Well, the Suns fought… and then they went down, right into a 0-2 hole, courtesy of some of the best basketball these Lakers have played all season long.
Was it because of their much-heralded length?
“We have size and we know how to use it,” Kobe Bryant claimed.
Was it because of their stifling defense on the Suns floor general?
“He is a pitbull when he’s guarding Steve Nash,” Reggie Miller said about Derek Fisher.
Was it because of their rejuvenated bench?
“When we get an opportunity to play, we just play free and we’re very tough to beat,” Jordan Farmar said.
Was it the efficiency and aggressiveness of Pau Gasol?
”We’re making sure that we’re not playing it soft,” the talented Spaniard said.
The answers are an emphatic, “Yes, yes, yes and you better believe it!”
For all the talk that Amar’e Stoudemire did after the Suns were reduced to but a glimmer of hopelessness in Game 1, he was the guilty party lollygagging around the court, hoping that serendipity would cover all of his defensive assignments. He wished for luck in this game and he got it. Luck was a lay-up tonight for every Laker assigned to his watch.
Lamar Odom, coming off a 19 point, 19 rebound Game 1, was in every perfect spot for every perfect moment. He received lightning quick passes from Kobe Bryant and bounce passes from Pau Gasol to earn his 17 points. He was alert on defense, extending his long arms in passing lanes to collect three steals, attentive to the flight of the ball and then responsive for 11 rebounds ( 9 defensive), not to mention bothering Channing Frye into 0-5 from the field. And just for old times’ sake, being the gifted passer that he is, handed out four assists. Lucky THIS, Amar’e!
With BenchMob running mates Jordan Farmar (11 points, 3-3 from downtown, 2 steals) and Shannon Brown (8 points, 2 assists) contributing in all facets, the Laker reserves out-scored their Suns counterparts 36-26. So much for the Suns’ only advantage.
Ron Artest, constantly left open, was dared into perimeter shot after perimeter shot. Challenge accepted, to the tune of 18 points on 6-9 shooting (3-6 from downtown); one last second pass for a memorable buzzer beating three to end the 1st quarter.
Andrew Bynum, due for a relatively productive game since his Game 2 performance against the Utah Jazz in the last round, played an active 18 minutes. He was there to jump the ball to start the game, he wasn’t hesitant in his shots (he was 5-5 for 13 points), and he fought for rebounds whether the ball was on the floor or in mid-air. If he was in pain tonight, he surely didn’t show it.
Kobe Bryant had a quiet 21 points, but his impact was obvious in the almost melodic orchestration of the Laker offense. Maestro collected a new play-off career high 13 assists, handing out passes for open threes, lay-ups, dunks and jumpers. His awareness of every player on the floor, on both teams, is absolutely seamless.
The man who often benefited from those passes was Pau Gasol, who scored a game high 29 points, not to mention had 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks. The word “efficient” is the most frequently used to describe Gasol’s game, but even that doesn’t seem a significant enough term for what he is able to do on the floor. It is no wonder he and Bryant developed such an instantaneous connection on the court. They are constantly thinking and planning ahead, and then executing to perfection.
Despite the Suns pouring in 35 points in the third quarter to tie the game, with Grant Hill, Jared Dudley and Jason Richardson doing the heavy lifting for the Suns’ offense, the Lakers did what good teams do — they move on. They forced the Suns into three straight turnovers to begin the final quarter and from there, they never looked back.
Just when the Suns thought they had gained some ground, the Lakers continued to rise, higher and higher.
“Every time we tried to make an adjustment to slow them down,” Alvin Gentry said, “they go somewhere else. You do a great job on Kobe, which I thought we did, then they go to Pau; and then we double-team Pau, and there’s Lamar; we get it out of Lamar’s hand then Jordan Farmar makes a shot. There’s a reason they’re the world champs. We’ll keep trying and see what happens.”
Good luck with that, Suns.
Pre-Game Thoughts: Hopefully, Andrew Bynum can get his game going tonight. He’s due.
Half-Time Thoughts: Lakers lead 65-56 and shot 57% from the field. 64% from 3-point land! So far, they’ve answered every Suns run with runs of their own.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Amar’e Stoudemire — Don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk. Thanks for not playing any defense tonight. Lamar and Pau like the casual stroll to the hoop when no one’s there to bother them.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Kobe and Pau, for seemingly sharing the same, brilliant basketball brain.