Man, are the Lakers hard. You feel like the Suns exerted every ounce of energy they had in this game to claim the victory. Amar'e Stoudemire must have been tired of hearing that he wasn't producing. He did last night with 42 points and 11 boards. He was 14-for-22 from the field and 14-for-18 from the line. Two key stats that stuck out to me: Phoenix 37-for-42 from line and LA 16-for-20. That's 21 more free throws made by Phoenix. Also, the Lakers were nine-for-32 from trifecta. Phoenix put in different zones. Looked like mainly a 3-2 and it threw LA off somewhat. They started taking threes and were not connecting in the second half. What looked like a perfect team heading into the game showed some vulnerability with the Suns' zone. Phoenix was only five-for-2o from trifecta, but got Jason Richardon going. I think he's real key for Suns. He was four-of-seven from trifecta and finished with 19. Robin Lopez played a huge role for Suns. Tough inside going for 20. Only had three rebounds though, so that has to improve. Grant Hill only had five points but had nine rebounds and three key steals. And there's a guy named Nash who had 17 and 15 assists setting up Amar'e and Lopez to go to the hole and score.
The Suns stuck with the Lakers on the boards with the Lakers only outrebounding them by one, 41-40. The Suns also forced 17 LA turnovers while only committing seven themselves, a huge turnaround from the first two games.
You can't stop Kobe; I think the Suns are resigned to that. They were playing him hard, they were playing tough defense, still Kobe had 36 on 13-for-24 shooting and eight-for-eight from the line. Pau Gasol had 23 and nine. Derek Fisher had 18 and was three-for-six from trifecta. Still Kobe was only two-for-eight from three.
The Suns confused the Lakers with their zone. It worked. The Lakers will make adjustments for Game four, so the Suns will have to zone and man judiciously.
If the Suns can shoot the three better, they have a chance to make this series very interesting. Channing Frye has got to step up from three. He was 0-for-5 last night and I believe he's 1-for-14 in series. Guys off the bench like Jared Dudley-who plays so hard, Leandro Barbosa and Goran Dragic have to play big roles for the Suns in order for them to have a chance to win this. They need to give Coach Alvin Gentry quality minutes and give Nash, Amar'e and the starters a break knowing these guys are going to produce.
It's a game at a time. The Lakers will come out relentless as ever and the Suns will be in for a war in game four. If they can win game four, they might have the Lakers doubting themselves a little bit. Look for the Lakers to be ready and get out of the gates fast on Tuesday Night. Suns will have to withstand that and play lights out like they did last night. They need to shoot trifecta better,. A 41% three point shooting team can't shoot 25% from three. The Lakers will try to pound and use Kobe and they will probably shoot a lot less threes. They will play to their strengths. As Nash said last night at halftime, "We have to match them."
Game four tomorrow night at 8 on TNT.
Game four of Eastern Conference finals tonight at 7:30 on ESPN. Boston looking to close it out. Should do it.
(Amar'e goes over Pau Gasol photo above)