Thursday, May 20th, 2010 at 2:07 am  |  33 responses

Lakers Take 2-0 Lead

Suns no match for L.A.’s balanced attack.

by Mike Middlehurst-Schwartz

There’s a saying that it’s better to be lucky than good. Most teams would like to be both.

No matter the explanation, the Los Angeles Lakers will take the result: a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference Finals match-up with the Phoenix Suns.

“Lucky” was the word on everyone’s minds after Amar’e Stoudemire used it to dismiss Lamar Odom’s 19-point, 19-rebound output in Game 1. But the term applied more broadly than just to Odom. The Lakers couldn’t duplicate the outcome and ease of their opening performance, could they?

The win didn’t come as easy as it did the first time. But it required little luck at the end.

Spurred by an offense that was rarely challenged, the Lakers downed the Suns, 124-112, Wednesday night at Staples Center.

The Suns assured everyone Tuesday that defensive reinforcements were on the way after the team gave up 127 points in the opener. But a patient Lakers team toyed with the zone defense thrown their way in the early going, consistently finding wide open three-point shooters. With Kobe Bryant balancing the roles of distributor early (playoff career-high 13 assists) and scorer late (21 points), Los Angeles seldom struggled with putting up points.

The Suns’ plan to contain Bryant paid few dividends.

“They do a great job [playing defense] on Kobe, and then it goes to Pau [Gasol],” Gentry said. “You double-team Pau, and then it goes to Lamar. You get it out of Lamar’s hands, and Jordan Farmar makes shots.

“That’s the reason they’re world champs.”

Stopping the Suns, however, was a more arduous task for the Lakers. Phoenix couldn’t match Los Angeles’ efficiency, but its players frequently capitalized on open jumpers. Jared Dudley earned his keep with five 3-pointers. Grant Hill’s second-half revival catalyzed an integral run, and Steve Nash provided some much-needed counterpunches after many Lakers baskets.

But the Suns couldn’t go any further than tying the score at 90 at the end of the third quarter. Despite Gasol getting 14 fourth-quarter points, Bryant credited Jordan Farmar with “single-handedly” swinging the momentum back in the Lakers’ favor. Once the game was settled in the final minutes, one section of the crowd started a “we want Boston” cheer.

With the series headed to Phoenix, there was a sense of cautious optimism among the Lakers. The Suns’ crowd is sure to be more hostile than the quiet Staples Center group, whose loudest cheer came when referee Joey Crawford hit the deck. Bryant noted that dictating tempo would be more difficult on the road but also said the team knew how to adapt.

“We can play pretty much every style,” Bryant said. “It doesn’t mean we’re better than the team we’re playing against. But it holds us in stretches.”

Both Gentry and Steve Nash voiced a subdued frustration with the team’s inability to defend the Lakers consistently. After choosing to double Bryant and pay the Price, Gentry joked, “Maybe we’ll let Kobe get 80 and try to guard the other guys.” After taking his final question, Gentry panned, “I’m open to suggestions, guys.”

Sounds like a guy who could use a little luck.

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  • http://www.motherjones.com AndTheJellosJigglin

    Na Zdrowie! Soon to be most wins playoff wins coach/player duo… beauty.

  • http://slamonline.com J Dizzle

    Lakers are playing at their best right now. Winning in Phoenix will be tough but they can take at least one. Kobe had a mean crossover to break Hill’s ankles. He can’t be stopped right now.

  • Bruno

    so for the slam LA-Phoenix preview to happen, the suns have to win 4 straight now … piece of cake Dennis Tarwood hahaha

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    The Suns can go and hit as many open jumpers as they want, it won’t matter if they keep giving up 35 point quarters like this.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    And I’m no fan of this current Laker team, but that “lucky” quote bothers me. Even “lucky” shots bounce in more often as a result of a high arc and good form. There aren’t even “lucky” knockout punches, or Anderson Silva would’ve been knocked out numerous times already as he prances around opponents with his hands down. Most damning of all, 19 rebounds are the furthest thing from “luck”. Maybe I’m reading too much into things as usual but that Amare quote is a stupid excuse at best, and a scary rationalization at worst to Suns fans, because if Amare *really* thinks they lost to the Lakers due to bad luck, they haven’t got a chance at all beyond this point, not in their heads.

