Don't have high hopes for this game. It actually seems to me that the Lakers are playing plenty hard (of course, they can always play harder), but it's the execution that is lacking. So all the Lakers have to do is play hard and they'll win? Doesn't smell right to me. I want to see Ron-Ron pitch in offensively in the flow of the triangle, and I want to see the Lakers hit half of their threes. And throw in some competent defense. That's all I want.
Starting lineup graphics are always so goofy. There's got to be a cooler way to display the starters than cutting out their heads and pasting them in a line.
"Stu's Views" says to watch for Farmar/Brown vs Dragic/Dudley. Ew.
John Ireland tells me that Phoenix has one game this week. The Suns are getting PAID this game, if you calculate their salaries on a per game basis.
11:41 Kobe with the and-one on the jumper from the block. You can hear the crowd chanting "MVP" as he shoots his free throw. What? Are we in Phoenix?
10:00 Fisher sets the record for long twos after making a long two.
9:35 Pau's short hair style makes him off balance as he misses two free throws.
9:13 Amare is playing aggressively tonight, hitting boards, taking close shots, and goal tending.
8:26 Watching Kobe guard Grant Hill in isolation makes my heart race. I get flashbacks to the late 1990s.
7:15 John Ireland reports that Alvin Gentry said that Kobe is the best clutch shooter in NBA history, even compared to Jerry West and Michael Jordan. 21% of NBA fans are nodding silently at Gentry's opinion. 63% of NBA fans just went, "MJ is so much better than Kobe, the facts don't lie!". 16% of NBA fans are stoned.
6:22 Steve Nash is such a freaking good shooter. Want to know who the best pure shooters are? Just look down the free throw percentage list, that's a good start. (I just went back to look: Top 5 - Mark Price, Steve Nash, Peja Stojakovic, Ray Allen, Rick Barry. Yup.)
4:34 Kobe picks up his second foul, on a play away from the ball, and he goes to the bench to chill without saying much to the ref, although he looks like he wants to. The game is tied 18-18.
2:54 Phoenix is bringing the zone defense, and the Lakers aren't taking advantage. Phoenix leads 24-18. Amare already has 15 points. Phil calls timeout and brings in Ammo to break the zone.
0:49 Lamar gets two on an offensive putback, and I'm reminded that Lamar was amazing against the Suns in the 2006 playoffs. Maybe Lamar should get the some touches tonight.
Phoenix Suns games are so fun because of the fast pace. The Lakers give up a ton of points in the first quarter, as us customary for them, and the Suns lead 31-24. Will the Lakers take control of the pace, as Phil knows they can do? We shall see. Kobe should play the whole second quarter since he sat out the last 4 of the first.
10:48 Shannon hits the corner three off the nice extra pass from Sasha, who could have shot it himself. Suns 31, Lakers 29
9:11 The Lakers are not capitalizing against the Suns without Nash. They can't seem to get a good shot off against the zone, and the Suns are fastbreaking on offense. Suns 37, Lakers 29. But an 8 point lead is really like a 4 point lead when the Suns are involved.
7:45 Kobe is turning the ball over frequently on offense as he tries to probe the zone with passes. Sounds strange to say this, but the Lakers might want to shoot more threes, as the zone defense makes it harder for the Suns to rebound since they don't have specific men to box out.
6:07 Amundson blocks Pau and Bynum on the same possession! But the Lakers are showing signs of life by finding better shots against the zone defense (if I were Alvin Gentry, this is when I would stop playing zone, right when the other team seems to be figuring it out) Phoenix 38, Lakers 33.
5:58 Off a jump ball, the Suns just got three consecutive offensive rebounds. The possession ends in a Lopez dunk. Even getting the jump ball was a hustle play.
3:41 Amundson is everywhere as he dunks a putback. Suns 44, Lakers 41
2:46 The Lakers are getting creamed on the offensive boards tonight. But they seem to be figuring out how to get good shots against the Suns.
1:30 Pau screams at the ref, and the ref obliges. He was hit on the head, but he easily could have made a dunk out of a 2 foot shot. Lakers now lead 48-46.
1:11 Lakers are making me happy and hitting threes tonight. I swear it sounds like the Phoenix crowd is disappointed when Fisher misses a three.
The half ends, and Mr. Mo is firmly on the Lakers' side. They end the half on a 19-6 run, and ahead 53-46. Nice to see the Lakers figuring things out offensively. They now have an idea of what they want to do against the Suns, even if it took a quarter to figure it out. There are enough fan's chant MVP for Kobe that you can hear it on TV.
