LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Ron Artest #37 of the Los Angeles Lakers knocks the ball out of the hands of Robin Lopez #15 of the Phoenix Suns as they go up for a rebound during the second quarter in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
They didn't show it against Utah or OKC or for large parts of the season, but when they are playing like this with Ron turning down bad shots and hitting good ones, Pau and Lamar destroying in the paint and Kobe looking healthy again and, most importantly, playing together as a team ... the Suns simply have no answer.
They are who we thought they might be but hoped they weren't.
It is one thing to get beat by a better team, it's another thing to go down without putting up a fight and this is the most frustrating part of these losses.
Barbosa gets clobbered hard enough to draw blood and instead of at least coming back with a tough response, the Suns just fold up the tent and pack it in. That is hard to take. Harder than getting beat. That is the same old soft Suns that everyone outside of Phoenix predicted coming into this series.
What's worse, is a Suns team that doesn't look like they truly believe they can win.
It shows in the gimmick zone, fronting and double teaming defenses that were an early admission of defeat. I get the strategy -- let the other guys beat you -- but what message does that send right out of the gate? It was the kind of thing that the Suns were doing in the middle of the season when there was no confidence in the defense.
"Every time we made an adjustment to slow them down, they went somewhere else," Gentry said. "They're the World Champs."
All season long, Gentry has talked about how great this Lakers team is. How long they are. How Kobe is still the best player in the world.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are young and dumb enough not to know they didn't have a chance, but the Suns are too smart for that. They played like the know they can't win, and maybe that was always the case, but at least you want to see some more fight in the process instead of getting beat by a combined 33 points in two games. That's an embarrassing admission of defeat.
All the talk about being a better defensive team, all the talk about being grittier and tougher -- in two games, it's all gone.
The Suns might play better in Phoenix for a game or two, but it's going to take an awful lot to erase giving up 126 points per game. Frye could find his stroke and guys like Farmar and Artest could lose theirs, but in the end it won't matter in the least if the Suns can't string together at least three or four good defensive games.
The Lakers have stepped up and shown they are the class of the West. I guess being second best isn't so bad. That's certainly how the Suns have acted in this series so far.
Amare Stoudemire. After all the running his mouth, he can't at least come out and play attentive defense and fight hard in the paint?
Forget about the offense. He should be ashamed of his effort and focus on the defensive end. His man was constantly moving behind him without the ball and getting wide open looks. How does that happen time and time again?
In two games on this big stage, Amare's ruined two or three months of trying to build his reputation as a complete player. He very well could have cost himself a max contract or at least being considered a guy who's worth that even if some team gives it to him.
Two games ago, Suns fans would have gladly supported writing him that check. Now? Now, it's a good thing these decisions aren't made in the heat of the moment. Now it is best to see how this plays out and spend a few weeks in reflection. Because right now after calling Lamar Odom "Lucky" and talking about how he used to abuse Pau Gasol, he just looks too foolish for words.
Pau owned him on both ends of the floor. Offensively, the only time Amare was able to score was when someone else drew the defender and set up him or perhaps on a couple of mid-range shots the Lakers didn't contest. Not once did I see him iso his man and dominate. While on the other end of the floor, he was forced to front Pau because he had no chance of stopping him one on one in the post.
After the game Amare, didn't have any answers, "They're doing a great job offensively with the triangle offense. They're moving the ball. Artest shot the ball extremely well tonight. That's something we didn't expect."
What is that? You have to at least man up and own getting whupped.
"It doesn't matter how many points I put up ... We can't come off the first two quarters and give them 30 points and then have them come in at halftime with 65 points or whatever it was. We have to find a way to stop them." That's Jason Richardson stepping up and owning it.
The Suns when small for a while and both Grant Hill and Jared Dudley played great. The Suns playoff MVP, Jason Richardson, did everything he could. But when Amare and Channing both aren't playing well, there's simply no chance and Alvin Gentry knows it, "Channing has to step up for us. That's the bottom line. We need him on the floor. He's a good post defender for us, but he's going to have to be able to make some shots."
The defensive story was actually pretty simple. The Lakers reacted to whatever defense the Suns tried. When they played straight up, they attacked in the post using their individual mismatches. When they doubled or fronted, they moved the ball and found and made open shots. The Suns were able to disrupt them for a few moments here or there, but never were able to sustain any kind of defensive momentum.
Ron Artest of all people summed it up best, "They wanted to double Kobe ... but it wasn't strong doubles, so he was able to actually make shots and he was able to slice through some defenders and he was able to pass and find open guys."
Over the next few days we are going to hear a lot of this from Coach Gentry, "The only thing they've done is what they've supposed to do (hold home court)." But then perhaps showed his true hand by adding, "We'll go with that."
At least Nash has some hope left, "Hopefully, they won't shoot as well in our building as they did here."
And if you still have hope, more power to you. It certainly is possible for the Suns to turn this around and win the next two games and at least force a longer series. That's obviously one goal, but in my mind the more important objective is just to show some pride in their defense and find a way to fight hard for 48 minutes on Sunday. I'll take that as a way to close the book on a better than expected season.
