Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play

The Phoenix Suns pulled off the improbable today, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in their series with the Lakers. After the first two games in LA it seemed that all the match-up problems that the Lakers posed to the Suns were for real and that the Suns were not going to be able to handle them. However, everything changed early in the 2nd quarter of game 3 when Alvin Gentry decided to go to a 2-3 zone defence that stymied the LA offence and eventually allow Phoenix to take the game 118-109. In game 4 Alvin Gentry stuck to his guns and played most of the game with a zone defence. Added onto that, some timely 3 point shooting that the Suns had been lacking throughout the series, especially from Channing Frye, allowed them to pull off another big upset. The big story though wasn’t just the defence and the massive amount of zone played in the game.

The bench, led by second year point guard Goran Dragic, out played not just the Lakers bench, but their starters as well. Throughout the season coach Alvin Gentry has showed confidence in his bench and allowed them to play through their mistakes. In the 2010 playoffs it has definitely paid off. The Suns bench played so well during the 4th quarter in game 4 that Alvin Gentry didn’t take them off until just inside the 4 minute mark of the period. The bench came out in the 4th quarter and nailed 3 consecutive three’s to put the Suns up by 9 and the Lakers were unable to dig out of that hole. Despite the fact that Phil Jackson put out his starters, Alvin Gentry stuck with his bench and they rewarded his confidence. The highlight for the bench was by Goran Dragic who made a beautiful cross over then spin move in the lane and finished it with his off right hand.

Overall the bench shot 20-32 (62.5%) from the field, and 9-20 (45%) from beyond the arc. Channing Frye finally broke out of his slump hitting 4 three pointers after missing 17 field goals in a row. Goran Dragic contributed 8 assists in almost 18 minutes, and Jared Dudley continued his hot shooting making 3 of 6 from downtown. All in all the Suns bench outscored the Lakers bench 54-20.

Having the series tied up 2-2 going back to LA is not the only effect that the impressive play that the bench has on this series. Their ability to play well also allows the starters, most notably Steve Nash to have more than adequate rest. Steve Nash and the rest of the Phoenix Suns starters will now be fresh going into game 5 and not nearly as worn down as the series goes on.

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Kobe Bryant is unstoppable. During the regular season I had finally thought that Lebron James had dethroned Kobe Bryant as the best player in the NBA. I’m sorry I ever doubted you Kobe. We all saw Lebron…well choke in the last two games of their series against the Boston Celtics. I don’t care that his teammates didn’t step up and that Antawn Jamison, the supposed side kick for Lebron, didn’t do his part. Lebron obviously doesn’t have the same mental make up of Kobe to be able to take his team on his back when it matters the most. At least not yet. On the other hand, Kobe Bryant has shown that he can still do it when it matters. In 8 of the last 9 playoff games Kobe has scored over 30 points, silencing his critics (including me) that the nagging injuries were finally getting to him and that all the extra playoff and international games had pushed him over the hill.

Kobe once again tried to put his team on his back tonight going 15-22 from the field, hitting 6 three’s for 38 points. Oh yeah, he also finished with 10 assists for his 3rd straight double-double. The rest of his teammates once again couldn’t crack the zone defence of the Suns. Besides Kobe’s 6-9 from beyond the arc, the rest of the Laker squad shot a dismal 3 for 19 (16%).

I thought Phil Jackson would have figured out a way to break the Sun’s zone, but it seems as though the Lakers are just going to have to shoot better from the outside. I still think Phil Jackson and the Lakers will figure it out for Game 5 but until then let the speculation begin. Hopefully we’re in store for another thrilling game!

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