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NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns Game 5: Forget the bright shiny offenses, this one is all about the defense

May 27, 2010, 2:50 PM EDT

Kobe_suns.jpgIt’s not about Kobe Bryant seemingly scoring at will this series. Or Pau Gasol in the post. It’s not about Amare Stoudemire or the awakening of the Suns bench.

It’s about defense — that is what has decided every game in this series up to now, it is what will decide Game 5 tonight at Staples Center. The winner Thursday probably wins the whole shootin’ match in the West. This is huge.

In the first two games, the Lakers defense took away the Suns easy baskets on the pick-and-roll. Lakers guards fought over the top of the pick, the big men showed out and other Lakers stayed at home on the three-point shooters. The Lakers took away the dribble penetration that the Suns thrive on and forced them to be jump shooters, and while the Suns are a good jump shooting team they hit less of those than dunks. Or open threes.

But that changed in Games 3 and 4, as did the Suns defense.

The Suns zone defense has gotten a lot of publicity, but it really hasn’t stopped the Lakers from scoring — particularly in Game 4, when the Lakers were putting up points at a high level.

But the zone has dictated how those points have come, and with that the flow of the games. The Lakers launched 60 three pointers in the last two games, and they are not a good outside shooting team. This led to a lot of long rebounds and the chance for the Suns to get easy baskets in transition. The Lakers scored, but the Suns defense helped them score much more.

If the Suns can again keep the Lakers from getting their points at the rim — turning the Lakers into jump shooters like LA is trying to do to them — they will get those same break chances, those same easy points and maybe the same wins.

Kobe is going to get his, but will he get any help from teammates this time around who stop shooting outside and start driving inside? Can Nash and Stoudemire keep getting their shots at the rim, keep exposing the slow rotations of an injured Andrew Bynum?

The answer to one of those questions will be yes, because they will have figured out the other team’s defense. Whichever team’s defense hold firm will win Game 5. And maybe have earned a trip to the Finals.

  1. Jeff - May 27, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Great Series! For another great series, go to porkchopfactory. Com.
    West Conference is the TOUGHEST there is!

  2. Kevin McKeever - May 27, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    Defense will not decide this game or this series. It will be decided by the refs, just like the last 5 games across both conference finals.
    The NBA is a joke. Players, coaches, plays and adjustments don’t decide games in the playoffs, only advertising dollars and market share do.

  3. Moosa Haimof - May 27, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    The series, specially in the division title and finals, only depends to the NBA’s decision that who are the winners.
    Tickets’ sales, advertising by the networks’ TV, these are the deciding factors, nothing else. I agree and understand that the strongest teams, only upto before division titles, will advance based on their strength, not after that.

  4. Ryan - May 27, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    Get a life.
    Enjoy the game for what it is–entertainment–
    If you think for a second that the NCAA is not devoted to ‘advertising dollars and market share’–you’re a naive fool
    GO SUNS!

  5. The 602 - May 27, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    I agree with Moosa, I have seen my Suns miss call after call and there is even a former ref. who confessed to making bad calls against them back in 2005-2006 when they took on San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals. Give us a break and lets just go to a video review format because the refs are a joke.

  6. [a] proxy - May 27, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    DEFENSE! DEFENSE! DEFENSE! That’s all I want to see coming from the Lakers tonight. The offense is there, but their defense has to step up BIG tonight!

  7. Omnius - May 27, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    Defense is much tougher in the Wild Wild West because there are so many great offensive teams. The Lakers will bounce back as they flip the switch yet again and take their game to a new higher level. Watch the Kobe and Pau show come to life in the 4th quarter tonight! Can’t wait to watch Showtime in LA tonight and then Showtime in Phoenix as the Lakers seal the deal in 6 games like they did against the Thunder.

  8. chief - May 27, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    Suns will win cause STONE COLD said SO!

  9. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 27, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    Duh. Last I heard the Spurs are hardly high on “Tickets’ sales, advertising by the networks’ TV” as you would have put it, and yet in the recent decade, aside from the Lakers, San Antonio has gotten multiple titles as well. So what are you guys talking about? Sounds like sour-graping to me.

