Lamar Odom: The ultimate game changer


Kobe Bryant went off on the Suns tonight, but no one changed the game more than Lamar Odom. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

There’s no question that Kobe Bryant kept the Phoenix Suns teetering backward and finally delivered the knockout punch with 26 second-half points (40 total) in tonight’s Western Conference Finals series opener.

But although Kobe had a special night offensively, no Los Angeles Laker changed the complexion of the game more than Lamar Odom.

The Suns looked crisp and energetic in the early going as they jumped out to a 20-15 lead behind two Jason Richardson three-pointers.

Andrew Bynum struggled to defend the pick-and-roll, Amare Stoudemire was knocking down jumpers, J-Rich was on the board early and the Suns were getting open looks from three.

But when Odom stepped foot on the hardwood with 5:31 left in the first quarter all of the Suns’ optimism was squandered.

The do-it-all 6-foot-10, 230-pound forward brought a different energy to Staples Center as he gave LA its first lead of the game by rattling off seven of the Lakers’ next nine points during a two-minute span. Odom carried the Lakers on a 19-6 run to close out the quarter and the Suns never led again.

After Saturday’s practice Suns head coach and Odom’s former coach with the Clippers called the versatile big man “the most effective player from a multi-position standpoint that there is in the league.”

Amare Stoudemire, who grabbed only three boards tonight, also said, “Odom is a big factor for them. He comes in and provides energy on the boards.”

Odom certainly showed why he is such a big factor tonight, with 19 points and 19 boards. But the stats alone don’t tell the whole story, as his athleticism and energy neutralized all of the advantages that the Suns had going into the series.

Channing Frye figured to be a big factor in pulling away the Lakers bigs from the hoop with his shooting. But Phil Jackson stuck Odom on Frye, and it paid dividends as his quick closeouts forced Channing into arguably his worst game of the season — three points, one rebound on 1-of-8 from the field and 1-of-7 from three in 20 minutes.

And it’s not like Frye was the recipient of a few bad bounces, he wasn’t even close and looked like he had no business shooting the ball. His confidence and rhythm were clearly rattled because of Odom’s versatility and athleticism.

But not only did he completely eliminate Frye, Odom also took away the Suns’ main source of offense — the pick-and-roll.

Derek Fisher did a great job fighting through screens and Pau Gasol was also fairly effective defending the play, but it was Odom’s ability to show and retreat, or even stay with Nash if he switched, that took the Suns completely out of rhythm offensively.

The Suns get almost all of their three-point attempts and layups out of the pick-and-roll, and without three-pointers and layups any team becomes significantly worse. While 5-of-22 from distance is flat-out awful, the Suns were even worse after Odom entered the game, as they shot 3-of-18 from the 5:35 mark in the first quarter on.

It wasn’t only his defense on Frye and his ability to defend the pick-and-roll that led to his game-high +24, however.

Odom seemed to grab every loose ball available (seven offensive rebounds) while forcing Amare Stoudemire to come out and defend on the perimeter. There were two occasions in the game when Odom received the ball down low and was blocked twice before ultimately grabbing a third rebound in one play and finishing strong.

He also embarrassed STAT on numerous occasions with his quickness. He blew by Amare from the top of the key on a drive that looked like it was in slow motion. Needless to say, the do-it-all forward lived up to the name and did it all tonight.

He took away Frye’s ability to spread the floor and shoot the three, he took away the pick-and-roll, he controlled the battle of the boards and he made Amare play defense. So what other Suns advantages were there to keep in check?

Odom single-handedly neutralized the Phoenix bench. Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and the Suns bench had a clear advantage in the second-unit department heading into tonight’s game. But Odom’s effectiveness with the Lakers’ second unit turned the battle of the benches from advantage Suns to a virtual wash.

All season long people around the Lakers organization have dubbed Odom the X-factor for this team, and tonight he showed why. When he shows up to play like this he has the ability to swing so many facets of the game into the Lakers’ favor.

He was the main reason for the Lakers’ eight-rebound disparity on the glass (no Sun snared more than six boards), and his 17 points in the paint, along with Gasol’s 10-of-13 shooting, also allowed LA to establish its dominance down low.

So while Kobe Bryant did his thing and exploded for 40 tonight, it was Odom who deserves the true game ball for his game-changing versatility, rebounding and defense.

