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Phoenix Suns Defense Zones It Up, Lakers Forget How To Move Ball

This is the image that I guess Getty and AP want you to see. Who am I to argue?
This is the image that I guess Getty and AP want you to see. Who am I to argue?

There's pretty much every great NBA writer and plenty of not-so-great ones (they know who they are) within dead cat swinging distance from me right now. I am trying to come up with some kind of original angle to talk about this game, but the reality is that's a losing proposition, so I am going to keep it simple and go back to what I do best. Bullet points. Because bullet points never let you down. They are the free throw shot of the inconsistent writer.

Robin Lopez

  • When Goran Dragic scored 26 points against the San Antonio Spurs people around the country were stunned. STUNNED. Who is that random kid with the funny name who just exploded? We knew better, though, and it's the same with Robin's 20-point 8 of 10 performance tonight. We've seen how much better his offensive game is than most people realize. I've been reporting on his very clean looking outside shot since I watched him make free throws at a high rate in Vegas Summer League in 2008. We know about his energy and hustle and ability to defend the rim without picking up fouls. Tonight, the entire basketball world saw it come together on this huge stage.
  • Props to Gentry from not just using him as a counter to the very knee-lame and under-performing Andrew Bynum, but as a legitimate weapon and an anchor on the defensive end. With Bynum playing well below his peak level, Robin was able to have a huge impact on the glass despite only having 3 rebounds of his own. You better believe that Amare's 11 and Grant's 9 are thanks in large part to big Lopez putting his body on a Laker and occasionally getting a finger tip on a loose ball.
  • Offensively, Robin had a very good game, hitting both a couple of mid-range Js, as well as attacking the rim from a number of angles and showing soft touch with his hook shot. And of course, he's always near the rim to clean up a miss or finish on a dump off pass. His 20 points makes up for Channing Frye's 1. Just imagine if they both get going at the same time? Oh wait, you don't have to imagine that, just remember back to February and March when they combined to average 20 and 9 and then 24 and 12. When the Suns are getting that kind of production from the Center position they are very, very good.
  • "In general, I just needed to make sure I kept people off the boards, stepped up on defense when there is penetration, and offensively when I had an opportunity I needed to take it, whether it was get the ball to somebody else or attack the rim." - Robin Lopez, my hero.
  • Even Kobe agreed how important Robin was to the Suns, "They stepped up and made big plays. Lopez made big, big plays. So you have to tip your hats to them for that." And by hat, I am assuming he means this one
  • On the other side of the big man battle, the Lakers had nothing positive to say about Andrew Bynum. Phil Jackson admitted he is considering sitting him for a game and called him "ineffective," which from what I saw was being generous. The kid can't move out there.
  • Sucks for him, but the Suns need to pounce and take advantage of the fact that the one guy that can match up with Robin is hurt and instead of playing down to the Lakers, go to the big Fuzzy Kid in the middle.

Amare Bully Balling

  • I am really not sure what to say beyond the obvious. Amare came out aggressive and attacked right from the get go and as a result he dropped fouls on Bynum and Odom and out-played Gasol by a long mile.
  • Gentry told Amare before the game that they were going to go to him early and he wanted him to be aggressive. Gentry explained the adjustment, "We just tried to put him in a position where he could go quickly, where they couldn't set the half-court defense. When they set the half-court defense, they do a really good job. They did a really good job the two games out there of really cutting off all the avenues and lanes and drives to the basket."
  • Pau Gasol was asked what kind of challenge it is trying to guard Amare off the drive. His answer, "Challenging." Well said.
  • Defensively, Amare played a much better game as well. He finished with a steal and block and seemed to do a much better job with his rotations. He wasn't the only one.

The Zone

  • Gentry was as surprised as anyone that the zone worked as well as it did for as long as it did. "I told you we would play some zone. I didn't think we'd play like 80 percent zone."
  • Just how good was the zone? In 31 possessions against the Suns man defense, the Lakers shot 53.6%. In 41 possessions against the zone they shot 31.2%. Here's the break down of Lakers possessions against the Suns zone from Synergy Sports:


  • I could share a lot of quotes from the Lakers about why the zone worked so well against them, but the theme was that they didn't move the ball well. Here's an example from Fisher, "I think the zone defense caused us some problems because we weren't able to get the ball into Pau on a consistent basis. That's when we're at our best."
  • The Suns credit energy and communication for the improvement. The big question now is if the zone will be as effective for such a long period of time again. I don't think so. Jared Dudley doesn't, either.
  • The most impressive thing about the zone was the rebounding. Typically, it is hard to rebound out of that alignment, but the Suns only gave up 9 offensive rebounds (and had 10 of their own). Thanks, Robin.

Nash's Nose and Other Stuff

  • Steve Nash continues to show his hockey roots and his complete lack of care for his facial features. "I don't think I broke it. I think I rearranged it. Obviously, there's a dent and it's bent. I think I whacked the cartilage out of place, but I tried to push it back into place, so it's not as bent now but it's still nicely curved."
  • Nash thinks he bumped it into Shannon Brown's big fat head. He will see a nose doctor on Monday for a more formal diagnosis. What are the chances that this affects his ability to play on Tuesday? I am going to go out on a limb and say it won't.
  • The Suns scored 118 points and only shot 46% overall and 5 for 20 from three. 42 free throws will help with that. The Lakers said they made a point of staying home on the Suns' outside shooters which might have opened up some lanes for Amare and Robin, but at the same time, guys missed open shots. If the Suns can make those shots on Tuesday ...
  • JRich continues to be my MVP of the playoffs. 19 points tonight including 4 threes. A couple big ones early and a few late. He's clutch.
  • The Lakers only had 44 points in the paint, thanks to the zone.
  • Lamar Odom was effectively neutralized, but the question is if he had a famously poor game as he is prone to do or if the Suns were better prepared for his flashing down the middle of the lane, which appears to be his go-to move.
  •  You have to love the LA media. TJ Simers asked Odom if he was surprised by the Suns showing heart. Odom answered, "We knew they had heart." Simmers responded, "Really?"
  • The Suns had 7 turnovers. The Lakers, 17.

Post Game Audio:

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