We've said all along that the way the Suns were going to win this series was with depth and that depth wasn't just about Channing hitting his shots (or not) or how many rebounds Looooooouu grabs.
That depth is about fresh legs vs tried legs late in games -- especially now that the series is on the every-other-day plan.
That's played out as expected in the fourth quarter of the past three games, where the Suns have:
- Outscored the Lakers by 19 points in the 4th quarters of Games 3 thru 5.
- Are +2 in OReb and +15 in DReb and, while Game 4 accounts for a big part of that margin, there is still not a single game in this series where the Lakers have out rebounded the Suns in ANY fourth quarter.
- Kobe in the last three games scored 10, 7 and 7, but was 38% and 33% from the field in Games 3 and 5 and in Game 4 almost all his shots came after the Suns had a very late 10 point lead, which, while not quite garbage time, certainly wasn't crunch time either.
- Pau Gasol torched the Suns for 14 points in Game 2, but has only scored a combined 9 points in the 4th quarters of Games 3 thru 5.
- Kobe - 41.8 mpg. Gasol - 40.4 mpg. Amare - 36.6 mpg. Nash - 33.4 mpg.
- There is NO WAY that Nash goes 4 for 5 and hits all those late shots if he has to play the entire 4th quarter or even 10 minutes in stead of 5
You see the trend? We certainly saw it last night when the Suns erased an 18 point lead over the final 16 minutes only to see the Lakers get lucky that Kobe missed the rim entirely on his attempted buzzer beater.
The Lakers were out-working the Suns for most of the game and we much, much more aggressive on the glass but you could visibly see them tired as the game wore on. Those loose balls started going to the Suns and Pau even missed a few shots that he normally makes. That's fatigue setting in and that more than anything is what gives the Suns a chance in a Game 7.
Side note: I am being completely tongue-in-check by using the term "lucky". Of course there's no luck involved. The Lakers beat the Suns last night because they played better for most of the game and built that 18 point lead and because Ron Artest out-worked Jason Richardson in the final second.
Side note #2: If you are going to lose to the Lakers on a buzzer beater, aren't you glad it wasn't Kobe hitting a shot that came after a blown defensive assignment ala Michael Finley's three in 2008? I can live with Ron's shot. Seeing Kobe drain an open look after a blown switch ... that would be painful.
And now some links ...
Finally, Ron Artest makes the headlines for all the right reasons - Silver Screen and Roll
Ron Artest's history, both on and off the court, is checkered at best. No one can deny that he's got a special combination of size and athleticism (emphasis on the former). He's lauded as a terrific defender, and is known for his ability to play well on both sides of the ball. He's won the defensive player of the year award and made the All-Star game once. But he's also Ron f***ing Artest. Ron-Ron. Crazy Pills.
Lakers 103, Suns 101: This One's for Queensbridge - Silver Screen and Roll
the Suns this evening came achingly close to something neither they nor the Lakers have managed in the Western Conference Finals, which is winning a road game. The Lakers still need one more victory either in Phoenix, where they were deeply uncompetitive in Games Three or Four, or back in Staples in a Game Seven. Their ability to do so isn't a given.
KTAR.com - Suns fans feel the pain again
We can talk all we want about the missed free throws, the turnovers, and the poor rebounding, but when it was all said and done the Suns still had a great opportunity to steal one on the road. That does lead me to believe that there is still a chance for this team to scratch that 17-year itch and get back to the finals.
KTAR.com - Ash: Wow that hurt!
So Kobe shoots an airball and that's how the Suns lose?
"My countryman?" Vujacic asked. "Oh, the kid on the other team? I don't think I'm fighting my countryman. I'm playing good defense. You got to exploit the weaknesses of your opponent and I think that if that's Nash, if that's Grant Hill, if that's Barbosa, whoever that is, you got to exploit their weaknesses. He's still young and he's learning so a little bit of pressure helps."
Dragic made the Slovenian national team last summer, the same team that Vujacic tried out for and was cut because of injury.
"He's much younger than I am, I never heard of him when I was back home," Vujacic said. "He's playing in a good team, great offense for him, Doug Collins called him a 'herky-jerky player' so he can't find himself in a better position."
Alvin Gentry's impact with Phoenix Suns a popular topic
Unlike a lot of coaches, Gentry really doesn't pay much attention to what is said or written about him. He's at the point in his career where it just doesn't matter.
Suns' zone defense had help from Dwyane Wade
In the fourth game of the season, Miami had taken a 12-point lead on Phoenix in the third quarter with 11 unanswered points, including six on Wade drives, when Suns coach Alvin Gentry called for a 2-3 zone. The Heat went 10 for 38 from the field the rest of the game, the Suns won and a defensive option was born.
Los Angeles Lakers steal a golden chance from Phoenix Suns in Game 5
"Plays like that are the difference between championship teams and really good teams," Gentry said.
Suns lose heartbreaker to Lakers in Game 5
What is a Suns postseason without heartbreak in the most gut-wrenching, unexpected and quirky of ways?
Phoenix Suns still have hope against Los Angeles Lakers
What is it about that purple and gold court, the A-list celebrities and the collagen-infused fan base that makes the Suns drop a few IQ points?
Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns feel more heartbreak vs. Los Angeles Lakers - 2010 NBA playoffs - ESPN Los Angeles
"You know," Nash said, in a voice more gravelly than usual, "everything's OK. Maybe we deserved this game, maybe we didn't. But we lost. And they held home court. We'll go back and do the same and we'll come back here for Game 7."
Top sports bars to watch the Suns-Lakers playoffs
With so many spots around town to choose from, here's a look at some of the best places to catch Thursday's game, and have a few cheap drinks while you're at it.
Ron Artest: Just Gotta Keep Playing Basketball, Reppin' Queensbridge - SB Nation
The best part of Thursday night's game-winner from Ron Artest wasn't just that he redeemed himself after a truly awful shot about 60 seconds earlier. It wasn't even that his redemption came on an airball rebound, with Ron-Ron careening out of bounds, heaving the ball wildly at the basket (really, that's the only way Ron Artest should ever hit a game-winner.) No, the BEST part was his postgame interview.
KTAR.com - Wolf: Of zones and men
Competition is an aggressive act. Since the beginning, competition pitted one man against another, opposing each other, imposing their will upon the loser. Many times one man was superior to the other.