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NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns Game 1: In LA, Suns burned by their own defense

May 18, 2010, 1:13 AM EDT

SBrown_acrobat.jpgGregg Popovich touted the Suns improved defense. Everyone was talking about it. That’s how they were finally going to get over the hump — be just good enough on defense to go with an amazing offense.

The Lakers blew that defense up.

They blew right by it from the perimeter and right into the heart of the Suns defense. The Lakers drove the ball right down the middle — literally, slashing down the center and into the paint all night long. It was the heart of their surprisingly easy 128-107 win.

“To be honest with you guys, it wasn’t exactly the post up plays and big guys,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said of the 56 points in the paint the Suns surrendered. “It was the middle drives and perimeter players driving in the paint.”

Everyone expected the Lakers to pound the Suns inside but it was how they did it that was the surprise.

“They were denying, they were denying everywhere,” Shannon Brown said of how the Suns tried to cut off post entry passes from the Lakers. “(Middle drives) is what they were giving us, so we had to take advantage of what they was giving us. There were denying a lot of our entry passes which left the middle wide open for us.”

Gentry went so far as to say the Suns could have lived with what Gasol did. They could have even lived with most of Kobe’s 40 — when his jumper is falling like that there’s nothing you can do. But when Kobe and Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown and even Odom are driving middle right into the heart of the Suns defense, everything breaks down.

“Our strategy is no middle drives,” Amare Stoudemire said. “That’s our strategy, we’ve got to do a better job.”

The Suns to a man talked about stopping those drives. That may be easier said than done — Grant Hill had trouble staying in front of Kobe, and Steve Nash is not exactly a defensive force.

But they can guide players to help. Gentry talked about pushing the Lakers more baseline, taking away the easy shots in the middle. Jared Dudley also said it was simply a matter of Suns players taking responsibility.

“It’s an adjustment (you make) watching film,” Dudley said. “You watch film and you say ‘you can’t have that.’ In the triangle they have to (be forced to) drive baseline. That’s not something that coach can tell you, just as a player you have to take that on yourself.”

For the Lakers, that means making the counter adjustment.

“If they adjust then we just hit our other options,” Brown said. “I’m sure they want to adjust but I know they still want to be aggressive on us. They’re going to take away the first pass, I don’t know about the second and third passes, but they’re gonna still be up, we just got to read the defense.”

The chess match has begun, but we don’t get to see the next moves until Wednesday.

  1. Larry - May 18, 2010 at 1:56 AM

    Since the loss of Raja Bell and Shawn Marion, the Suns have no one to even slow Kobe a bit. They tried to use 37 year old Grant Hill and Role player Jared Dudley to defend the cream of the cream. How could that be effective?
    Kobe penetrated against the aging Hill and the sub Dudley to do as he pleased breaking down the Suns defense at will. When help came he got it to one of the Laker interior bigs for easy hoops. Those two players were the blood an guts of the PHX defense both making some kind of all league defensive honors during their career. The Suns got away with Hill guarding lesser players, but won’t when they are playing the best player in the league.
    The Suns would be wise to try and nab Bell back as a free agent before wiley GM Pat Riley snares him for the Miami Heat.

  2. luffy - May 18, 2010 at 2:28 AM

    It’s simple, they can’t do anything about it, period. No matter what defense they put up, The Lakers are just too strong. What they could do however is to pray that Kobe misses all of his shots… and Odom and Gasol and Brown and Farmar and Fisher too, too many weapons, in short all they could do is pray…
    Lakers in 5…

  3. Ron - May 18, 2010 at 2:44 AM

    Lakers are simply on a roll. That’s all there is to it. I guess they can throw the switch after all.
    Phoenix just can’t compete. They make take a game here or there, but this series is over even before it started.

  4. Lakers4Lyfe - May 18, 2010 at 2:47 AM

    @ Subs fans, it’s over. This was a message. The Lakers were in perfect rotation on the offense, and Kobe buried you. If Kobe has a bad game, he just assists for 19 APG. You have no shot in hell of beating the Lakers in a 7 game series. Nash was inefective, Stodimier was you highest scorer, despite the pick and roll being shut down. The Lakers have 4 gears, you saw two of them. Imagine what the other two are like? Your done. Good season, but meet the pros. Odom is a forward you can’t stop. There are a number of offensive matchups you have no answer for .. your done in 5 maybe 6 games, but your done. Kobe for 40? Get ready for Gasol and 30. You don’t have enough fingers for the dike.

  5. Lakers4Lyfe - May 18, 2010 at 3:25 AM

    …. Oh, and how about those sore and injured knees? lmao

  6. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 18, 2010 at 3:49 AM

    Yes, the absence of Raja Bell and The Matrix could be one of the factors. But then again, this is a different Laker team with Gasol there, Artest, and an improved Bynum and a focused Odom. I would want to go for a sweep but then again, the Lakers greatest weakness is its consistency. Which team will show up? The future looks good for our boys… and I hope it remains that way when the future arrives. LA in 5!

  7. DJ Nobee - May 18, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    Raja Bell and Marion? come on now, Kobe still scored like crazy back then, he just didn’t have a good supporting cast. The only thing Raja could do was to play dirty and clothesline Kobe. And what team is he in now?
    The only person that could slow Kobe down is himself…

  8. Omnius - May 18, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    The biusggest joke of all time is that the Lost Suns play defense. Much was ballyhooed by the clueless pundits about how good the Suns’s defense was, yeah it might look good against a shorthanded Portland or a banged up San Antonio but against the Lakers their defense was more like silly putty and Kobe molded it every way he wanted to. The Lakers play defense, they can shut teams down on offense like no other team.

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