  10. rufe - May 27, 2010 at 6:22 PM

    No its not. Its about the referees. They will decide the game just as they did in games 3 and 4.

  11. BB - May 27, 2010 at 7:12 PM

    What a bunch of morons. The NBA is deciding who wins the championship? Get a life!! Conspiracy Theorists abound!! You people are totally whacked. I agree with the post, btw, defense has been the key to all 4 games. The Suns couldn’t defend against the Lakers in the first 2 games, changed their game plan and walaah, they didn’t shut the Lakers down – who’s going to do that? – but the adjustment was enough to win 2 games on home court.
    Home court is also a huge advantage – and tonight that goes to the Lakers. It is not a foregone conclusion as to which team will win this series and CERTAINLY, it is NOT going to be decided by the NBA because of “ticket sales” and whatever other stupid logic you people are using. Get real.

  12. luffy - May 27, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    Suns win because of Defense? Every game both teams score 100+ points and yet you say that defense is the key? The key is their luck, obviously both teams have poor defense but both are relying on their brilliant offense. Thing is no one can really guard Kobe and Nash and Amare and Gasol so all their defender could do is pray that each individual misses their shots…
    Why is it hard to Defend? Because of the dumbass refs, the stupid calls that hinders players to defend well. Bring back the old times, less soft calls, less technicals, more action and intensity…

  13. Anonymous - May 27, 2010 at 8:42 PM

    No, Suns lost because of LACK of defense. They were totally clueless in game 1 and 2. This was OBVIOUS. If you watched the game, I can’t possibly imagine how you have come to the conclusion of luck. This is VERY clear.
    Games 3 and 4, Suns threw a different defense at the Lakers and they couldn’t shut it down. YES, all 4 games were about defense, this is clearly evident. There were other factors, yes, but defense was the defining action or lack thereof.
    I mean, really. Give Kobe the ball, it’s going in. Amare gets more aggressive the 3rd game, definitely and it paid off. The element of offense making the shots was not NEARLY as definitive as the lack of tangible defense.
    Luck is not a factor. Perhaps fate, maybe. Luck – not.
    I don’t care about refs calls as long as it’s consistent. Most of the calls I saw were pretty blatant offensive or defensive fouls. You can’t go knocking the arms of a person shooting or bashing into him and not call that a foul. I think the refs have done a great job. You can hardly blame refs for the end result if their calls are equally made on both teams. The age old game of blaming refs doesn’t fly with me. These refs out there are professionals and I have the greatest respect for them. For the people who are saying the refs are going to force the win on whoever the NBA WANTS to win? Stupidity.

  14. Anonymous - May 27, 2010 at 8:43 PM

    that is true they will

  15. slg - May 27, 2010 at 8:56 PM

    Reading these comments, I’m reminded of a scene from a well-known play and movie… As each person presents his point of view to the wise village milkman, he responds, “Yes, you are right!” Annoyed by this apparent ongoing shift of opinion, one person says, “HE is right, and HE is right, and HE is right? They can’t ALL be right!” To which the wise man says, “Ah, yes, and you TOO are right!” All good points here (except for the NBA/refs conspiracy stuff). It’s the never-ending debate about whether good defense beats good offense, or vice versa… But whoever wins, hey, this is the playoffs… let’s all hope for full seven game series’ in both the West and East, and then again in the Finals! And here’s to YOUR team winning every series they’re in! (Oh, and… GO SUNS! And if the Suns lose, then GO LAKERS!)

  16. Jimmy - May 29, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    each game each team scores 100, 110, 125, and you actually wrote an article that said this series is about defense. Do you know anything about Basketball? Or does anyone else on this thread. Look at points p/g for each team. then look at great defenses and what they allow. Is this not easiest enough to figure out. Each games goes into the 100’s and you think its about defense, the all star game barely scores more than lakers-suns and we all know there isnt one defensie stop in the all star game. please someboby respond and state how this series is about defense and not the first one to 120 wins.

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