[Just for the ones that haven’t got a clue...the WCF are tied 2-2…Now it’s a best of three…]
Well it’s almost time for the Phoenix Suns to go to work once again. The yeoman’s work they performed at home versus the Los Angeles Lakers was commendable, but there’s still much to do. This time instead of laboring within the friendly confines of US Airways Center, they’ll have to venture deep behind the Southern California enemy lines to the refuge of erstwhile celebrities and rehab transfers.
Once there, they’ll encounter a Los Angeles media that borders on cultish-like coverage of the Lakers, irrational fans that view the Suns as a D-League Team, a demagogue-like coach, and a Lakers squad that is a tad bit pissed off.
Since the Game 4 defeat, the buzz phrase for the Lakers Basketball Nation has been “Sense of Urgency.” Lord Kobe summed it up this way, "Our concentration was focused on how to attack the zone (defense). We've gotta go back (to Los Angeles) and be ready to play. We have to play with a sense of urgency and understand this team can beat us."
Seven-foot Spanish forward Pau Gasol, who was held to 15 points by the Suns on Tuesday, felt his team had to play intense basketball throughout Game Five to regain control of the series. His comments, ""Now we've got to go home and make sure we play as well as possible. We have to set the tone from the first second, and play as hard as possible for 48 minute (Is it possible they thought the Suns got a WCF spot by playing scratch-offs..?), eerily echoed Kobe Bryant.
Without question in Game 5, the Phoenix Suns are going to face a Lakers troop that is going to come out energized. They may not have been focused before on their adversary, but now they are. Even their latte-addled fans will stop texting for a few minutes to help generate a quasi-rocking environment. The Suns will also have to deal with a referee crew that might be somewhat unnerved by the crowd activity within the Forum. There is also a 10 championship ring wearing Phil Jackson who has had ample time to try to figure out how his team can finally dismantle the Suns’ Girly Zone.
The first 8-10 minutes will be the key to survival for the Suns. The Lakers are going to use Kobe to slash and probe potential avenues of weakness in the zone. Along with Derek Fisher, they will look for ways to pull the Suns out of the zone, exploit their size on the perimeter, and disrupt the suns pick and roll. Expect a heavy dosage of variations on Kobe‘s drive and dish to Pau Gasol as the Lakers will try to attack the zone vociferously.
We can expect Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol & Ron Artest to come out aggressive, to be extremely physical, and to pound the boards with some serious ferocity. Every early Suns foray into the paint can be expected to meet some level of punishment, On the other side, the Laker guards will attempt to use the aggressiveness of the Lakers big men to try to power the ball into the post and pick up quick ones on Amare Stoudemire and Robin Lopez.
The Suns can also expect a slight turn of events when it comes to refereeing. The emotion of the Lakers and their home crowd will tilt the balance of aggressiveness towards the Lakers at least through this initial surge. As we have consistently reminded each other here on this forum about refs calls, “to the aggressors go the spoils.” Considering that a few quick foul calls might cause an early call to the bench, our bench must come in ready to play and to meet the intensity on the court.
During this period, the Suns must stay focused, and try to meet the energy level of the Lakers. They must also stay disciplined; channel their efforts towards maintaining the integrity of the zone, and finding good shots on the offensive end. They must also work the ball inside and not settle for 3PT shots on every possession.
Maintaining composure is an absolute; Indubitable, many of the Lakers shots will fall despite the defensive effort. There is also the possibility a crowd-rocking Kobe play or thunderous dunk by one of the Lakers Bigs. Additionally questionable calls may arise. An ill-timed reaction that results in a technical foul or poor team body language should not happen during this period.
The bottom line is that Suns must stay close during this initial Lakers push, within 6 or 8 points at the most. 3 or 4 points would be ideal and a tie or lead would be phenomenal. Finding easy baskets, limiting turnovers and well-placed time-outs should help minimize the Lakers lead at this time. It goes without saying that the Suns cannot afford to allow a double digit deficit during this initial surge. While a double digit lead is not as insurmountable, as the Suns proved against the Spurs, the energy expended to mount a comeback or this size may leave the team short for the final few minutes of the game ala Game 2.
Looking at the dynamics entering Game 5, I believe the Suns have the tools to win this game. If they can survive the initial Laker onslaught, continually execute the zone to make the Lakers take a high percentage of perimeter shots, and get reasonable production from the bench, I think we win this. 40-50% percent from 3 point land would seal the deal. Prediction = 110 -106 Suns. Call me crazy, but I think we can do this…