  • MKM

    Four combined rebounds by Stoudemire & Fryes … while Nash out-rebounded both of them!

    Wake up, double your efforts and fight back in Game 2, big men!

  • lakeshow

    MKM – yep!

    Something I've been saying here for quite a while said best in this article: check it out

    http://www.dailybreeze.com/sports/ci_15107284

  • Everclear

    I always enjoy how increasingly logical fans get as their teams lose.

    The Suns aren't going to win this series. As long as this Laker team is in tact (3-4 years), Nash and Co. never will. It's not because Phoenix is a bad team – far from it; There's just a better one out there. Kind of like Utah in the 90s when MJ and the Bulls were around. It's just bad timing.

    No worries. Nash will be in the HoF the second he's eligible, and rightfully so.

  • http://itsyouforme.deviantart.com justin

    Everclear – what are we supposed to do? sit around and wish we had won? no, you look for the things that went wrong and see what kind of changes must be made. obviously stats aren't the entire answer, but some (like amare's 3 rebounds and the team 3pt%) can be analyzed as causes of the loss.

    but that's ok, all lakers fans are blind idiots anyway.

    and, oh, thanks. the fact that nash will make the hall of fame right away really makes it up to us.

  • JD

    I hope the Suns find a way to set more effective screens to open up their shooters.

  • lakeshow

    amare is a liability on defense.
    Odom 19 rebounds; Amare – 3!!!!!
    The Lakers not only took away the Suns advantages away, they did it better:
    Lakers 3pt shooting – 8/17 (and if you take away those random 3s they took when they had 29 pt lead, the percentage is a lot better)
    Suns 3pt shooting – 5/22
    Bench pt for lakers – 44pts!!
    Bench pt for Suns – 35pts!!
    Obviously what hurt them the most is points in the paint – 56 to 36! That’s a lot.
    I think they need to go to zone defense and hope it works.

  • lakeshow

    btw, the reason i’m saying they should try zone defense is because i think they have too many weak one-one defenders. Grant Hill and Lopez being their only good defenders (starters obviously)

  • Corey37

    Everclear, great point about fans facing reality and becoming more logical as their team gets dismantled. asani does not fall in this category as he/she still cannot show respect to the very team that is crushing his team. asani, the on fake thing about the LAKERS last night was all of the moves Kobe put on them. He had the all of the suns clearly faked out in the 3rd quarter.

    Not to blow my own horn, but I told you all that after the first quarter of game 1, the suns would be overwhelmed by the LAKERS size and fold like a cheap deck of cards.

  • asani

    Corey37 your fakers aren't worthy of respect so you won't receive any from me. I hate the Lakers and their punk ass fans

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Ryan C

    Has Anybody found Grant Hill ankles yet???? LOL

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  • Everclear

    *laughs* Why do you call all Laker fans blind idiots? What did that have to do with the pure facts? Barring some insane anomaly occurring (Kobe breaks his leg, Pau’s car blows up, Phil Jackon and Bynum get abducted by aliens) the Lakers are going to win. Are you insulted because of that? The Suns are a great team. I’d say if this exact team existed during 80% of any other season in NBA history they’d make it to the Finals with a good shot at winning. Unfortunately, this season LA is in your way. We have three 7-footers, a lot more power, a counter offense, and the best player/closer in the league. That doesn’t make your team bad. Relax, man.

  • lll66

    I don’t see anything funny about someone being hurt – that’s really sad of you to say or to find it amusing.

    Grant Hill is one of the classiest guys in bball who has been hampered by injury all his career, so to find the fact that he could have potentially harmed himself entertaining is sad.

    Besides, if we’re going to be talking about someone tripping, kobe tripped on himself too when he was hogging the ball.

    What the heck are you talking about?

