME DOWN THE FLOOR.

so, as i stated yesterday (minus my drunken math!) the game really only had a 7FTA difference. yup, amazing home cooking there. a difference easily attributed to the fact that phoenix was more aggressive throughout, which is easily believable by their 51-36 rebounding advantage.

Anonymous Bryan said...
"yup, amazing home cooking there"

True. I agree. And for the most part i was switching back and forth from this game and the USA Czech Republic soccer match so i didnt watch most of the first half so all i had to back my claim really were the final tallies. 74-33 ft disparity in games 3&4 just seemed rather large to me. But no complaints. Suns played well and deserved the win.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
David Robinson - My take on last night's game would be kinda shitty actually. To be honest I really spent too much time having a great conversation with Mr. Bawful and ended up not watching the game that closely. It was worth it though as Mr. Bawful is even more entertaining in person than he is online. It really was the most fun I've ever had watching my Lakers lose, especially such a key game.

The fucking refs robbed us!!!!1! OMG Kobe rulz!!!


Blogger David Robinson said...
Good one there Yams, I wouldn't mind catching a game with Bawful myself. You just need to come to the phoenix area, maybe for the finals?? :)

I gotta say though, Kobe was incredible last night, I've never seen a player just single handedly keep his team in a game like Kobe did. His teammates were absolutely worthless out there.

Just gotta take 1 in LA, I hope its game 5 so we can close this out in 6.

Blogger Zephid said...
If the Suns keep setting those two handed shove screens, someone, be it Lopez or Stoudemire or whomever, is getting Scola'd by Fisher. Mark my words.

Blogger chris said...
Yams - So, would you and Matt McHale: Technical Writer end up making a good pair for BAWFUL LIVE on Youtube or something like that? :D

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Chris - I'm thinking I've probably got a face for radio, so don't hold your breath. I'm damn quizzical though and can ask questions with the best of them, but Mr. Bawful's got the gift of gab and doesn't need someone peppering him with questions to recount an amusing tale or give some spot on insight into the game. My being a Laker fan might give some balance to something like that, or else give people a heel to despise. I dunno.  

David Robinson - Aren't there enough Laker fans in Phoenix without me going there? Besides, why would I go to Phoenix to watch LA and Boston battle it out :)  In any event, I was already in Phoenix on my long ass road trip, back in early April, and plan to be somewhere in the Pacific Northwest during The Finals.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
This was literally the greatest game I've ever attended in my life, and was well worth the obscene plane ticket cost and potential to get deported.

I sat in front of a section with more-than-normal Lakers fans, and it made it all the sweeter. They were all going bonkers for Kobe doing his stuff to the detriment of the team. The two of us getting to stand up often with our Lopez and Dragic jerseys to the Lakers fans' stunned silence was excellent.