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Monday, April 9, 2012

Phoenix Just Too Hot (4.7.12)

The Los Angeles Lakers gave up 125 points this past Saturday to the Pheonix Suns. 125! The Suns had 99 by the end of the third quarter! This came after Mike Brown called out the team for their lack of defensive rotations against the Houston Rockets. Kobe Bryant missed the game due to a painful shin injury that had been bugging him for a couple of games. Obviously Kobe's presence means a lot, as he has averaged 38 points per game this season against Pheonix; however, Kobe's absence still provided no excuse for their lackluster defensive performance.

The Lakers gave up numerous open looks off of transition looks, drive and kicks, and not showing on screen and rolls. The Suns capitalized and knocked down these open jumpers on a regular basis. Obviously, any team featuring Steve Nash is going to get open looks due to his great ability to run the pick and roll and drive and kick. However, Nash wasn't even the best player on the floor that night. His 13 points and 11 assists were nice, but it was the role players that really buried the Lakers. Shannon Brown led the way with 24 points on 9-19 shooting, going 4-8 from downtown. In the third quarter, Shannon went 8-12 for 20 points, and shot 4-6 from 3. Simply put, he was on fire. At one point, Shannon pulled up for a 3 during a one on five situation in transition; of course, he swished it. The Lakers struggled to play any semblance of defense and the Suns bench absolutely destroyed them, scoring 58 points compared to the Lakers measly 10 points off of the bench. Shannon's output didn't even count for the bench points because he started for the injured Grant Hill. Michael Redd and Sebastian Telfair gave the Lakers problems all night, especially in the second quarter. In the second, Redd went 6-11 for 17 points, hitting 2-4 from downtown. Telfair matched Redd's productivity, shooting 5-7 for 13 points, hitting 2-2 from 3, and dishing out 4 assists. These second quarter outbursts allowed the Suns to erase a 32-24 deficit at the end of the first and stretch their lead to 5 points by outscoring the Lakers 38-25 in the second. After numerous defensive breakdowns throughout the second, Sebastian Telfair closed the half with an and one layup. After Bynum hit a nice baseline turnaround bank on the far block, both he and Pau were late getting back down the court. Telfair got the ball on the near side with four seconds left in the half and he raced up the court, got into the middle, and finished with a layup on the far side of the lane while being fouled. With no big man help, Ebanks had no chance of stopping Telfair in the open court at full speed.

The Lakers followed up their horrible second quarter by giving up 37 points in the third. Shannon Brown showed the Lakers why they should have spent some money on him this past offseason. Although he is a streaky shooter, Shannon is a legitimate shooting guard. The Lakers don't have a single shooting guard other than Kobe. Saturday's game highlighted their 2guard deficiency. Other than one beautiful tip in, Shannon scored everything outside of 18ft. His stroke was wet and he splashed the ball through the net on pull ups, step backs, off of picks, and off of drive and kicks. After Shannon hit his one on five pull-up 3, the cameras cut to Kobe on the bench grimacing. Kobe loves Shannon like a little brother, but he sure didn't enjoy watching Shannon light up the Lakers.

The Lakers actually had a nice run to start the fourth quarter. They got the deficit down to just 12 with 8 minutes to play. Then came a horrible stretch of play that allowed the Suns to decidedly put the game away. Barnes threw a bad pass as he drove down the near side baseline to the rim. The ball bounced off of Pau's leg and out of bounds. Following that, MWP ripped the ball from Morris at the far corner. Steve Blake pushed the ball up the far side in transition and kicked it to Barnes in the far corner for a wide open 3. Barnes bricked it. The Suns came down and ran a pick and roll to perfection with Telfair and Morris at the near wing. Telfair dribbled toward the top of the 3 and hit the rolling Morris for a finish at the rim. Morris was fouled, but he made both free throws. Then Steve Blake traveled after picking up his dribble at the far elbow and shuffling his feet while pivoting. The Suns came down and Telfair hit Lopez for an alley oop dunk, stretching the lead to 16. The Suns never looked back. Michael Redd buried two 3's with just over a minute left just to rub in the beat down. The Suns won, 125-105.

The Lakers lack of effort on defense was disappointing. Although Michael Redd and Shannon Brown were unstoppable for different stretches in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, there is no excuse for the Lakers' repeated breakdowns throughout the rest of the game. The guards went under picks on the pick and roll, the bigs didn't flash out to help on the pick and roll. The Lakers gave up repeated penetration in the middle for drive and kick opportunities. It just seemed like the Lakers didn't know what their responsibilities were.

One bright note for the game was the play of Devin Ebanks. Ebanks has played a total of 4 minutes since the beginning of February; however, he came in and showed the coaching staff that he has been professional in his preparation. Ebanks went 6-11 for 12 points and 4 rebounds. All of his rebounds were offensive rebounds. He got a number of easy putbacks by crashing the glass and he ran the floor well in transition for some easy layups. Overall, Ebanks showed that he was in shape and ready to play with some energy in his 32 minutes of burn. If Kobe's shin requires some more healing time, Ebanks will be called upon to play with energy, and he may have even earned some more playing time even if Kobe does play. Props to the youngster.

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