Kobe, Lakers scorch Suns in Game 1 blowout

Posted by on May 18th, 1:18 am

Kobe destroyed the Suns from all angles in Game 1. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Kobe destroyed the Suns from all angles in Game 1. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Entering the series, I was most concerned about how the Suns were going to match up against the Lakers’ length inside.

While Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol certainly made their presence felt, an old foe was largely responsible for torching the Suns in Game 1: Kobe Bryant.

As John Hollinger predicted, Kobe was the man who couldn’t be stopped, showing no effects of getting fluid drained from his knee earlier this week by exploding for a 40 spot on 13-for-23 shooting to lead the Lakers to a 128-107 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

Kobe — who has now scored 30 in six straight after putting up a 2010 playoff high — had it all working, particularly his jumper. After hitting just 30-of-80 jumpers (37.5 percent) in the first two rounds, Kobe nailed 8-of-14 shots from 16-plus feet, including 4-of-6 in the decisive third quarter when he exploded for 21 points, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Kobe had the focused, “F you” look in his eyes much of the night, saying with his body language that there’s no way in hell the Suns were going to win this game. As porous as the Suns’ defense was in general, even when Bryant was well-defended he seemed to knock down the kind of tough shot that only he can make.

I don’t know if the prior postseason losses to the Suns are really driving him that much or if it’s just that fifth ring, but for whatever reason he was a killer tonight.

“[Kobe] is the best player in the game and he’s gonna get points,” Suns forward Grant Hill told reporters. “I don’t know exactly what we did wrong or right tonight. We just have to look at the tape tomorrow and talk about making some adjustments.”

But it wasn’t just Kobe, as the Lakers as a whole put on an offensive clinic, scoring 134.7 points per 100 possessions on Phoenix’s defense, according to StatSheet.com. For a means of comparison, the Suns yielded 106.9 pp100 during the regular season.

The Suns’ defensive effort looked as bad as that stat would indicate. In fact, I could have sworn I was watching a Mike D’Antoni defensive team.

After the game, Gentry pinned the Lakers’ efficiency on middle drives by perimeter players more than any damage done by Los Angeles’ big guys. Interior penetration was a major issue for the Suns during their 12-18 stretch in the middle of the year, something that Gentry harped on quite often during that part of the year and something that’s been much better of late for the Suns.

Gasol (21 points, 10-for-13) still got his and the Suns really never found an answer for Odom (19, 9-for-15), who picked up right where he left off from his successful 2005-06 and 2006-07 postseasons against Phoenix.

However, the Lakers got very little from Andrew Bynum, who scored four points and collected four rebounds in 19 minutes of action but barely made a dent on the game. You could say Los Angeles didn’t really need Bynum on this night with Odom playing so well, and that is true, but the Lakers almost don’t have a bench if you start counting Lamar as a starter.

The Lakers’ other stars played so well that it didn’t matter that Bynum was a no show, but his potential ineffectiveness is a major development to watch as the series continues, especially considering he said his knee got worse from a week of rest.

On the flip side, Robin Lopez came in and played better than we could have expected, scoring 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting and grabbing a team-high-tying six boards in 24 minutes of action (yes, it’s sad that that was a team high). Lopez was the only Sun to record a positive plus-minus.

Offensively, we got to see what a difference he makes in comparison to Jarron Collins. Collins, bless his heart, is essentially useless when he catches the ball. Lopez is an agile big man who can take a Nash pass on a pick-and-roll and throw one home, as he did a couple times in this game. Lopez even dusted off his mid-range jumper.

Defensively and on the boards he’s one more athletic, big body to throw at the Lakers’ trees and best of all he told ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz that he “was surprised at how good I felt out there.”

Lopez’s comeback was the biggest bright spot on this night, and if Lopez wins his matchup with Bynum this series then the complexion of the series changes.

Offensively the Suns were not terrible. They scored 112.6 points per 100 possessions, which is right at their season average, and they knocked down 49.4 percent of their field goals. Those numbers would likely be good enough to win a lot of games when the defense isn’t so soft.

The Suns were really hurt by the fact that they couldn’t hit threes and they couldn’t get out in transition. Phoenix knocked down just 5-of-22 long balls (22.7 percent), three fewer than Los Angeles in five more attempts.

Channing Frye in particular just couldn’t get it going, missing six of seven. I think Channing needs to just keep shooting. Non-Suns fans were freaking out about Frye on the Daily Dime Live chat, but we’ve seen this all year. He’s had a lot of bad games like this, but the Suns tell him to just keep shooting or else it disrupts the rest of the offense.

