It may be time to issue an all points bulletin for the Phoenix Suns All-Star power forward, because he’s nowhere to be found thus far in the Western Conference Finals. After turning in a...

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Who looked better tonight, Danny DeVito, or the Phoenix Suns? (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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Who looked better tonight, Danny DeVito, or the Phoenix Suns? (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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Different night, slightly different occurrences, similar results.

The Suns got off to a good start in the paint, with Amare and Robin Lopez getting off early in the 1st. The Suns were poised and aggressive, going on an early 7-0 run to take 13-11 lead. The Suns moved the game at their tempo, made some buckets, but still managed to give up plenty of offensive rebounds.

After Channing Frye threw away a pass and overran an easy rebound, the Suns called a TO down 17-13 with 6 and change left in the first. Time for the first COMING TO JESUS SPEECH from Alvin Gentry.

The Lakers responded with n 10-0 run, taking over the paint, making it look easy on bucks such as:

  • Gasol over Frye
  • Artest over JRich
  • Gasol over Frye
  • Gasol easy fast break dunk

The final part of the equation occurred as the Suns began to lose their poise. Phoenix gave the ball away 6 times in nearly 9 minutes of play in the first.

Alvin Gentry went small, matching Jared Dudley with Lamar Odom while bringing Roblo back in the game to replace the LOST Channing Frye. Later the Suns went to the zone and promptly gave up a Kobe 3 and a Gasol midrange. Artest closed the quarter with a 3 -- Lakers 36, Suns 24. The Suns gave up 18 points in the paint.

In the second, the bench did their job, upping the tempo and hitting for an 11-0 run, keyed by the usual suspects -- Lou, LB, and Dudz, (but not Frye) -- closing the lead to 41-38. The Lakers responded with their own run, ending the half with a 65-56 lead. Ron Artest, he of the random fall down the stairs for no good reason, led all scorers with 15 at the break.

In the 3rd, Jason Richardson scored 7 quick points, and the Laker lead was cut to 69-63. The teams went back and forth and the Suns hung within 8, despite some NON-MAX Stoudemire play, including a missed dunk, two missed free throws and a handful of late rotations on Pau.  

Yet a Dudley steal led to a JRich dunk and the Suns found themselves down only 4, 84-80. Grant Hill also made an appearance, scoring 14 in the quarter.  After a JRich gritty, junkyard dog-like-dive-to-the-floor-steal, Grant Hill hit two free throws to tie the score at 86. The 3rd ended with the score tied at 90.

Did you feel the momentum swing?

It was quick-clear in one moment and gone in the next. LB was bludgeoned by Lamar Odom and went to the locker room. Um, no flagrant? Not even a foul called? He got clocked in the head and dropped to the floor, later smacking his head (was it on the photographer or the court?)

The Lakes tore off to a 18-7 start in the 4th as Farmar and Pau and Kobe and Odom and Brown all scored while the Suns committed 5 turnovers and went cold from the field. It was about that time that Mr. Ric Bucher tweeted:

"The Lakers aren't beating the Suns, the Suns are beating the Suns."

It was true in a way and incorrect in another. The Suns had minimal success in the paint. They were getting minimal stops. But the Lakers were owning it on both ends of the court. They played great defense and took the Suns completely out of their game. Amare looked either confused or disinterested. Depended on the play.

The Lakers followed with a 9-0 run. The Suns were finished. Let us hope that our boys in Orange find it on that short flight back from LA or this is going to be a very quick series.

 

PROPS:

  • Jared Dudley tied a career high for 3s with 5 and was all junkyard all game
  • Grant Hill was huge in the third, finishing with 23 on 10-16 shooting
  • JRich had some solid moments, going for 23
  • Steve Nash dished 15 assists

 

THINGS TO BITCH ABOUT:

  • Frye: 0-5. 4 personals. (1-13 in the series). He's talked himself out of hitting a shot. He's thinking way too much. He's being manhandled by the Laker bigs. You sure you want to opt out, Channing? Frye shoots 49% at home 26% on the road in the playoffs. You gotta find it, Channing.
  • Amare Stoudemire: 5 TOs, 5 PFs, only out-rebounded Steve Nash 6-3. Bully Ball? MAX? Huh? Amare, I asked you to man up. You didn't. No MAX for you.
  • Goran, Leandro, and Frye were a combined 2-15. The Lakers bench outscored the Suns bench 36-26.
  • Tom Cruise. Because I'm pissy and sleep deprived I want to take a moment to tell you how angry it makes me to look at his ferret face. Can't he just go away somewhere and never appear again?

