Robin Lopez flashes polished offensive game, shows why his return means so much to Phoenix

PHOENIX — One of the jokes around Suns Land throughout the end of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs was that you’re in a heck of a lot of trouble if you’re counting on Robin Lopez to be your savior.

Since Lopez’s back injury offered such an ambiguous timetable, his health and pending return were often popular subjects when head coach Alvin Gentry met with reporters, but Gentry always tempered the optimism on what a potential Lopez could mean for the Suns.

Although Amare Stoudemire played like the Suns’ front court superstar on this night in Game 3, Lopez turned in the kind of supporting effort that shows why Planet Orange was so antsy to learn when he might return.

I mean, do you really think Jarron Collins would have gone for anywhere close to the 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting that Lopez did on this night?

Lopez was locked in, and he played with a burning fire in his eyes. Even on the bench he was whooping it up after a big play, and he set the unofficial game high in first pumps after a positive Suns play not involving him.

Most impressively, he did a little bit of everything offensively. He nailed mid-range jumpers, he rolled to the hoop for easy hoops, he got a monster tip dunk on Andrew Bynum and he even drew the sixth foul on Lamar Odom in the fourth.

“Big game, huge game,” said Suns forward Jared Dudley. “He took what the defense gave him, hit his first jump shot got him going, got a tip dunk over Bynum, and that just really propelled him to have a great game. [I'm] proud of him.”

A week ago it would have been impossible to fathom Lopez making such a contribution. After missing the Suns’ five-game road trip that started following Lopez’s last regular-season game on March 26, he had been perpetually questionable, with the Suns slowly but surely ruling him out for subsequent stretches of games.

Even entering the San Antonio series, the prevailing thought was that he’d play eventually (he likely would have if it weren’t a sweep) but that the Suns didn’t know when that return date would be and if he’d be able to give them much more than a more athletic version of Jarron Collins due to his rust and lack of conditioning.

Many people thought his health would play a major role in the Spurs series (myself included) and I definitely thought he would be needed against the Lakers’ trees.

But I certainly didn’t expect Lopez to bust out a well-rounded, polished offensive game against long Lakers in his third career postseason game.

Who does he think he is, Brook Lopez?

After the game, Lopez gave the kind of answers he always does after a monster performance, deflecting the praise as if it were a weak shot in the lane and pointing it in the direction of his teammates.

“I credit my teammates [for] getting me the ball when I was open,” he said. “I’m blessed to be playing with a point guard like Steve Nash even more.”

And, “Having a great point guard like Steve Nash and great shooters, (a guy) like Grant Hill and a great post-up player like Amare, they all really free it up for you.”

And even a stock, “I’m just trying to do whatever I can for my team.”

Lopez — who was a game-high +19 – won’t beat his own chest, but I’m free to say Robin had a huge game tonight. After the Lakers dominated the interior so thoroughly in Los Angeles, the Amare-Lopez duo won the game for the Suns on a night when their three-pointers weren’t falling.

Combined with Amare, the Suns’ bigs hit 22-of-32 shots, many of the easy variety.

That’s to be expected from the five-time All-Star seeking a max contract, but even Alvin Gentry said that “offensively he’s been a huge surprise, we didn’t think that he would be that advanced offensively for us” in regards to Lopez.

“I think we saw what we’re all excited about, the progress he’s made this year,” Grant Hill said. “He’s going to be sensational for a long time. He was big for us tonight.”

On a night when Channing Frye proved ineffective once again by missing seven more shots — five of them threes — to drop to 1-for-20 on the series, that didn’t really matter with Lopez adding a skilled offensive game to his usual contributions on the defensive end.

So while it still seems silly that everybody thought of Robin freaking Lopez as the team’s savior, at the same time the Suns wouldn’t have a chance in this series without him.

  • Patrick M

    In regards to Channing Frye; get him the ball down low and get him going with some high percentage shots near the hoop. This will also likely draw a foul or two, which gets Frye some free throws. After a couple of these type of shots, then let Frye drift out to the perimeter for some outside shots. I think you'll see a profound difference. Getting a taste of scoring success can really translate into getting on a roll. Frye, and the team, desperately need it!

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  • Roger Bourland

    On a different subject, what is your read on Earl clarks future with the Suns?

    • Michael Schwartz

      I think he will play a big part in the Suns' future. He will be in the rotation next year.

  • PJ

    channing might be in the deepest funk ive seen a quality nba player go through. Lets hope he breaks out of it to help us even this series going back to LA

  • PJ

    Barkley used to say that you’re in trouble when the toughest guy on your team is a point guard. Now between Lopez, Dudley and to a lesser extent Dragic we’re no longer lacking in that intangible category.

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  • Z Man

    For the rest of the series, Robin didn’t get that much playing time.

    Is he hurt? His back or is it something else? Big guys can be very fragile, like Oden and Ming. Speaking of big guys, Amare is gone. With all of his efficient scoring in the paint, which also leads to even more efficient points on the foul line, his play did not lead to wins. On a +/-, he was, at best, a zero.

    Frye and Louis are the big guys we needed to keep. Fry, Louis, Barbosa, Dud & Gogi. They came through in game four that made the series tied. Then, in the rest of the series, they dug us out of the starters’ hole. If they were allowed to finish, we may have seen a championship for our Suns this year. Frye will stay. What about Louis? