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NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns Game 4: Phoenix will need more than a zone to win this one

May 25, 2010, 2:33 PM EDT

Nash_high5.jpgLet’s just be up front — Phoenix is not going to zone their way to a win tonight.

Oh, they can still win, but they will have to do it another way. They will have to maintain that aggression and quick decision making on offense. They will have to crash the boards hard again. They will need to slow the Lakers big men again, somehow.

But the zone, that isn’t going to work twice. There is a reason NBA teams don’t run a zone as their base defense — at this level teams have too many good a shooters from the outside for a zone to work long term, and they are often too big and strong inside for it to work.

But it did work against the Lakers when the Suns went to it in Game 3. It worked great for one quarter — the second, when the Lakers scored just 15 points and shot 35 percent overall and 17 percent from three. In the fourth quarter the Lakers kept going bombs away on the zone — Pau Gasol had one fourth-quarter shot while the Lakers took 11 threes.

But the Lakers know how to attack a zone, remember that in the first two games of this series the Lakers chewed up the Suns zone and spit it out quickly. Lakers bigs will flash to the free throw line get the ball while wing players will cut down the baseline, and the Suns defenders will have to pick their poison. The Lakers will also attack the zone with dribble penetration. Ron Artest will not be bombing threes like that again. Well, Phil Jackson hopes not.

For the Suns, they have to keep attacking like they did in Game 3. Steve Nash’s preferred mode is to come off the pick and then probe your defense until he finds a space he likes. The Lakers long arms took those spaces away for two games. In Game 3 it wasn’t just Amare Stoudemire who was more aggressive, it was Nash. He made quick decisions, often hitting Stoudemire rolling to the basket.

Amare went hard to the basket. The Suns also used Stoudemire — and a shockingly effective version of Robin Lopez — to isolate on Lakers big men and use their quickness. Both Suns bigs were very aggressive and effective, and they will need to be again. If the Lakers control the paint, they will control the game.

The Suns problems this series have not been scoring, it has been on the defensive end. They solved that problem for one game, but they are going to need to find a new way to solve it in Game 4, because the old zone gimmick is not going to work. If the Suns can’t figure it out, well, bet the over because this one will be fun to watch. But it also will be coming back to Los Angeles with a chance for the Lakers to close it out.

  1. jeff - May 25, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    Gotta love the NBA!
    For a good laugh, please check porchopfactory. com

  2. JD - May 25, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    I expect the Suns to come out with the same level of agressiveness that they came out with in Game 3. Nash and Stoudamire are the primary catalysts of the offense. They will produce again tonight and this should be going back to LA tied at 2 wins a piece.
    I am looking forward to the strategy that Gentry will concoct in Game 5 to surprise the Lakers and steal a victory. Suns in 6!

  3. kj - May 25, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    all i can say is you are dreaming buddy

  4. chucky - May 25, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    Your sayin the suns will reel 4 straight against LA dream on the JD must stand for way to much Jack Daniels!

  5. DK Anderson - May 25, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    The Lakers will almost certainly have far better answers for the Suns zone…but at the same time, the Suns long range shooters are unlikely to have such a dreadful night as they did in Game 3. There is a very good chance this is going to become a three game series. That’s still advantage: Lakers (you don’t bust your butt for home court advantage for nothing), but by no means a certainty. But if the Suns don’t pull it off tonight, it’s over.

  6. Linda - May 25, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    I’m thinkin the Suns can pull off at least one more win at home, and THEN, even though ALL odds are against them, it would be fun to watch back in LA!

  7. Lakers steal - May 25, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Gasol, say no more. My heart is always anti-lakers, never liked rooting for dynasties, but i wouldn’t bet against them unless I had lots of money to spare :)
    Suns in 5! (oops)

  8. Omnius - May 25, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    Lost Suns might have won with the girlie zone defense in game 3, but it was most likely that the Lakers were just bound to lose a playoff game after 8 straight wins lasting almost a month. Watch the Lakers break open a big can of whupass in game 4 and crush the Setting Suns. The Lakers will end this farce in game 5 as they close out impressively at home.

  9. girlielakers - May 25, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    burn the lakers, can you say dynasty over

  10. shawn - May 25, 2010 at 6:10 PM

    suns and steve nash baby! you cant stop him hes a jugernaut. busted up eye, busted nose now 2x, that wont stop him, hell someone could break his leg and i would bet you anything the entire bench would have to hold him back when the tip happened. he is one of the best but sadly ignored players in the game I love ya, I bleed orange!!! go suns take it to the lakers.

  11. mick the ripper - May 25, 2010 at 6:14 PM

    Why wont it work again?? They are referring to the Lakers bigs… who the injured Bynum who seems to have lost all mobility. Make LA a shooting team and put Lopez on Gasol to make him shoot over the top of him. Kobe will get his pts either way but Suns are in the drivers seat now. Suns will dominate the rest of this series.

  12. Big Tnez - May 25, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    How do people like you get jobs where you are allowed to comment on basketball. The whole premise of your article is wrong. NBA teams can’t handle zones at all…. That is why the Spurs have been so successful. Few players in the NBA, other than 2 guards can hit an open jumper consistently. Don’t even try to mention a single Laker other than Kobe. They are all inconsistent and streaky. It is not just the Lakers but all teams and it is the result of players not spending time in college developing the fundamentals. They are awesome athletes but terrible basketball players. They are great in isolation sets but can’t deal with collective team defense.
    Once again not sure why you or any of the other people offering opinions about basketball have jobs. If you could tell me the difference between a Jab Step and a Rocker Step. Or if you even knew what a 2 footed jumpstop was you might establish some credibility.
    Sorry for the criticism but in the real world people with jobs where they espouse opinions have to vigorously defend them.

  13. Jwes - May 25, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    Phoenix in the drivers seat? you must be high

  14. brette - May 26, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    Clearly, Btnez correctly called you out, kurt. Think twice before stating emphatically that the Suns cannot sucessfully run zones in back to back games. BTW, tell the lakers they know how to attack the zone. Apparently, you are the only one who knows that.LOL

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