Written by: Ramneet Singh
All elite teams know the importance of a Game Four and coming into tonight’s game, the Lake Show understood this was a big game. The Lakers did not want to re-live another 2-2 series and had to play with strong effort and a sense of urgency in order to win at the U.S Airways Center.
The first quarter was not the most well played period, as the teams struggled on both sides of the court. Defense was non-existent and every player seemed to be effected by the Channing Frye curse. The up-tempo style of play made the first half enjoyable to watch despite the turnovers and incapability to score. Although the Lakers went on a 15-11 run, they still ended the quarter tied at 23. The Lakers shot 50% from the field while the Suns shot only 38% from the field. The Lakers had a problem keeping the ball secure, as the committed two turnovers and five fouls. Kobe had yet to score a point and Ron was surprisingly the Lakers leading scorer. The Lakers had to get their star involved in the game, or else the Suns would open up a big lead
The second quarter started off great—for the Suns. The Lakers’ defense was not very effective and this led to Phoenix opening up the second period on fire. The Suns’ bench gave the team a much needed spark and they opened up a ten point lead. The Lakers committed bad fouls, lost every 50/50 ball, and continued their offensive struggles. The Lakers missed 6 of their first 8 shots and lost all their momentum. The crowd was roaring and the “Beat LA” chants came out much earlier than expected. The Phoenix zone was present in Game 4, but this time the threes fell down for LA. Kobe was hitting three after three, and Channing Frye finally broke out of his slump with some threes of his own. The latter half of the second quarter was a high scoring, high-octane period which turned into a three point shooting contest. The first half ended with the Lakers trailing 64-55 and shooting 52% from the field. The Suns had a much better quarter, thanks to the play of their bench, who scored 34 points. Kobe stepped up his game as he scored 15 points, but the Lakers were in dire need of an inspirational Phil Jackson speech in order to stage a comeback.
The third quarter featured the best, and the worst of the Lakers. Kobe started the half on fire and brought his team back within two points with 7:40 left to go. However, the Laker “bigs” were getting abused by Amare, and Andrew Bynum looked like an old man out there. He was unable to keep up with Amare; Andrew constantly made head-scratching plays and was very limited when it came to mobility. As the quarter progressed, Kobe put the team on his shoulders and it seemed as though he scored on every possession. Bryant finished the third quarter with 31 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 three point field goals made. The Lakers took their first lead, 84-83, with 56.7 seconds left, but it quickly vanished and the Suns ended the quarter up 85-84. The fourth quarter looked as though it would be a very intense and exciting; entering the final period, I strongly believed that the game would be decided in the final seconds.
The Suns started off the final quarter with their bench, while the Lakers had two starters, Kobe and Andrew on the floor. Just as expected, the bench played with energy and maintained the lead. The reserves were lights-out from behind the arc, and the Lakers could not close out on them. With 6:47 left in the game, the Suns’ 2nd unit opened up a 98-89 lead. The Lakers’ struggles continued and their shots were not falling down. A typical possession for the Lakers consisted of poor ball movement and a three at the end of the shot clock. The Suns expanded their lead to thirteen with fewer than 4 minutes left; the Lakers did not execute on the offensive end and settled with outside shots.Kobe tried to carry his team to victory but Phoenix hit big shot after big shot and sealed the game. The Suns forced the ball out of Kobe’s hands and made Artest and Odom shoot jumpers. The final score was Suns 115, Lakers 106. Kobe was the Lakers leading scorer with 38 points, but the Lakers lost the game and were going back to Staples Center tied 2-2.
The Lakers were obviously troubled by the Suns’ zone; it hurt them in Game 3 and also in Game 4. The Lakers did not drive into the paint, but instead they threw up 28 threes and only made 9.
Also, the Lakers’ bench was once again a non-factor as they scored only 20 points, while the Suns’ bench scored 54.
The Lakers have to find a way to solve the zone and regain their focus in order to beat the Phoenix Suns.
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