Post Game Audio:
- Phil Jackson post game 051910
- Gentry post game 051910
Nash post game 051910
- Pau Gasol post gae 051910 (the second half of this is in Spanish)
- Kobe post game 051910
- The PA announcer had to explain to the LA crowd that this is a seven game series and that means the first team to win four games wins the Western Conference Championship. Many Lakers fans were nodding in wonder
- Good job Robin fighting for that rebounding with Bynum. Take it to him and use your fouls
- All ball! Come on, how many blocks can Nash possibly get. Give him that one
- Oh no...Ron hitting hit shot after passing up a bad one. Not good
- Suns did run a double at Kobe btw
- Suns scoring in the paint early off Nash penetration
- Nice one Grant! Get the and 1 and bait Kobe into a foul. 11-11, 8:16
- Robin, if you are going to be the enforcer you can't reach down to help Artest up off the floor
- Suns at least competing more on defense
- Love that curl play w/ JRich b/c Bynum isn't going to hedge the screen at all
- Grant shot 40% from three this season but is like 0 for 70 in the playoffs
- Frye and Odom in. Bynum and Robin out. 15-13, Lakers. 6:15
- and Frye turns the ball over on his first touch
- Grant is 0 for 8 from three in the playoffs. Still 000000%
- Lucky call as Amare runs over Fisher
- Suns fronting the post a lot to try and prevent the triangle set up
- 19-13, 5min
- Defensive three on LA. Lucky call
- 23-16. Lakers on 8-3 run since Odom and Frye checked in. Wonder if Gentry will go w/ Amare and Robin against Lamar and Pau
- Dudley in for Frye. Gentry pulling out the stops or whatever
- 2nd foul on Fisher. Farmar in.
- JRich needed that three....as did I....as did you
- Lakers go right at Dudley in the post w/ Odom
- Robin coming back in from Hill. Got to get Grant some rest so he can play w/ the 2nd unit early in the 2nd
- Suns zone it up. Ron passes up bad shot and finds Kobe for open three
- Nash answers with a three. He needs to shoot more
- Lakers attack middle of the zone. Easy two for Pau
- Fucking Ron Artest picked the worst time to start hitting shots
- 36-24. 7 Suns turnovers. Lakers 3-5 from three. 5 offensive rebounds. Ugh
- This would really be a good time to step it up. Like now....
- 2nd foul on Odom. That's lucky but lucky for him, Lou is at the line
- Lou missed both but luckily gets the miss and finds Dudley for a three
- A couple of Suns fans boo Channing Frye as he checks back in. Had to be Suns fans b/c why would Lakers fans boo him checking in
- Suns need to speed up...just shoot sooner
- Like that!
- There you go! Great steal and Lou fast break finish!
- There you go again! Stop, run, three!....and whistle :(
- 41-38, 7:40
- Frye has no confidence right now. None. Zip. Meanwhile Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar are hitting shots
- 47-41, 5:50 to go. Another 60 point Laker half
- That was a very athletic save by Dudley after he was fouled by Dragic
- Amare missed the FT. Lucky for Lakers
- Dragic didn't want to come out of the game (Nash at scorers table) so he got himself to the line. Smart kid
- Nice steal from Jared! Suns still give up 60+ points in the half
- Ron Artest and efficient 15 points. Farmar and Brown 11 combined 4-6
- When those guys are shooting like that you can't beat this team
- Half time chick on a unicycle balancing bowls = better than Suns defense
- So much for not doubling Kobe. Lakers playing really really well
- Suns stopped dribble penetration, kept the Lakers from scoring in the paint, held Kobe to 4-11 but are getting smoked anyway. Not sure why Grant Hill didn't play in the second quarter except that Dudley was hitting his three's and I guess Gentry wanted to keep him on the floor
- At least get mad and foul somebody
- JRich came to play. He's pissed. I like that
- All the Suns trick defenses have failed. The Zone. The Double. The Fronting. The Crane. And what's worse is they sap the confidence by telling the team that they can't man up. Reminds me of December/January :(
- Amare with another unlucky turnover
- Suns making a run but I am not feeling it. 75-67, 7:32
- Wow. Amare rejected twice at the rim. That is painful
- Suns not getting a lot of stops but scrapping a bit more at least w/ JD and Grant on the floor together
- Now that's finally some aggressive, scrambling defense!
- Tie game! 86-86
- Lets see if those Lakers OG's can hit shots w/ some pressure on
- Get a stop here to end the Qtr!!!! YES!
- This game is all in the hand of the bench. If they can come in and give a solid 6 minutes, the Suns have a chance
- Goran takes out Joey Crawford. Worth it
- Farmar three...sucks
- Huge three from JD!
- Kobe on the floor w/ Odom and Gasol. If Suns bench can keep it close....
- Amare's defense is horrible. How many times has his man cut behind him for an open layup?
- Frye in. Come on Channing, please step up
- Lou w/ two FTs. That's nice
- Odom/Gasol pick and roll...these guys are good
- Nash in a bit early for Goran. Oh well...
- How is that possibly not a foul! LB got clobbered, splits the back of his head open and no call!
- Wide open three from Farmar....kidding me right? Play some defense! Fight a little bit!
- 106-95. That's about it. No fight in this team