After the Phoenix Suns collapsed against the Los Angeles Lakers down the stretch of Tuesday night’s contest, I wanted to rewatch those final six minutes and see where the Suns went wrong. I...

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Phoenix Suns' Grant Hill, center, works between Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, left, and Matt Barnes during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles,  Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Phoenix Suns look like they turned a corner after the road loss last week to the Dallas Mavericks. The Suns played VERY well to blow out the Portland Trail Blazers and Milwaukee Bucks at home and then went into Los Angeles and played a pretty good game against the Lakers.

The Suns obviously lost in L.A. but looked much better than they did against the Mavericks and ultimately fell victim to this team's biggest flaw -- lack of late game scoring options.

We'll get into exactly what happened in those final few minutes when the Suns were thumped 16-1 in the final 6:27 of the game, but first let's recognize all the things that have improved in that last week:

  • The offense has a MUCH better flow mostly because Steve Nash has returned from the (near) dead and Channing Frye has arrived for the season.
  • Marcin Gortat's offensive game since having the splint removed from his thumb has been impressive and improved from last season. He's making great decisions with the ball and passing well when covered, and he's shooting 32-46 (.696) in his last four games after starting 20-38 (.526) in his first five.
  • Gortat's shooting a career-high 85.7% at the rim but he's also at a career-high 86.5% assisted rate (percent of his shots that are assists for someone else).
  • The lack of being able to create his own shot (a problem shared by the entire roster) is the Suns biggest offensive flaw BUT there have been a few signs that Marcin's post game might (MIGHT) be improved. Lets give it a few more games without the splint on his thumb and see.
  • Defensively, the Suns did a very solid job against the Lakers not named Kobe and honestly, when Kobe is hitting shots like that you just tip your hat and pray that he will eventually shoot himself into a stupor. LA shot 48.8% from the field but only 42.9% when you remove Kobe's numbers.
  • The rotations in the post against Bynum were very good. If the game plan was to hold Bynum and Gasol in check and pray that Kobe doesn't go off, it worked (except for the praying part).
  • Bynum had 30 minutes but only 12 points and 8 rebounds, which is quite an accomplishment.
  • What KILLED Bynum was his inability to defend the pick and roll. When he sagged off, Nash hit open shots. When he tried to hedge the screen, he was too slow and Nash was able to beat the trap.
  • The bench played well with Hakim Warrick and Shannon Brown adding 19 points and Ronnie Price playing well; the Suns were +3 with him on the floor (and Nash on the bench) which is GREAT.
Now, here's where things went wrong in the final six minutes:
  • Big props to Mike Brown (not a coach I am fond of) for benching Bynum and playing Luke Walton at the four. Walton and Gasol were able to effectively trap Nash on the pick and roll and the guys rotating behind them were good.
  • The Suns weren't able to take advantage of Walton playing the four because Frye in the post is still Frye in the post. In the future, I would expect to see Markieff Morris in situations like this to prevent teams from going small to defend the pick and roll better. Morris, however, had a horrible game (0-4) and wasn't an option late, and Frye was shooting well. Morris has to become the guy here to relieve the pressure and score in the paint. He's the only guy on the roster that can do it.
  • The Suns eventually decided to double Kobe but it was too late. That's a really tough call since he's such a good passer and the Lakers (like the Mavs with Dirk) make it hard to double him.
  • Grant Hill was the guy the Lakers left open in their rotations defending the pick and roll and he simple didn't have the legs on his shot to make them pay. Grant was 1-12 in the game, which KILLED the Suns. Dudley wasn't much better (2-7) but it was just too much to ask Grant to chase Kobe around and still make the open shots the Lakers were giving him late in the game.

Phoenix Suns come undone in 4th against Los Angeles Lakeres - Arizona Republic
"I'm just tired a little bit out there," Hill said. "I still have a ways to go to get my conditioning. No excuses. I got good looks. I just have to make them. I didn't run until three days before camp so I'm still getting my legs. Obviously, it didn't help having to chase him around but I've done it before and been able to be more effective on the offensive end."


I was going to go through every possession in the five minute stretch where the Lakers when from +1 to +14 but I don't have time for that. I did re-watch all those possessions and found one good example (below) of how the Lakers were able to stop the Suns.

This was very familiar to what we saw last season where the Suns lost in the final few minutes of games. The execution was pretty good and the Suns moved the ball and found the open guy, but the shots they ended up getting were the shots the defense wanted to give up. That's what happens when good defensive teams trap the pick and roll and rotate well.