  • Ali

    Actions speak louder than words…17 pts & 11 rebs, L.O….L.O…..Dey Know….Dey Know…..

  • BackInBlack

    the lakers will always win, all of their starters were previous franchise players + lamar odom

  • james

    i still dont see how that guy who wrote the lakers/suns preview had the suns winning in 6? it makes no sense to me how u can write that. and his points were because the suns had lopez and the lakers didnt have kirk hinrich. hope the suns get swept so whoever wrote that preview can feel utterly stupid and learn how analyze the game better.

  • roman

    @james- i can see how he wrote suns in six. its called hate. anyone with some basketball sense could determine size alone would be problems for them. i’m just surprised at how weak their defense is.

  • http://www.springbored.net letsmotor

    amar’e's starting to make me really not like him. lamar odom, lucky?! i am not a laker fan, and i’m really not a lamar odom fan, but amar’e had no right to say that. odom got those rebounds for two reasons: 1. he’s a good rebounder, and 2. nobody else is chasing after them (9 rebounds in 2 games amar’e?! come on!). and then he comes out and plays defense like someone who’s ok with giving up 120. i’m really starting to see him as a guy who cares more about making the highlight reel than he does about winning games.

  • Graham F

    The Lakers have it all going now, but they’re not going to get these uncontested drives and dunks against the Celtics. Don’t be lulled into false confidence, L.A. fans – if Boston makes it to the Finals, I’m predicting they take the Lakers once again, this time in 7.

  • http://myspace.com/dontdiecindy Bryan

    i just want to say i told you so.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ niQ

    It’s kind of sad, the Suns best players were Hill and Dudley.

  • Erika Badu

    They will get spanked by the Celtics.

  • http://freewebs.com/galacreativa Gus

    @james, roman…don´t worry, is still Suns in 6, how many games have been played?

  • chingy

    As quite the athletic, long, and strong physical specimen as Amare is, you’d think he’d be better on D…

  • chingy

    If the Suns let Kobe get 80, and let Gasol get 20, and limit the rest to 10, they’ll still be better off. Damn!

  • http://slamonline.com AlbertBarr

    Suns are dunzo…harumph…at least the game was mildly more interesting than most of the playoffs.

  • Robb

    That’s what losers use to say: “oh he won because he was lucky” or ” he’s got money because he’s lucky”. That’s a loser talking. Meanwhile the Lakers are heading to the finals once again. Hey Amar’e get your “unlucky” mom out of jail why don’t you?

  • http://www.motherjones.com AndTheJellosJigglin

    @Gus. Keep talking, just like Amare. @Lakers. Keep playing.

  • LA Huey

    The Suns should take a knee after they lose Game 3

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    PHX can still bring some more effort, I hope. The Lakers have the better game plan; don’t give channing frye a shot, break up the pick and roll and there are rebounds to be had! Gasol has been awesome and that hasn’t helped the Suns faithful….

  • Spetsnaz

    Its pretty simple, Amare is the reason why they’re losing. He can’t guard a chair. The amount of times in the 2 games he lost his defensive assignment off the ball is inexcusable. He’s constantly ball watching while Gasol and Odom waltz thru the key and get layups. He doesn’t push anyone off the block and all he can muster is a weak @ss half front of the post. The suns need to sign Kurt Thomas so he can teach him how to box out.

    It drive me nuts that u can have a guys trying their hardest on D like Grant Hill and others to have a space cadet like Amare wandering around on defense.

