It's show time. For all the marbles because we all know that the Suns aren't coming back from 0-3. If they can get a good win tonight and some momentum going into Tuesday....well, that's the hopeful view anyway.

Regardless of the outcome, the Suns need to do a much better job defensively in these coming games to avoid ruining a lot of great progress that was made this season on that end of the floor. No one wants a great season to end with the bitter taste of giving up 120 points per game in the final series. I don't care how good the Lakers are, that just won't do.

Play with pride and heart and get out there and mix it up. As Nash has said all season long. Earn it.

Offense:

- More of the same on the Nash pick and roll. They, like most teams, can't defend it with two players and Steve is still finding the open man that guy (mostly Hill and JRich) are getting it done

- Attack Bynum. His defense has been miserable in this series. He can't move his feet laterally and that's why JRich is getting wide open looks at the rim coming off a simple curl

- More Robin. Instead of going small, I would like to see the Suns get 25 to 30 minutes from Lopez and feature him more on the offensive end. Run more pick and rolls for him and run side pick and rolls with Nash and Amare that pull a big out of the paint so Robin can go after offensive rebounds. Setting him up for a put-back is a legit play and expecting about 15 points from him is reasonable

- Aggressive Amare. Pau is doing a great job defensively but the Suns are also making it easy only him. Amare needs to attack off the dribble when Bynum is off the floor. With Lamar watching Channing and the rest of the floor spaced, Amare can isolated and attack from his favorite left elbow position. He at least needs to test Pau and not get frustrated if he doesn't draw a foul or misses a couple of time. Keep coming back to this

- Notice I have not mentioned Frye's shooting. The bottom line is that Channing needs to play better defense even if his shot isn't falling. That's what got him benched last game (plus foul trouble). Between LB, Goran, Dudley and Frye the Suns only need a total of about 25 points

Defense

- Don't double Kobe early and don't front the post. Time to man up and stay home on the Lakers other guys (OGs) and then if the game is tight in the fourth you can consider sending a double but the Suns can't afford to have all those other guys getting wide open looks early so they are confident in their shot

- Play Robin on Pau early and let him bang a bit. Pau will always find ways to score against any single coverage but Robin can at least make him work and make him feel a defensive presence. Lopez isn't going to play 40 minutes, he has six fouls. Use them well (aka hard)

- Watch out for the Lakers transition and early offense. They have been defeating the Suns various stunts and fronts by attacking very early in the clock and even in transition when there's cross matches. Suns need to get back on D and be prepared to defend early in the clock

- Consider pressing Kobe in the back court to try and make someone else bring the ball up and initiate the offense. If nothing else, this might slow him down a bit and allow the defense to get set. The Suns were very effective doing this against Andre Miller

- Keep a body on Lamar. For reasons that I don't fully understand, Odom was often left wide open on the floor. He was doing damage by flashing in for passes and rebounds and he was allowed to catch the ball with enough space to easily drive the middle of the lane. Stick with Odom early and make him feel a defender. Don't let that guy roam the floor without some contact

- Aside from playing Robin more, I would even consider playing Lou at the three with Robin and Channing/Amare. Lou can handle Artest on the wing and will provide a few minutes of hustle and flying in for rebounds. If the Lakers want to go to Artest to try and take Lou off the dribble, at least Kobe and Pau aren't getting those shots. That's not a very good offensive unit with Lou at the three but if Frye is hitting shots and Amare is the other forward, you can get away with it for a couple of minutes. Small ball isn't going to work in this series for more then a quick burst

 

Coaches Pre-game Notes:

  • The LA media had plenty of questions for Phil...about Jennie Buss, his contract, you know - gossip
  • Bynum's knee swelling may or may not be better
  • Phil said the Suns are very good at home and do a great job playing their game and hitting three's
  • Gentry said once again that no one has beaten the Lakers in LA this postseason and all they've done is...well, you know
  • He did make it clear that this is a must win. "If we don't win we are in deep, deep trouble"
  • Robin will play more minutes per Gentry
  • Goal is to hold the Lakers to shooting in the 40's even the high 40's
  • Expect to see some zone unless Gentry is playing the misinformation game
  • On the whiteboard in the locker room it said - "Our Court. Our Time. Kick Ass"


Western Conference Finals Game 3 @ Suns 118, Lakers 109 Lakers at Suns Game 3 Western Conference Finals PHOENIX — The NBA playoffs thus far have lacked...