Without a go-to scorer that can isolate and get higher-percentage shots, this is going to haunt the Suns all season long. There will be times when the open guy hits the outside shot and there will be times against lesser defensive teams when the Suns execution can still manage to create easy looks, but against good defensive teams...

Here's a great example of how the Lakers stopped the Suns. This came at about the 5:51 mark right after Nash re-entered the game after timeout. The score was 85-82 after Kobe hit two free throws:

The first action the Suns run is with Frye and Gortat setting up at the top of the arc. Nash runs off both screens with Walton hedging out to trap Nash. Frye dives to the lane and Barnes leaves Hill open in the corner to cover but that's a decoy.

Frye shoots back to the top of the arc with Gortat trying to pick off Walton and free Channing for an open three. Walton does a great job fighting through the pick and denying Frye the opening.

Suns_lakers_1_medium

With that first option taken away, Nash sets up a high pick and roll with Gortat. Gasol traps Nash and Walton leaves Frye to cover Gortat rolling down the lane.

Suns_lakers_2_medium

Frye floats to the open spot at the angle but Gasol and Walton both recover quickly and contest his shot while Barnes has rotated into the lane to cover Gortat, leaving Hill again open in the corner.

Suns_lakers_3_medium

Frye can't get his shot off in time with Gasol and Walton coming at him and passes back to Nash for the third try on this possession. Steve goes to Hill but by this time Barnes has rotated back on to him and with 8 seconds left on the clock, it's up to Grant to try and make something happen. He dribbles the ball off his leg and ends up with a contested shot.

Suns_lakers_4_medium

On this possession, Brown is in the far corner the entire time and Kobe never leaves him since he's the more dangerous shooter than Hill. The rotations by Barnes and Walton were very good. Blake did a good job staying with Steve, and Gasol was mobile enough to both trap Nash and also rotate out to Frye.

Good defense beat two solid offensive plays. Gortat did get the offensive rebound and passed it out to Nash who gave it to Brown who missed an open three. He had made a three just a minute earlier and was open so it was a good shot to take.

The Suns tried a few different variations on the pick and roll in the next couple of possessions but the Lakers rotations were too good. Here's all the shots the Suns got:

Nash got open for a three running off a double screen and missed. Gortat ended up with a 19 foot shot late in the clock and missed. Hill ended up with a three and missed. Hill turned down a three and attacked and still missed the lay up (his legs were gone). Hill hit 1 of 2 free throws to give the Suns their only point of the final 6 minutes. Frye missed a three and the Suns were down 14 with 1:10 to go. Game over.

Everything was outside the paint except for Hill's missed layup.

Props to the Lakers, who were well-coached down the stretch and played great defense. I'm not overly excited about that team because they don't get enough points outside of Kobe going insane but they were certainly good enough to beat the Suns with their D, as will quite a few other good teams. Playing Luke Walton at the four was genius move because he's such a smart player who rotates well. Josh McRoberts will get those minutes when healthy because he can do the same things defensively plus rebound, and is more of a scoring threat.

On the plus side, at least the Suns have worked through a lot of other glaring early season problems quickly and in this game were simply beat by their biggest flaw, which is a roster/talent issue.

Markeiff Morris stepping up in a game like this and taking advantage of a smaller four is the Suns' only counter move. Let's hope he gets there.

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Six minutes and 13 seconds. That’s how long the Phoenix Suns went without a basket to close out Tuesday night’s 99-83 loss to the Lakers in Staples Center. Phoenix played the Lakers to a...

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Kobe hates the Suns...the feeling is mutual (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant injured. Whatever. Tonight Bryant went for 48 and the long Lakers defense stifled the Suns anti-offensive juggernaut in a 99-83 beating.

It was a tale of 3 quarters for the Suns who managed to hang for 3+ with one of the best squads in the Western Conference. Then the 4th quarter. The dreaded 4th quarter. A Jared Dudley free throw with 2 minutes left was the last scoring the Suns did. Kobe Bryant reeled off 4 straight...KOBEKOBEKOBE. I'm sick of that guy. He's even single now.

The Suns got off to a nice 19-10 start with Channing Frye hitting three straight shots, Steve Nash attacking the hoop, Grant Hill effectively blanketing Bryant like a cheap Sunday dress, and the Suns bigs clogging the lanes.