  • asani

    Amar’e should be ashamed of himself with 3 damn rebounds when they are going up against a big team like the fakers. He can jump higher than anyone of their big men and he picks up 3 rebounds. The suns played like they know they have game 2 to try to pick up a win instead of playing with some intensity. Maybe we need to put Earl Clark in the game when Odom comes in because Amare played some of his stupidest defense on Odom. Odom only goes left so what does Amare do? Let him go left. Also the fakers will never in their lives shoot that well again so that is a positive for the suns. Next game nash and Amare have to set the tone. Nash needs to look for his scoring first so that can soften up the fakers defense. Channing Frye just shoots the ball almost without looking at the damn rim. He doesn’t shoot that way at home so what the hell is his problem

  • Corey37

    asani, the only thing worse than punk ass fans is CLASSLESS fans such as yourself.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of this series as much as I do. =)

  • Mark

    Corey37:

    you come on to the opposing teams blog, talk all kinds of shit about how your teams gonna stomp our team and blah blah blah…then after your team wins one game of a seven game series…you show up again and let us know that “Not to blow my own horn, but I told you all that after the first quarter of game 1, the suns would be overwhelmed by the LAKERS size and fold like a cheap deck of cards.”…. how is your behavior in any way “classy”?…at least lakeshow gave us some insight on the game…all you do is come here to degrade our team and fans…so why dont you do us all a favor…and get the f out moron!

  • lll66

    Fans of opposing teams will always trash talk. There have been plenty of PHO fans on LA blogs talking trash, and two Suns fans here in Cali have talked smack at me telling me we were gonna lose, you don’t need to be tall to win basketball games, Suns have better match ups, Suns will get our bigs in foul trouble, Suns are a better team because Kobe is morally corrupt, blah blah blah. So the trash talking will happen. Plenty of Suns fans here in Cali who love them their Suns. I get that. I feel the same way about the Lakers. But please, don’t tell me you wouldn’t be out talking trash if your team didn’t win, Suns fans here on your blog. You got your butt handed to you on a purple and gold platter. That’s all she wrote. And I know with every fiber of my being that when the Suns win a game against us (because I think they will) y’all will be smack talking us.

  • lll66

    Ryan C that was hilarious!!!

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Ryan C

    ESPN BREAKING NEWS!!!!!
    Detectives have just found Grant Hills ankles…..
    they were found at Duke University and this just in
    HE STILL CANNOT GUARD KOBE!!!!!!

  • lakeshow

    I don’t see anything funny about someone being hurt – that’s really sad of you to say or to find it amusing.
    Grant Hill is one of the classiest guys in bball who has been hampered by injury all his career, so to find the fact that he could have potentially harmed himself entertaining is sad.
    Besides, if we’re going to be talking about someone tripping, kobe tripped on himself too when he was hogging the ball.

  • Everclear

    For what it’s worth, I never see the point in “talking trash” on other people’s blogs or teams preemptively. It’s silly. If I come on here and say, “OH LAKERS R AMZIN BICHEZZ F U SUNZ FANZ LAWL!!11″, then for one, I look stupid. Two, you guys didn’t take it seriously. And three, what, do I think the Lakers are going to be a great team for all of eternity? Eventually Kobe will retire and the Lakers will come back down to Earth (just look at the Bulls this last decade). And who’s to say Phoenix won’t draft the next LeBron James prototype and get lucky with some key pieces and end up stomping the league for the next 5 years after that? Well now I’m just going to have all those Suns fans I “trash talked” back in my face making me look like a bigger idiot than before. It all comes back around. Trash talk makes everyone look like a fool in the end.

    Also, I’ll never call the fans of a team anything bad (i.e. “All Phoenix fans are stupid!” etc.). If you care enough about a team to cheer them on and read up on them on a blog and have enough passion to post comments about them, then you’re a true fan. Now, some *individual* fans may be retarded – every team has some, even LA – but making sweeping generalizations about ALL fans is just silly.

    I just say things based on facts with some cautious opinion thrown in. Earlier this year I didn’t even think LA would get to the WCF, let alone win a ring. Oklahoma really woke a sleeping giant. I don’t see the Suns winning this series unless something supernatural happens, but that doesn’t mean Phoenix is a bad team. There’s just nothing you guys can do about our size outside of getting really, really hot shooting for 4 straight quarters.

    Which is why I pick LA in 5. Maybe 6. ‘Cause I can see your Suns lighting it up for a game or two.

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  • The Z. Man

    Hill is a classy dude.

    Only base and immoral people want to see, even in humor, anyone get hurt. Suns are very fortunate to have Grant Hill on the team. He and Nash are very good leaders for our young guys.

    Frye, Barbosa, Louis, Dud & Gogi. They outplayed LA the rest of the way, particularly in the last game. MUST KEEP Frye, Louis & our Brazilian Blur.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let's go SUNS!!!!