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Try to remember what you were doing last year on May 23rd. I've tried, but I can't recall. What I'm sure of is that I wasn't writing a game preview for the Phoenix Suns. Maybe I wasn't even thinking about the Suns or basketball.

No matter what happens and how bitter, upset and depressed you might feel, keep in mind that The Suns were not even picked by the so-called "experts" to even be in the playoffs. We have witnessed how The Suns got an improbable 3rd seed in a very tough Western Conference. We saw them beat an inspired team in the first round who truly believed they could beat them. We jumped up and down in our living rooms every time The Suns would hit clutch shot after clutch shot whenever San Antonio made a run. We saw them sweep the Spurs and realized how hard it is to hate that team after listening to all their players give credit to our team and wish us luck. I've had a blast during this ride, but thankfully it's not over.

We are here. Granted, we are down 0-2 but we are here. If you are a glass-half-full type of guy, you might say that The Lakers did what they were supposed to do. They are the defending champs and there's no way you are going to let an underdog team beat you at home. Your job is to make sure you send a message. The message was delivered to the Suns and it's up to them to man up and rise to the challenge.

Unfortunately, I don't have experience in a 7-game series. Back in my playing days with the Panama National Team, it was win or go home. We didn't have the luxury to adjust strategies after getting beat. This is not a win or go home situation for the Sun,s since mathematically they would not be eliminated, but we all know that going down 3-0 against the champs would be disastrous. 

So how do players and coaches prepare for these types of games? What will the Suns need to do to win this game and get back on the winning track?

I think I can answer those questions from a player's perspective. I'll focus on the mental aspect of the game that's constantly overlooked.

Join me after the jump.

Mentally Tough: "Understanding what's at stake"

Grant Hill said it best: "This is our World Cup, this is our Super Bowl."

It's important for players and coaches to understand that their season is on the line. Every team's goal is to reach the finals and have a shot at winning the Championship. You work hard since training camp and even in the off-season. Teams that reach the Conference Finals are extremely lucky to be there (no pun intended) and should embrace the opportunity, whether they are losing or winning.

The Suns need to get back to the underdog mentality and have fun out there. They are over thinking and self conscious of every move they make on the court. As a player, you have to understand what's at stake but at the same time understand that basketball is still a game. Go out there, leave your heart on the floor and have fun.

Mentally Tough: "Believe"

Facing a team that has beaten you badly in the past is not an easy task. Your morale can be down even before you put your sneakers on. The Suns can't allow this to happen or it will be over before tip off. Believe in your teammates, believe in yourself and believe in what you have done that's gotten you there in the first place. Believe that you can win and carry that swagger to the court.

During Game 1 of the Celtics/Cavs series, I saw Doc Rivers call a timeout. He was yelling at the players but specifically looked at Kevin Garnett while saying the following:

"Every single day you all got to go get the game. You got to go play basketball. Don't act like you are not supposed to be winning...we are supposed to be up. We are better. Act like it!" 

Sometimes it's not about strategy. I'm sure Rivers could have drawn a play or made adjustments for the game. But what he saw in his player's faces troubled him even more than someone missing a defensive assignment.

The Suns are playing against the current champs and you give credit where credit is due. But if they truly believe that they can't beat the Lakers, then please don't even put the uniform on.

I won't talk about the adjustments that the Suns will make. You can read it in this post. They will try to keep things simple. They won't force the issue and they will let the game flow.  That's the best thing I've heard so far.

Final Thoughts

I've made no secret that I think Steve Nash should be more aggressive. We need him and Amar'e to step up their games if we want to have a chance in this series. I've not seen Nash's "There's no way we are f*cking losing this game" face. One thing is to lose when you are playing at your best. You shrug and say you tried hard. Tip your hat to the other team and wish them luck in the Finals. What's left a bitter taste in my mouth this last couple of games is the fact that The Suns have gotten away from the things that have made them successful in this postseason. Credit the Lakers for causing this; they are the better team for now.

It's the Suns turn to be at home. For those of you who are going, scream your lungs out. Stand up and cheer. Your boys in Orange are still very much alive. Believe.


PHOENIX — The Suns tried many thing in Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles. Few of them worked. But one successful permutation Gentry utilized was going small with Grant Hill at the four and Jared...

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PHOENIX — The Suns tried many thing in Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles. Few of them worked. But one successful permutation Gentry utilized was going small with Grant Hill at the four and Jared...

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