Live by the three, die by the three.
Tonight, the Phoenix Suns lived behind the arc and the defending champs’ chances of avoiding a two-game losing streak died because of it.
The Lakers shot a satisfactory 49% from the field, assisted on 30 of their 47 makes, outscored Phoenix in the paint 68-28 and outrebounded the visitors 49-32. But the good comes with the bad and the Lakers had plenty in the form of 18 turnovers (12 by halftime) and 14 misses of 23 attempts from three.
Their defense also appears to be in its development stages…still. Defensive rotations were slow to react, resulting in wide open looks for the Suns who converted on 22 of 40 attempts from behind the arc and won 121-116 by playing at their pace, their game. Phoenix began the shooting just 38% to the Lakers’ 62% after the first quarter, but ended with 51% for the game. With this, the Lakers have now given up 100+ points in seven of their first 10 games of the season.
To say that their defense needs some work would be a mis-statement, because it doesn’t so much need work as much as it needs proper execution. The Lakers led the league last season in defending the three and being that little has changed in terms of their coaching system, it’s safe to say that defensive schemes are probably no different this season. Tonight, however, the Lakers looked frazzled without the ball in their possession, unable to contain the hot-shooting Suns when they’d been so successful in the past at coming in after halftime and cooling down the opposing shooters; shooters, like Jason Richardson, who finished with 35 points on 13-20 (7-10 from three!), who was too much even for defensive specialist, Ron Artest.
It was a waste of a good game from the Lakers’ front line, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. Odom finished with 22 points on 10-18, 11 rebounds and four assists. He lived in the paint all evening, receiving pass after pass, often from Kobe Bryant, and punishing Suns, Channing Frye and Hedo Turkgolu, who were no match for his ability to score around the rim. Gasol had another efficient night with 28 points on 12-17, 17 rebounds and two assists. Continuing to fill in heavy minutes for the still-recovering Andrew Bynum, both Gasol and Odom played over 40 minutes tonight and the Lakers needed every bit just to stay in the game.
Kobe Bryant neared a triple-double with his 25 points on 11-20, 14 assists and nine rebounds. He was a true facilitator tonight, finding every teammate in his peripheral and throwing passes for easy buckets. Unfortunately, he contributed to eight of the Lakers’ 18 turnovers.
This isn’t exactly the new streak the Lakers wanted to start, especially as they begin their 3-game road trip against the likes of Milwaukee, Detroit and Minnesota, but better to identify and then fix all their kinks now than in March or April. It’s an exhausted saying, especially after a loss, but it is still a very long season and if the Lakers have one thing on their side at this point, it’s time.
Pre-game Thoughts: Game after the first loss of the season. Time to start a new winning streak. Steve Blake out tonight with the flu.
Half-time Thoughts:56-53 – Phoenix leading because of 12-20 from the downtown. Lamar Odom leading the Lakers with 15 points on 7-11. L.A. would be wise to tighten up their perimeter defense.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: For the second game in a row, the Lakers’ defense has yet to show up. Yes, Phoenix shot the living daylights from behind the arc, but the home team was guilty of helping them out. The majority of those threes from unguarded.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: The Phoenix Suns for turning their backs on their disadvantage (size) and capitalizing on their strength – outside shooting. 22-40 from three – amazing!