Oftentimes when Channing misses a few, the next couple shots don’t look as crisp as a normal Channing Frye jump shot. But we’re talking about a guy who went 2-for-15 from deep in Games 2-4 against Portland and then scorched the nets with 3-for-5 shooting in Game 5 and 5-for-6 shooting in Game 2 against San Antonio, a contest he practically won for Phoenix.

The Suns also couldn’t get into transition, failing to make a single transition bucket (0-for-5), according to ESPN Stats & Information, although they did knock down seven foul shots off transition trips.

In all, the Suns weren’t the team that’s steamrolled the league at a 36-9 clip since the end of January. They played a lot of one-on-one defense and were beaten badly (particularly by Kobe), they couldn’t hit threes and they couldn’t get out and run. The Suns just weren’t the Suns.

Now, I understand a lot of this has to do with the opponent, but after jumping out to a 7-0 lead the Suns really didn’t play with that same characteristic spirit the rest of the way.

“It is just one of those games,” Richardson said. “We didn’t really do everything we were supposed to do, but I can’t take a win away from them [Lakers]. They came in and played a great game.”

That they did, and now we get to the statistical significance of this victory. As we all know, a Phil Jackson-led team has never lost a series after winning Game 1. So the Suns should just pack up and call it a season now, right?

Wrong.

As ESPN.com’s Royce Webb mentioned in tonight’s Daily Dime Live chat, before the 2006 Suns-Lakers series, a Jackson-led squad had never lost in the first round (14-0) or in a series in which it had led (44-0).

Although those marks underscore how great of a coach Jackson has been, the stars of this very Suns team dug themselves out of a more insurmountable hole to break a different lengthy Jackson playoff streak only a few short years ago.

In all the Suns should be encouraged by Robin Lopez and the fact that they likely won’t shoot the three ball that poorly again, even against the Lakers’ stingy three-point defense.

So while Game 1 was a certifiable disaster, Lakers fans should not starting thinking about if they’d rather play Orlando or Boston in the Finals just yet.

And 1

  • It was pretty interesting watching the Suns depart for Los Angeles after practice on Sunday. Airport security officials check them onto the bus so the team doesn’t have to wait in line at the airport like everyone else. Never thought I’d see Steve Nash patted down in the bowels of US Airways Center, but not even the Suns are above airport security.
  • So ends the Chipotle charm. Yes, I chowed down on steak tacos tonight, but for the first time in five weekday road games it did not lead to a Suns victory. I suppose I need to switch it up and go with the burrito before Game 2?

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Channing Frye · Defense · Los Angeles Lakers · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Recap · Playoffs · Robin Lopez · Three-Pointers

46 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ryan C // May 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Asani,

    Well here we are Game 1 and now we can talk about basketball. So much for that improved defense huh??? You guys still think Suns win in 6? Well it was a good first half a least. You guys can have a better bench you guys can have better 3 point shooting but we have KOBE BEAN BRYANT and like I said before KOBE is not going to let the Suns beat him. And somebody go tell Grant Hill his ankles are still on the court…….

  • 2 Corey37 // May 17, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    asani, it is good to see that you are still alive and did not commit suicide after making yourself look like the fool that you are with your wild predictions and trash talking from the past week.

    GO LAKERS!!!

    Yeah, the suns bench is awesome, even though the LAKERS bench outscored them last night.. LOL

  • 3 sparky // May 18, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Also, not to pile-on, but I won't be surprised if the Lakers shoot above 50% all series–again a function of their taking it inside so often.

    They are clearly not afraid of the Suns' interior defense–I think every one of the Lakers' starting five (with the exception of maybe Fisher) went right at the Suns' interior D, beating them off the dribble, posting them up, backing them down. Even when the Suns' interior defense made a stop, LA's height came back into play with offensive rebounds–think about the play where Odom was blocked twice (arguably three) times in a row, but was the one consistently picking the ball back up for another point-blank shot at the basket. Expect to see a zone by Phoenix in Game 2 to at least attempt to shore up their interior deficiencies.

  • 4 asani // May 18, 2010 at 5:36 am

    Channing Frye looked horrible out there. He has to find a way to help us in other ways or else he becomes a liability

  • 5 Ted // May 18, 2010 at 6:31 am

    "Lakers are just BIGGER at every position."

    Umm not even close to true.. On average Suns player are TALLER than Lakers by like .3 or .5 inches…Not much but still its the truth. I don't have the source but i read it in an article on ESPN yesterday.