Kobe gives a pound to Stu and Spiro, and then leaves the guy between them hanging with his orphaned fist in the air.
11:08 Kobe often throws tough passes to catch. Bynum grabs one of those passes and dunks it.
9:35 The Lakers really are working the Suns defense with passes, as Fish hits a wide open three. This time his foot is not on the line. Lakers 60, Suns 50.
Joel Meyers seems to be able to tell a lot about a guy's shot as it comes out of his hand. I challenge him to a test, where I show him video of a shot, and pause it as the ball leaves the shooter's hand. Can he tell if it's going in?
5:50 Pau ignites two fast breaks, once with a block, and again with a steal. Kobe shoots a three both times, making one of them. Since he didn't reward him that time, he should give Pau the ball on another possession. Lakers take a 15 point lead, 69-54, which again, is equivalent to a 7 point lead against a normal team.
5:04 Pau with the dream shake that leaves Amundson in the dust.
4:33 Kobe torches Grant Hill on the drive, but gets erased by Stoudemire's help on his dunk attempt. Amare's block sets off a string of bad plays, including an Artest airball. Lakers 71, Suns 60.
2:28 Kobe feeds Lamar with a sweet pass from the perimeter to Lamar 3 feet from the hoop. Lamar biffs it. The Lakers should continue to look for Lamar because of his size advantage. Meanwhile, Nash is heating up and becoming more active on offense. Lakers 75, Suns 67.
The third quarter ends with a Suns run, and the Lakers' lead is down to four, 77-73. It seemed like the Lakers knew what they wanted to do, but you have to pass crisply against a zone. Those turnovers, including some missed chippies result in Phoenix getting back in to the game just in time for the ...
10:23 Shannon Brown gets called for a charge on a horrible possession, the Lakers 12th turnover of the game
9:26 Amundson is killing it on the boards, but this time he scores a dunk on a nice pick and roll with Dragic. Lakers 81, Suns 80.
9:07 Amundson again, dunking on Gasol's head off an alley oop, giving the Suns the lead at 82-81. And Kobe goes right back at the Suns with a sweet bounce pass at midcourt to a streaking Shannon Brown, who jumps out of the building for a dunk. Lakers 83, Suns 82. The replays show that Shannon rubbed the ball in, not a clean dunk.
6:44 Kobe loses the ball again. He's got a seven of turnovers, but this one was definitely because of the finger. He had his man beat, but just lost the handle.
6:10 The Suns are now sending the double team over to Kobe, as he's been more aggressive offensively.
5:06 Alvin Gentry goes Godzilla and gets a technical and then the boot after Pau whacks Amundson across the face on a sure layup. Looks to me like Gentry is trying to protect his players, but the ferocity of Gentry's reaction comes across as comical, as none of the other players seems to be anywhere near as angry, including Amundson. This is one instance in which Pau's reputation helped him. If Artest gives that foul, it's a flagrant. Lakers 93-84.
3:57 Kobe splits a double team with a behind the back dribble, and finds a wide open Artest in the corner. Brick. Then Richardson hits a three, and Fisher comes right back with a three of his own. Lakers 98, Suns 89, but the Lakers don't really have control of the game.
2:18 Artest hits a huge 19 foot jumper off the dribble with the shot clock running down. Lakers 98, Suns 91.
1:26 Nash find Stoudemire for the easy easy dunk. Lakers 100, Suns 96. The Phoenix crowd is going wild.
0:41 Lamar gets blocked on a layup. It has not been his night. Pau gets a critical steal. And strangely, Phoenix does not foul. They finally foul at 16.5 seconds. Unfortunately for Phoenix, they foul Kobe. Who misses the first as I type that last sentence. Lakers 101, Suns 96, and Stu asks "Is it safe?" I don't know, Stu.
0:12 Gasol contests a Richardson three that misses. Pau has been one of the silent heroes of this game, playing solid defense, even without being involved too heavily in the offense. He looks like the Pau we're used to seeing, instead of the one from the last three or four games.
Fisher seals the win with a steal, and the Lakers win in Phoenix, 102-96. It wasn't a smooth game, but it would have been taco worthy in Staples. The Lakers used their brains to break down the Suns' defense for the most part, and held on for the win. Ron Artest pitched in some nice baskets, and the Lakers made a good number of threes. Luckily, the Lakers didn't need Lamar tonight.
A good road win, indeed, against a motivated opponent.
... Now where's that guy who's been posting on the SSR board that the Suns would beat the Lakers in a first round matchup?