A lot of us Suns' supporters have been swooning over the success that the Suns have had against the Lakers in both PHX games. Some of it can be credited to the referees picking up on the hand-checking and bumping that the Laker's used in LA. A lot can be credited to the use of the Zone defense. Let's explore why such a generally easy-to-pick-apart defense seems to push the Lakers into an offensive offense.
The Lakers use the triangle offense as their primary offensive set. Occasionally they will use a traditional post up or a S&R, but the Triangle is LA's calling card. The offense is predicated on quick, accurate ball movement from everyone touching the ball in order to move the ball to the rim. Essentially, it is a no-dribble offense. For instance, Fisher will bring the ball up court and pass it off to Kobe at about the 3-line elbow. Fisher will run a V-cut to the rim and then back out to the other side of the court. Kobe has already take a couple of dribbles, pulls it back and passes it to a big in the high post, he'll cut either back out to a more advantageous spot on the 3 or to the rim while another big is waiting for the pass in the Low-post. The high post player now has 3 options:1. pass back out and reset 2. pass into the low post 3. shoot/drive the ball.
What happens is the ball moves a lot without a player(i.e. with passes). Generally, this is very effective because the ball can be passed faster than most players can move.
The Zone defense is generally used to keep taller players out of the paint where they are easier to defend. That is one of the reasons that it is effective for the Suns, but not the primary reason. That is that the zone loads the high post areas with defenders, making it easy for quick double teams to frustrate the key player in the triangle. We saw that a lot last night with Pau Gasol. Also, the activity required from all 5 players to effectively play each defensive set makes them all more defensively aware of where the ball is, where it's going, and when to tip and pilfer it, which once again frustrates the Triangle's #1 way of moving the ball, passing.
The best way to break a zone consistently is to drive(dribble) the ball into the gaps of the zone defense and make it collapse. Because the majority of the Laker's offense is passing, only a couple of players on the team are adequate drivers: Kobe, and Lamar Odom. Those guys have to be able to move with the ball in order to break the zone. If they don't make that adjustment the Suns' best available defensive option is the Zone.