Yet after an L.A. timeout, and Shannon Brown subbing for Hill, the Lakers went on a 10-0 run with Kobe Bryant dropping 8 of the 10. Not only was Brown beaten on the defensive end, on the offensive end he chucked up 3 straight bricks and committed a turnover.

Bryant finished with 17 points in the quarter while the Suns went scoreless for nearly 4 minutes and the Lakers led 25-19.

In the second, Andrew Bynum abused Robin Lopez and the Suns began the quarter shooting 2-6. In all fairness to Shannon Brown, he picked up the pace with a nice break away dunk while adding a little D. A Ronnie Price 3 completed a 7-0 Suns run to bring the 12 point lead down to single digits. After a killer Nash no look to Gortat, a Frye 3, and a Dudz putback, the Suns had completed a 12-0 run, and found themselves up by one.

The Suns limped to the break on a turnover and brick down 46-42. Kobe Bryant finished with 23, eclipsing the output of 4 of the Suns 5 starters.

Marcin Gortat led the Suns through the 3rd with 8 points and the game had apparantly settled into a close matchups between two rival squads. The Suns hung in the 4th keeping things close as Kobe Bryant entered to start a small Laker run. Shannon Brown chipped in 9 while Channing Frye rekindled his shooting stroke for a 2 and a long 3. After a Gasol 20 footer put the game at 89-82, L.A. , the Suns called timeout with 4 and change left. Evidently not much sank in from that little meeting as the Suns responded with two bricks and a personal foul while the Lakers reeled off two straight hoops punctuated by a Kobe Bryant ESPN highlight show at the rim after the Suns allowed Luke Freakin Walton to grab an offensive rebound and kick the ball back out.

In the end the Suns couldn't hit a shots and couldn't make any stops. Game Over, man.

NUMBERS:

  • Grant Hill 1-12, 4 points. OK I give a little break since he was guarding Bryant tonight. But still, that's not a beautiful line
  • Jared Dudley 2-7, 7 points in 28 minutes. Dudley never found the groove. A rare off night and a total non-factor in the game.
  • Robin Lopez: Did he play? I saw Bynum abuse him a few times. Lots of zeroes in the boxscore for Lopez.
  • Markieff Morris also silent and a non factor. And even thought Keef doesn't get rattled, perhaps being in LA made him a little shaky.

What else to say. When you shoot 42% get outrebounded by 14, and give up 18 second chance points, you aren't going to win a lot of games. Give credit to the Laker defense. They thwarted the pick and roll, smothered Steve Nash, and flat rebounded. Props to Channing Frye on a nice game. He played 32 minutes, but with the way he was shooting, he should have played more. Props to Gortat on a nice game as well. He's making that mid range to 18 footer consistently and he's always bringing 100%. Dealing with Bynum and Gasol isn't easy. Just ask Robin Lopez.

REMEMBER WHEN....

  • Remember when Channing Frye made that put back slam as the 24 second clock was at 0
  • Remember when Steve Nash sent a laser to Marcin Gortat for a dunk?
  • Remember when Markieff Morris dove for that ball and Kobe Bryant tripped over him and got all butt sore?

    Those were all cool times.

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shawndy 52
Larfleeze 43
Beavis 25 41
lixuec 41
Bkj 41
brian13 38
Colton Dodson 35
Alex Laugan 33
PHXgp 32
Lino Canaan 32
atkammoh 30
2NASHTY 28
SteveNash, QuantumPhysicist 23
Skii 22
Omaha Sun 22
u_must_chill 22
Jim Coughenour 20
Airwave 20
Juac 19
rsavaj 18
sonicking 18
phxpurple 18
Suns R Us 17
Sun God 17
SUNS PORTUGAL 14
phxuk: Ap 13
sunsfanfromchitown 13
hcblankscreen 13
MMotherwell 12
ArizonaCactus 11
jc79 10
Smoooth Criminal 9
raxado 7
Icarus012 7
MarkSmith 6
dbacks25 6
7footer 6
modernage13 6
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Chafid Ahmad 5
the new Bradfather 5
Wil Cantrell 5
rzyn 4
wedge1039 4
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AZBengal18 3
AcucracK 3
Piotr Szczesniak 3
hubertdavisfor3 3
ajcarleton 3
blanke 3
waxmonkey 2
sports_dude33 2
AZ Punker 2
TheAlexSkinner 2
b0rd3rline 2
miketheboss 1
leifjoy 1
KholdStare88 1
jatrex4suns 1
ilintar 1
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