  • kriz

    i feel like the majority fans have ripped steve nashs D for their postseason shortcomings in the past 5 yrs or so. looks like the true blemishes in the D are focused around a lethargic ultra athletic big man

  • topo

    i hear people saying rondo is going to tear the lakers up?? really ??? last i checked derron williams and steve nash were pretty good and they are basically obsolete against the lakers defense, actually williams played decently but utah got swept!!!

  • T-Money

    amar’e let pau do everything to him. everything. / topo: rondo is like russell westbrook but 10 times better. he’ll destroy fisher. doesn’t mean boston will win though.

  • B_Easy24

    @Topo: that’s true gaurd are real good may I say even better than Rondo and they were pretty much useless against the Lakes D. The Celtices are good they match up against the lakers on paper but there’s no way the Celts are winning against the champs 1) pau has like every post move in the book 2) The lakers have the 2 best players in the league at their respective postions; kobe as the best shooting gaurd in the league and Pau as the best big man in the game and last but not least the zen master and a great bench, let me know what ya’ll think about this

  • B_Easy24

    @Topo: I meant both gaurds are good that was just a typo.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    You know what’s strange? Amare and Nash are equally bad on defense. The Suns define defense to protect Nash, they tell Amare to go out and stop Pau Gasol by himself.
    Strange, right?

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Amare is not the “leader” of the Suns. That’s Nash’s designation.
    And Nash, contrary to public opinion, is not playing “so-so.” He’s playing poorly. Dwight Howard played at roughly the same level as Nash in game one of his series against Boston and got ROASTED by the media.
    Amare has NEVER been a good rebounder. He’s never averaged ten for a season. So, expecting him to suddenly morph into a great rebounder is asinine, and I don’t see folks expecting Nash to turn into a lockdown defender, or learn how to affect the game without overdribbling just because that would suddenly benefit his team. Besides, Amare only averaged 5 board per game against the Trailblazers.
    The fact is, all of the blame has been directed at Amare, while Nash has skated. But, when you look at the matchups, Amare is being asked to handle two talented 7-footers, plus contend with Odom, and still be dominant on defense.
    Nash is guarding Derek Fisher. (And Fisher is going at his neck.)
    Bottom line, if you’re hte two-time MVP, you can’t take fewer than 10 shots a game when it’s imperative that you DOMINATE your matchup in order for your team to win. You cannot let Derek Fisher be an offensive factor. You cannot be averaging more than 4 turnovers per game.
    Nash is doing all of that, and nobody is saying a mumbling word.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    @Allenp: Ah, good point. The Suns’ supposed only positions where “conventional wisdom” would give them an advantage are at PF and PG. But the irony is that both Nash and Amare are really letting them down, while their wings like Hill and Dudley who on paper are much worse than the Lakers swingmen are the ones playing all right.

  • http://www.nba.com/suns Dacre

    Steve Nash is my all time favourite player….maybe that qualifies me to say this….? He hasn’t come to play this series. Fullstop. It’s been all ‘passive-aggressive’, ‘take what the defense gives me’ slop…. NASH! Where is the will?! The desire to go out and DETONATE on this team…? Why are you strolling off the pick and roll like it’s your turn at the bank teller and not like your driving the gap to the basket?? Why are you letting a 2nd year pg come in and play with the energy and the urgency that your mvping leadership should be exhausting. THIS IS IT. It’s the time NOW to be playing with abandon. The Suns developed a defensive system for you to be here NOW. A deep Suns bench, with it’s effectiveness is only going to get you so far…guess how far…the WCF. THATS NOW… Now you take the reigns. KObe isn’t beating you, neither is Pau (and as awesome as Odom was in game 1 he isn’t either…). You are letting the only opportunity you have RIGHT now just evaporate. TAKE SHOTS. BECOME A FACTOR…MAKE THE DEFENSE ADJUST. It’s the ONLY OTHER WESTERN CONFERENCE TEAM LEFT… They don’t hand you the key into the finals. You crash the door down yourself!!!! GET IN THERE!

  • http://www.motherjones.com AndTheJellosJigglin