    Ill give to you lakers fans, Kobe was money, so was Gasol and Odom. But can you count on Odom for that everynight? Not a chance in hell. And can you count on our shooting to be so poor, and yours to be soo good? Again, no. If Frye has any sort of shooting ryhtme the game is close. Lakers are good, no dount, but do not count out the suns. Remember we were the team that beat the lakers after going down 3-1.

    Oh, and one more thing, kobe 'bean' bryant is suchh a retarded nick name, worse than the black momba. His dad was jelly bean joe bryant, why reuse the nic….just dumb

  • 6 lakeshow // May 18, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Lakers are just BIGGER at every position.
    Also, D. Fish did a great job on Steve Nash – yes, he got 13 pts/13 assists but he worked for everyone of those AND every time Nash got going, it seemed the Fisher attacked the rim (because Nash has no D) and got to the foul line.

  • 7 suns68 // May 18, 2010 at 7:21 am

    The Lakers were at the top of their game and the Suns were at the bottom of theirs.
    No need to overanalyze it. The Lakers made their shots and the Suns missed theirs.
    On the plus side, this Suns team generally has come back strong after a bad outing.
    As my dad used to tell me on the golf course, forget the bad shot you made because you can’t do anything about it, concentrate on the next shot.

  • 8 lll66 // May 18, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Suns aren’t going to miss their shots next game and everyone knows it. Phil knows it, Kobe knows it, and Nash knows it. Given that, the Lakers have home court and no one that can match up with Kobe. Yeah, Grant got into foul trouble and I think Kobe totally fouled him on that jumper, but at the same time that call wasn’t enough to change the series. Grant simply isn’t up to the caliber that Kobe is. But he is a really good player. Suns got a butt whooping that was really fun for me to watch, and perhaps now Suns fans will realize the Lakers are better than they think. Lakers dominated the paint, dominated the boards, shot better from the 3, shared the ball, cut off the paint, played really good defense (especially Fish on Nash) and we just plain outplayed you. Yeah, you were down one game in the Portland series too, but we’re not Portland. Sweet, sweet victory for the Lakers and we’re not taking the Suns for granted. We know you’ll come out swinging but in my opinion you won’t take a game at Staples and you won’t take this series. May the best team (GO LAKERS!) win!

  • 9 Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers scorch Phoenix Suns in Game 1 … » Now Playing // May 18, 2010 at 8:22 am

    [...] Follow this link: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers scorch Phoenix Suns in Game 1 … [...]

  • 10 lll66 // May 18, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Ted,

    "Oh, and one more thing, kobe ‘bean’ bryant is suchh a retarded nick name, worse than the black momba. His dad was jelly bean joe bryant, why reuse the nic….just dumb"

    Why the heck do you even care?

  • 11 lll66 // May 18, 2010 at 8:51 am

    No rational person expects the Suns to roll over and die. They will come out shooting and making their shots. But don't expect the Lakers to roll over and die either. While we had a bad end to our season, we are still the defending champs and all teams have to go through the Lakers. So let's just see on Wednesday night. I think it will be close, but as always, may the best team ( GO LAKERS!) win!

  • 12 asani // May 18, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Ryan C and Corey37 you guys are a little ahead of yourselves because one thing we do know is ya’ll will never shoot that well again in your lives. The suns will make the proper adjustments and it will be the suns who win this series like I said

  • 13 Lamar Odom: The ultimate game changer| Valley of the Suns // May 18, 2010 at 9:30 am

    [...] Game 1 preview: Suns at Lakers Kobe, Lakers scorch Suns in Game 1 blowout [...]

  • 14 lll66 // May 18, 2010 at 9:38 am

    asani – we might not shoot as well, but we’ll shoot well enough to win.

  • 15 lll66 // May 18, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Peter – You are correct.

  • 16 Ryan C // May 18, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Asani,

    Asani…. Asani… I am sure your a intelligent gentleman and I will not insult your intelligence only when it comes to basketball affairs. But you have to be out of your mind if you think the Suns are going to win this series. And I agree with I think the suns will play better in game 2 and we probably will shoot that well in game 2 but it’s painfully obviously that we are just the better team. And that is nothing against the Phoenix Suns. They are a great organization and have built a very good team but they are just playing a better team…. You guys can’t stop Kobe or Gasol and LO is the perfect player against the Suns… J RICH is not going to average 20 pts a game in the series like he has Lopez had a great game and you guys shot 50% and still lost by 21 points. Maybe you guys can will next year but it is obvious that the Lakers will win this series. And let me leave you with one last stat. Phil Jackson is 47-0 when he wins game 1 meaning no team has every beat a Phil Jackson team when he wins the first game NOBODY no the Malone and Stockton Jazz not the Gary Payton and Kemp Sonics NOBODY…..