 

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Different day. Same game...hopefully a better ending


Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

Game Notes

  • Coach Gentry said that the Suns bigs need to run the floor more to take advantage of their advantage
  • Phil Jackson was asked by the NY Wannabe Media in LA if he would look for ways to rest Bynum for the Finals. Phil was polite enough to say something about one thing at a time but did say that if they got to the finals they would face bigger, stronger centers
  • Suns will wear Orange uni's for this game. Makes sense, right?
  • Suns are confident still and think they can hold down the Laker's OG's they will be fine
  • Gentry has said he doesn't plan on doubling Kobe but I wouldn't be surprised if trapped him more off screens and also doubled Pau in the post a bit. If nothing else it will generate and force more activity and aggression
  • A friend I spoke with talked about how well Ron played in the last game and how many times he passed up bad shots. If he reverts to form and takes the bad shots he's presented with as has been his norm this season it will help the Suns


Ignore this one unfortunate play at the end of the first half of Game 1 and come with me into the numbers ...

Kobe scored 40 points and hit 13 of his 23 attempts. Interestingly enough, 7 of his 10 misses came against Grant Hill.

So having some time before Game 2, I broke out the Synergy Sports machine and looked at how Grant was effective against Kobe even on a night where Kobe was hitting amazing shots.

What I saw in looking at all the possessions was Grant playing up tight on Kobe and still managing to deny him penetration. Typically, if you get too close to a guy like Kobe, he's going to go right by you, but time and again Grant was able to cut off his first step and force a harder shot.

Even when Kobe did get back, Grant he was able to recover and contest the shot, as in this play:

Here's you see Grant up in Kobe's space ...

Grant_on_kobe_1_medium

Kobe drives and what you can see here is the angle Grant takes to not foul Kobe while he's dribbling, but still get to the middle of the lane to cut him off.

Grant_on_kobe_2_medium

Grant then attacks Kobe's right hand and forces Kobe into a very tough step through move to the left, which he missed.

Grant_on_kobe_3_medium

Kobe did make four shots against Grant, but three of those came when Kobe used a screen and either shot over the Suns big man who stepped out or, in one case, he blew by Robin Lopez, who tried to trap.

Here you can see Kobe coming off the Pau screen and shooting over Amare.

Grant_on_kobe_5_-_make_screen_medium

The only shot Kobe made against Grant in isolation was a very tough jumper and you can still see how Hill is focused on Kobe's right hand.

Grant_on_kobe_4_-_make_medium

Unfortunately, Grant only played 21 minutes in Game 1. Partly because the game was a blowout, but in large part because of foul trouble.

Grant had four fouls by the middle of the third period. When Grant picked up his fourth (and the technical), it was an eight point game with about 6:45 to go. After Grant came out of the game, the Lakers went on a 13-4 run in the next four minutes to blow the game open.

I looked at all four of Grant's fouls. The first was a very questionable offensive foul when he posted up Fisher and spun baseline. They called him for hooking his off hand. Not a good call. His second was when he reached in to tie up Gasol. Again, questionable. The third was a reach in where Grant knocked the ball away from Kobe and the fourth was some two-way pushing that Grant was called for.

Easily, two of those fouls could have been no-calls. Those are the breaks of the game.

 

How did the rest of the guys do against Kobe? Not so good, obviously. Kobe went 6 of 8 against Dudley, Richardson and one possession against Barbosa on a rotation.

Dudley's D on Kobe gave him a lot of space with the intent of baiting Bryant into taking a jump shot. But in this play early in the game, Kobe uses the space that Jared game him to drive by and get into the lane, where he forced Jared to foul. It was a foul.

Kobe_vs_jared_1_medium

Kobe_vs_jared_2_medium

 

So yes, Grant Hill did play excellent defense on Kobe. Let's hope he gets the chance to stay on the floor longer this time and watch to see if Jared plays a bit closer to Kobe or if not, if Kobe is still aggressive or if he settles for the jump shot.


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