The Lakers shot 48% from the field. The Suns shot 47%.
The Lakers collected 46 rebounds. The Suns grabbed 43
The Lakers handed out 21 assists and the Suns did the same.
They even have the same number of turnovers with 10.
In tonight’s box score, the Lakers and the Suns appear evenly matched, from shooting percentage to assists, etc. That, however, is where the similarities end. Where Phoenix’s offense is heavily reliant on point guard, Steve Nash, the Lakers offense is dependent on ball movement, which is not specific to one player or position. In a point-guard driven league, the Lakers showed again tonight why they are the defending champions.
The last time the Suns and Lakers met was in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. Back then, Phoenix had a second All-Star caliber player in Amar’e Stoudemire and an up and coming center in Robin Lopez. This season, Stoudemire has been replaced by Hedo Turkoglu and despite new additions to fill in the roster, the Phoenix is still no match for what the Lakers have – size. And not just brute size, but skillful, crafty size.
Gasol, seven feet of midrange jumpers, left-handed baby hooks and point guard abilities, with his back to the basket, spotted Kobe Bryant cutting in from the right wing and sent a timely pass that resulted in a quick layup. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Derek Fisher running a baseline cut and tossed the rock over his head just in time for Fisher to catch and flip it into the hoop. Gasol finished with 21 points on 10-17, 8 rebounds and nine assists.
Lamar Odom, six feet and ten inches of rebounding instincts and point guard tendencies, had 18 points on 8-12, 17 rebounds and five assists. With Odom, it’s all about effort, and his numerous putbacks off missed shots were a product of just that.
Kobe Bryant, playing with more bounce in his step and more lift in his legs, played almost 35 minutes and managed 25 points on 9-19, seven rebounds and three assists.
All the starters scored in double digits and the star of the Lakers bench this evening was Matt Barnes, 11 points on 4-5 (including 3-4 from downtown), five rebounds and a steal.
The game started with countless lead changes, but in the end, just like the last time they met, the Lakers were no match for the undersized Phoenix Suns.
Pre-game Thoughts: It’s a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals. The Suns are minus Amar’e Stoudemire, but plus Hedo Turkgolu – an inside presence replaced by another outside scorer. We’ll see how that goes.
Half-time Thoughts: 57-50 – Both teams are scoring relatively easily, but maybe it’s because neither is defending the other.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: The Lakers when they have a lead. What is it about a lead that makes players lazy?
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Lamar Odom – who led the game in rebounding with 17, and added 18 points and five assists.