Quantcast 2010 NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Finals - L.A. Lakers vs Phoenix Suns

 

Western Conference Finals Recap - Game 2

(1) L.A. Lakers 124, (3) Phoenix 112 - Lakers lead series, 2-0

 

 

By everyone's estimation, the Phoenix Suns played a lot better in Game 2 of the 2010 NBA Western Conference Finals than they did in Game 1.

Coach Alvin Gentry's team played harder, scored better, nailed more threes, and didn't give up 40 points to Kobe Bryant.

They still weren't terribly close. Moreover, they still gave up more than 123 points.

Yeah, it's that kind of a series in an NBA spring that could be a lot shorter than we all thought a few weeks ago.

It's been a weird postseason in the world of professional basketball. The Lakers were always viewed - and rightly so - as the favorites to win the West, but when the playoffs began, most experts thought that the Lake Show would get a test in the conference finals round. Dallas was the team, however, which possessed the size and length needed to bother Coach Phil Jackson's club, and those Mavericks got tossed aside by the San Antonio Spurs. Therefore, hoopheads felt as the second round started that San Antonio, given its veteran presence and its own share of bangers, could hang with L.A. in a best-of-seven slugfest. There was just one problem: Phoenix - with its quickness and floor spacing - exposed the Spurs and swept its way into the West Finals.



The Lakers did struggle in the opening round of the playoffs against Oklahoma City, but once Pau Gasol put back a Kobe miss in the final second of Game 6 to close down the overachieving Thunder, the defending world champions haven't had to play a single team that can match up with them. The Utah club that L.A. ushered out of the second round had no length in the paint (Denver would have been a far tougher second-round matchup for the Lakers), and now in the West Finals, the sad-sack Suns simply have no chance whatsoever of stopping the Lakers' big men. If Game 1 set a pattern, Game 2 confirmed it. It is nakedly apparent that the Lakers will have to wait until the NBA Finals to face a team that can defend and rebound with them on relatively even terms.

Phoenix's X-factor players on the wings - Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley - played really well in this game. The two men combined for a total of 42 points on 8-of-12 3-point shooting, providing the supplementary offense this team needed along with Grant Hill, who excelled in a turn-back-the-clock 23-point performance. Yet, those three superb efforts went for naught because the Suns' power forward, Amare Stoudemire, looked powerless against the gold-shirted Lakers.

Stoudemire always did need to play his very best basketball in this series just for Phoenix to have a chance, but when he foolishly called Laker forward Lamar Odom's 19-point, 19-rebound Game 1 effort "lucky," he opened himself up to a fresh new wave of scrutiny.

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He shrunk in the spotlight on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Stoudemire scored a modest 18 points and pulled down only 6 rebounds on a night when his team - especially not-fully-healthy center Robin Lopez - needed him to dominate. Odom delivered 17 more points and 11 more rebounds - no luck involved there - and when Stoudemire guarded Gasol in the fourth quarter, the results were ugly for the Suns. Gasol scored 14 of his game-high 29 points in the final period, as L.A. outscored Phoenix, 34-22. The game was tied at 90 entering the fourth, but when those 12 minutes had come and gone, the Lakers had made it look very easy at the offensive end of the floor. If Atlanta's Joe Johnson and Utah's Carlos Boozer have cost themselves a lot of open-market money with their playoff performances this spring, Stoudemire has just joined the list. His smallness in a game of such stature has revealed, once again, the Suns' need for a big-time big man... especially against the Lakers.

Will things change in Game 3? Not when the Lakers have the ball. The Suns just have to score 130 points if they want to make this increasingly lopsided series competitive again.

 

By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Guest Writer


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