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NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns Game 3: The Suns get in the zone and suddenly it looks like a series

May 24, 2010, 12:18 AM EDT

stoudemire_Odom.jpgSaturday in practice, Suns coach Alvin Gentry was not happy. He wanted to run some more zone but the Suns were playing it worse than they had in the first two games. Which was hard to do because they had been terrible at it in those games and the Lakers had carved it up.

“To be honest with you guys, in practice yesterday it was the worst it has ever been,” Gentry said in a post-game interview shown on NBATV. “I got really upset because I didn’t think it was very good at all. When (the Lakers) started the game making a ton of shots we said, ‘well, we’ve got to give it a try’ and we got some stops.”

The Lakers shot just 4 of 21 against the zone in the second quarter. The Lakers who had shot 58 percent in the first two games shot 48 percent in this game, largely because of the zone. Combine that with an aggressive and attacking Amare Stoudemire and the Suns won Game 3 118-109.

If the zone works again in Game 4 on Tuesday, the series will head back to Los Angeles tied (Lakers lead 2-1 now).

The Lakers came out settling more for their jump shots even before the zone came in, but they hit them. That is why they led after one quarter 32-29. Then Phoenix went to the zone and the Lakers put up just 15 points in the second quarter as their outside shots stopped falling. That should be expected — the Lakers are not a great outside or three point shooting team, just 34.1 percent from beyond the arc on the season (23rd in the league). The only guy hitting shots was Kobe Bryant, who had 36 points on 13 of 24 shooting.

Usually against the zone the Lakers still try to go inside, with bigs flashing into the high post, they did a little of that in the second half, but they still settled enough to take 32 threes, making just nine. In two of the three Lakers losses this postseason, they have taken more than 30 threes.

“I think we figured (the zone) out in the third quarter, but we didn’t figure out defensively what we had to do,” Jackson said in his televised interview.

While the Lakers settled, the Suns attacked. Phoenix had 42 free throw attempts — sorry Lakers fans, that had nothing to do with the officiating and everything to do with the Suns taking the ball the rim. Stoudemire had Andrew Bynum — a clearly slowed and hurting Bynum — in quick foul trouble. His replacement, Lamar Odom, ended up fouling out.

For the first time in this series, the pressure shifts to the Lakers to adjust — to use actions in the triangle offense to better exploit the zone they will certainly see next game. Jackson has two handfuls of rings because he knows how to make playoff adjustments. But if the Suns zone can force the Lakers into jumpshooters again, this series could end up tied.

  1. Lakers4Lyfe - May 24, 2010 at 3:01 AM

    That was a ‘lucky game’ by Amare :)

  2. 2008 - May 24, 2010 at 3:20 AM

    haha i see what you did there

  3. SunsFan - May 24, 2010 at 9:00 AM

    Finally! Amar’e stepping up to the plate!! He is the one player that can demolish the Laker’s inside game but he is too soft sometime.

  4. ben - May 24, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    the lakers need to continue to go inside to Gasol. Bynum needs to step up and play some basketball, this is the playoffs. Odum needs to be more assertive and move his feet on defense.

  5. Omnius - May 24, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    Don’t get all excited about arizona using the zone defense gimmick, Phil Jackson will make adjustments and the Lakers will win games 4 and 5 to win the series. The Lakers won 8 playoff games in a row, not losing for almost a month, so they were destined to have a bad game sooner or later. Actually the loss will be a blessing in disguise for the Lakers as now they’ve had a little wake up call that they can’t cruise into the NBA Finals against a more aggressive Suns team the way the Celtics are cruising in the Eastern CreamPuff Conference against the Orlando Mundane.

  6. G-man - May 24, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    If you need a wake call in the conference finals then something is wrong. We will not know if this was just a bad game or the Suns turning it around until game four. I actually have more of an issue with the Lakers defense (which no one is talking about). They have given over 100 points in all three games. If and when they make it to the Finals, the Celtics D is the best and if they can’t stop the Celtics from scoring it will be interesting.

  7. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 24, 2010 at 7:17 PM

    It would never be a walk in the park in any conference finals even if the series went 4-0. You have to work hard for it. Surely the Celtics had to dedicate and work big time to demolish the Magic. Lakers will still take this series. Suns took care of business in Game 3. Phil will make his adjustments and voila, another counter punch from the Zen Master. Personally, I don’t think Odom and Bynum have to score. The just need to capitalize on making good D, get those rebounds from both ends and block shots (or at least disrupting and making the Suns alter their shots in mid-play). And yeah, Stoudemire got lucky too.

  8. Anonymous - May 26, 2010 at 12:05 AM

    Yep, the Phoenix Suns win game 4. Let’s go SUNS!!!

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