Two shots. Two freakin' shots.
That's how many field goal attempts Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant took 10 minutes into the fourth and decisive quarter.
I don't want to hear, "it's the zone."
It's not the zone. It's guys who think they're three-point shooters. It's guys who lack patience. It's guys who don't realize that the Lakers' success rides on the league's best perimeter player and its best offensive interior player.
It's not the zone. It's Lamar Odom (who really is earning the nickname "O'dumb" after his two performances in Phoenix). It's Ron Artest. It's Derek Fisher.
It's not the superior Suns' bench either. It's the inferior Lakers' bench.
There's Jordan "I Think I'm Tony Parker" Farmar. There's Shannon "I Jump Real High" Brown. The Lamar "I'll Just Chill Out Here" Odom.
The problem isn't Phoenix. The problem is that the Lakers have the dumbest role players in the NBA.
The group is talented. Odom is a starter on nearly every other NBA team. Farmar has starting point guard skill. Artest is the No. 2 offensive weapon on nearly every other team.
Brown jumps real high.
The group just makes terrible decisions.
Going into the fourth quarter, Bryant made 12 of his last 16 field goals. He missed his first three minutes into the fourth quarter, but didn't take another shot until 1:31 left in the game.
Lakers players, just give the ball to Bryant as soon as you cross the half-court line and clear out. Let him quarterback the offense.
Fisher should never be dribbling the ball for 15 seconds before being trapped in the corner and firing up a desperate shot as happened in the middle of the fourth.
Fisher, catch and shoot, man. Catch and shoot.
After a Bryant technical free-throw make, his first point of the fourth, Artest shouldn't be jacking up a three pointer just 10 seconds into the shot clock.
Ron, give the ball to Kobe who is jumping frantically up and down and who is just one pass away.
And Odom, just because you are open, doesn't mean you need to shoot. Go to the basket and draw a foul.
But the idiocy of the role players extends far beyond not being able to put the ball in Bryant's hands and shooting bad shots.
As it did in the first round against the Thunder, the Lakers bench played at the Suns' pace.
Here's a memo to Farmar and Brown: The Suns want to run!
Shoot from deep early in the shot clock and Phoenix will be out in transition shooting open three after open three.
For the game, the two bench heroes, as I call Farmar and Brown, shot 2-12 and 1-9 from three-point land. Many of those shots coming with double-digits left on the clock.
Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton could do that, but will usually look for the guy in the post first.
Speaking of Walton, he had two assists in two minutes. Perhaps it's time Phil Jackson gave him some burn out there instead of one of the two heroes.
The offense clicks with Luke, and his defense can't be much worse than the other guys playing either.
Well, if those guys actually played defense.
Farmar, sitting on a screen will allow any NBA point guard will go right to the basket for a bucket for himself or to create one for another.
Run into the moving picks and fall down. Draw the fouls because Amare Stoudemire is usually moving.
And Brown, the duck-the-head-and-run-real-fast-at-the-shooter technique might work in the YMCA, but it doesn't work in the NBA, against Leandro Barbosa no less.
Sometimes statistics don't tell the story. But for the Lakers, three-point shot attempts almost always tell the story. They shoot less than 20, they almost always win. They shoot more than 25, they almost always lose. In between 20 and 25, the game is usually up for grabs.
Yes, the zone lures players to take the open threes. So in that respect, it's been successful.
In Games 1 and 2 against a mostly man defense, the Lakers shot 17-33. That's an excellent 51.5 percent. In Games 3 and 4, against that zone, the Lakers shot 18-60 from behind the arc. A whopping 30 percent.
Yes, Bryant has shot many three pointers the last two games as well. But he's Kobe. He's earned the right to shoot bad shots. Besides most of his threes in the two Phoenix games were actually great looks.
But all's not lost for the Lakers. (Even though I'm sure ESPN's John Hollinger will post an article tomorrow describing how Phoenix is the best team in the NBA and will demolish the Lakers to win the series in six).
In Games 1 and 2, the Lakers' role players took their time and fed the zone. They need to find that patience and discipline again if the Lakers expect to regain control of the series. This means fake the three and drive to shoot a mid-range shot or look for the open player beneath the basket (there will be one). The same adjustment they made against the Thunder in the first round.
Or, if all else fails, just give the ball to Bryant and get out of the way.
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