  • 17 sparky // May 18, 2010 at 10:29 am

    The “Suns played horrible, Lakers played awesome, Game 1 was a fluke” argument is unadulterated homerism.

    Frye’s shooting troubles (he’s struggled against LA all year), the lack of transition buckets, and LA’s disturbingly high FG% are all a function of LA’s advantage in the paint. With the exception of their dismal 3-pt shooting, the Suns, based on the numbers, played an above-average game offensively–a bit discouraging, right…?

    This is tough and not likely to change as long as LA sticks to their game plan. By keeping their offense in the paint they will naturally shoot a higher percentage than the 3-pt-happy Suns, as well as limit long rebounds and transition opportunities. On defense, by keeping their bigs home in the paint and chasing out on 3′s the Lakers are deliberately funneling the Suns offense into lightly-contested long 2′s (which is exactly what happened last night). This makes sense because without insane production from the 3-pt line, the Suns cannot possibly outscore the Lakers by trading baskets when LA’s getting theirs 10 feet closer to the basket.

    It will be very interesting to see if 1) the Suns can dream-up effective adjustments to the Lakers’ gameplan, and 2) if the Lakers come-out complacent and looking-ahead (as they did most of the regular season) after the Game 1 blowout.

  • 18 nejay // May 18, 2010 at 10:42 am

    if beating a lakers team with kwame brown and smush parker in the playoffs that happened two or three years ago is the basis of having hope of beating a much superior lakers team, then the suns are really grasping at straws. the suns are clearly not in the class with the lakers,magic and celtics. none of those team have defensive liabilities like frye,amare, nash,richardson,barbosa and lopez in their lineup. watching frye,richardson mindlessly chucking threes with lotsa time on the clock wont cut it with the lakers. its been a great season for the suns, so disappointing for nash ,his window for a finals appearance gets smaller and smaller

  • 19 Tony L // May 18, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Look at what the Lakers did to Oklahoma after 2 losses. Look at what the Lakers did to Utah in Game 4. I’ve said this on other forums, the Suns aren’t as physical or gritty as the Utah Jazz and the Lakers embarrassed them in Game 4. The Suns have improved defensively but that means little compared to an excellent Jazz defensive team that got dismantled and to an Oklahoma team that played defense with energy and commitment on every possession. Game 1 was no fluke. The Suns will surely play better, will probably not get blown out again, and may even win a game, but there is no way they can win this series. Amar’e has to become an all-world defender, Robin Lopez has to find his inner Shaq, and Grant Hill has to channel Bruce Bowen for the Suns to win this series. And we all know those 3 things will not happen for 4 games over the next 6. And to add insult to injury, let’s assume Lamar Odom only produces his averages in points and rebounds (9 and 10), the Lakers would still have won Game 1. The Suns cannot and will not win this series.

  • 20 Everclear // May 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    How about we all make a deal:

    Since Asani is so sure the Suns will win the series, if the Lakers win and move on to the Finals, he deletes his account and never comments here again. That way he’ll stop embarrassing Phoenix fans as well.

    Deal?

    Not so confident now, are we?

    Thought so.

  • 21 1070 // May 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    In game 2 Phoenix will sport their latest jersey

    "LOSS SUNS"

  • 22 Peter Nguyen // May 18, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I believe “Bean” is actually Kobe’s legal middle name, not a nickname.

  • 23 Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol-Lamar Odom lineup roasts Phoenix Suns in Game 1| Valley of the Suns // May 18, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    [...] are many reasons the Phoenix Suns lost Game 1 of the Western Conference [...]

  • 24 Bruce // May 19, 2010 at 1:49 am

    In game 2 Phoenix will sport their latest jersey

    “LOSS SUNS”

  • 25 The Z. Man // Jun 27, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Laker fans suck.

    Suns had too much rest. Rest turns to rust. Alvin says it best. He calls the Suns a "rhythm team."

    Last four games, Lakers starters were beaten by the Suns. Not so much by the Suns starting unit. They were beaten by Frye, Bsrbosa, Louis, Dud & Gogi. MUST KEEP Frye, Louis & our Brazilian Blur.

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

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