LA Lakers-Phoenix Suns
John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
Basketball is a game of little things, and to win games you must do the little things. Game 5 was an excellent example of the Phoenix Suns not doing the little things. It cost them a game and possibly a trip to the NBA Finals. The Suns missed a box out opportunity in the final seconds that cost them Game 5. We will never know what would have happened if the Suns had boxed out Ron Artest and the game had gone to overtime. It might have been their best opportunity to beat the Lakers on the road. Sometimes lessons are learned the hard way and the Suns may have learned a real tough lesson on Thursday night.
The Suns showed tremendous resolve versus the Lakers in Game 5. They could have gotten blown out but fought their way back into the game. As good as the Lakers played they could not knock out the Suns. Will the Suns gain strength from how hard they played and how close they came to knocking off the Lakers?
Do they know exactly what they must do to beat the Lakers in Game 6? The Lakers held serve by winning Game 5 and now the Suns must do the same in Phoenix on Saturday. This has come down to a two game series and the Suns must win both to stay alive.
Game 6 Adjustments
The Lakers were much more aggressive versus the Phoenix 2-3 zone. Their execution against the zone included better passing, and better use of dribble penetration. They had 28 assists for the game and only 10 turnovers. On the other hand the Suns must do a better job in Game 6 of making Ron Artest and Lamar Odom beat them from the perimeter. The Suns must focus on Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Derek Fisher. These are the guys that killed the them in Game 6. They must make Artest beat them from the outside. From the Lakers perspective they must find a way to get Pau Gasol more involved in the 4th quarter. The Phoenix zone has limited his effectiveness in the most important quarter of the game and the Lakers must find a way to correct that.
The Lakers won Game 5 because of their defense. Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant sent a message that defense was the key for the Lakers to win this series. They were a step quicker and tougher than they had been in the past two games. The Suns stuggled to get good looks all night versus the Lakers. Time after time they built a wall and gave tremendous support to Pau Gasol who was defending Amare Stoudemire. The Lakers had scored 116. 5 points in their two home games and last night the Lakers held them to 101 points. In Phoenix Amare Stoudemire had averaged 31.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in two games while last night the Lakers held him to only 19 points and 4 rebounds. The Lakers switched a lot of the Suns pick and rolls and it bothered them earlier in the game. They dribbled too much and stood around too much. The Lakers made defense a priority in Game 5 and will need the same effort in Phoenix.
Rebounding will be a big key to who wins this series. The Lakers won the rebounding game in Game 5 and they will try to duplicate that effort in the next game. They used their size and length to beat the Suns on the glass (49-40). The Lakers out rebounded the Suns 49-40 with 19 of those rebounds coming on the offensive glass. The zone has been effective for the Suns but it is a weak rebounding defense. The Lakers found openings in the zone and beat the Suns all game long to extra shots. The Suns must find some way to negate the Lakers on the boards or this may be a deciding factor in Game 6.
The Phoenix Suns must play much better offensively in order to win Game 6. They must find a way to play much faster. The Lakers ground them into a half court team. They only had 9 fast break points for the game. The Suns are a much more effective team when they shoot earlier in the shot clock. When they are defended early in the clock and must score in the last 12 seconds of the clock they are much less effective. Turnovers have been costly in their losses. They had 14.5 turnovers in their two losses and only 7.5 turnovers in their two wins. Last night they were careless with the ball again, turning it over 15 times. The Suns must have a low turnover game in Game 6 in order to win.
Its all about Steve Nash and the pick and roll for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are the most dangerous team in the NBA because they force teams to make very hard defensive decisions. They have tremendous spacing, put multiple 3 point shooters on the court, and have an All Star point guard controlling the ball. Last night the Lakers refused to help off shooters, gave very little help off Stoudemire and forced Nash into being a scorer. What makes the Suns so difficult to guard is that they will read how you are playing them and then take what the defense gives them. Nash showed us in Game 5 that he is capable of beating the Lakers by himself if they continue to play him the same way. It will be interesting to see if the Lakers play the pick and rolls the same in Game 6.
The Lakers and Suns bench could be the X factor in Game 6. The Suns dominated the Lakers bench in Game 4 by outscoring them 54-20. In Game 5 the Suns bench was held in check in the first half. They only had 2 points at haltime, on 1-4 shooting from the field. However they exploded for 29 points in the second half and were carried by Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. They finished with 24 of the Suns 31 points off the bench. Phil Jackson did a nice job with his bench in Game 5. He placed a lot of trust in Jorrdan Farmar and Shasa Vujacic off the bench and they delivered. They did a nice job versus the zone and controlling Leandro Barbosa and Goran Dragic defensively.
The Suns are the team everyone likes to watch. Every ball player loves the Suns style of play and offensive freedom they have from their coaching staff. The Lakers are a very talented basketball team. They deserve to be in the NBA Finals, and have all the pieces to win a NBA Championship. However I would love to see the Suns win Game 6 and force a Game 7 back in LA. If that happened I would not bet against the Suns. They are one of the most dangerous teams you could face in a 7th game because of how they play.
Prediction: Phoenix wins Game 6.