Lakers/Suns Game 3 Recap
The zone made them do it.
by Dennis Tarwood / @tuffyr
“You unlock this door to a competitive Western Conference Finals with a key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of Amar’e. A dimension of Robin. A dimension of the Lakers losing their ever-lovin’ minds. You are moving into a land of both shadow and substance: of ridiculous fouls and turnovers. You’ve just crossed over into the Phoenix Suns’ zone.”—With apologies to Rod Serling
Stranger than a man on the wing of the plane. Harder to see than all the world’s books with shattered glasses. More difficult to revive than the “Twilight Zone” series itself. It could only be the Phoenix Suns’ playoff chances, which reappeared in a sudden twist to the series with a 118-109 win and 2-1 Lakers series advantage Sunday night achieved not through offensive prowess but through the Phoenix Suns’ zone.
After spending two games lobbying the league to wear their alternate jerseys with the team name “Phoenix Down Tens”, the Suns returned home for Game 3 both written off and written out of the playoffs. Why, the Suns would have to live in a land where the ugly were beautiful and the gorgeous shunned for the series to make sense again.
Enter the Phoenix Suns’ zone. This mystical creature, rarely seen in the Western Conference Finals to this point and difficult to observe thriving in the wild due to its apparent ability to be sliced to ribbons by predators, had been rumored to be hiding on the Suns’ home court during their time in Los Angeles and biding its time.
Picture a man: Suns coach and Phoenix Suns’ zone curator Alvin Gentry was quizzed before the game about its possible appearance and received only coy responses: “Maybe. Maybe. We’ll see. I’m sure we’ll use it some; it won’t be a mystery to anyone if we do. We probably will use it some.”
“Lost”‘s smoke monster got a stronger tease Sunday night.
And yet that zone took the Lakers out of four quarters of offensive domination into merely two, leaving them floundering in the second and fourth frames and adding up to a merely average scoring night, enough for the Suns to pull out the needed win at home.
Of course, one might point out the liberal doses of the zany version of Lamar Odom in those quarters contributing heavily to the downfall with three turnovers and deeply questionable decisions on both ends of the court, like Phil Jackson did after the game: “He had really a game he doesn’t want to remember about. He wants to go home and forget about this one.” But those people aren’t hewing to the narrative. Hew! Hew to the narrative!
One might also note the lack of a second large fellow in the lane for the Lakers as Andrew Bynum fought pace (193 combined possessions), bad wheels, and his own meager speed limit to foul six times in 7:31 of inaction. Still: zone! Magic!
Bynum insisted often after the game that his problems stemmed from poor play and not pain: “I’ve been able to play well with the same level of pain; it’s not getting worse. So that’s why I feel it’s not that… you don’t know how long it’ll take to come back from it, so I’d rather play than miss the whole thing.”
And Phil Jackson did admit he is considering sitting Bynum for a spell after his “ineffective” night, but that’s probably because the Phoenix Suns’ zone causes swelling.
Certainly, Amar’e's aggressiveness in the lane (a redonkulous 42 points on 22 shots, aided by 18 free-throw attempts, and 11 boards) could only be explained by the Phoenix Suns’ zone, even if Amar’e stared blankly at the reporter who attempted to connect the dots on this one after the game.
And don’t you listen to Kobe Bryant (36/9/11 on 24 shots): “Offensively, we adjusted okay. Defense, we couldn’t get the stops when we needed to… (Robin) Lopez made big, big plays.”
Speaking of dangerous zones, Robin Lopez proved he was a Phantom Zone villain to Angelenos worse than General Zod ever treated Metropolis. He showed his stamina and his skill returned under a yellow Phoenix sky, turning in his best professional performance (20 points on 10 shots) in 30 minutes.
He also showed the heel in him to be in the best shape of his career, dropping Derek Fisher on screens on multiple occasions and then brushing past Fisher while running back down court like a moving telephone pole with a bird’s nest on top, his arms akimbo (all the better to nudge you with!).
Both gentlemen earned third-quarter technicals for the ensuing tête-à-tête, though Fisher probably lost his focus because he couldn’t stop thinking about the Phoenix Suns’ zone. Yes. Kneel before Zone.
(Asked after the game if there would be work in practice Monday to run down court without bumping into objects, Steve Nash (17 pts, 15 asts) deadpanned, “You know what? We leave Robin alone. We leave him alone.”
The Phoenix Suns’ zone removes the need for Channing Frye to attend any further games though you’d be hard-pressed to prove he was in the building for previous games. The Phoenix Suns’ zone means 42-20 FTA disparities in your favor in every game. Seventeen Lakers’ turnovers, mostly “unforced” (Phil) and “silly stuff (Kobe)? Zonegasm!
Despite the fact that it is entirely possible the last made layup by the Suns was completed by Kevin Johnson and the vaunted bench was last spotted at J.D. Salinger’s final birthday party, the Suns’ playoff run has been set to full sprint, thanks to the Phoenix Suns’ zone. Feel free to zone out on the series.
If you don’t believe us, listen to noted NBA expert Justin Bieber: “lakers vs suns…this is a good game. about to just chill out for the rest of the night and watch the rest of this game. kobe is a beast”
Shoot. Man-to-man, fronted by Bieber. That’s an unexpected turn of events.
- Steve Nash “bent” his nose, in his own words, on Shannon Brown’s head which left a gruesome curve. He claims it’s not broken, which seems like semantics.
- Also, Amar’e Stoudemire sliced open his face above his eyes when his goggles were pushed up into his forehead. Dwyane Wade has not yet filed a lawsuit for stealing his bandage-over-his-eye fashion.
- One couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting simmering tensions between Lakers and Suns fans, with security apparently increased to keep the peace. Chants of “Beat L.A.” turned from vociferous to violent-sounding in the fourth quarter.
- If you weren’t already surprised by Phil Jackson’s response to the AZ immigration law, he claims Sam Zell as a close friend. This is the same Sam Zell that has run the Tribune Company into the ground and tried to turn the Chicago Cubs into a tax dodge.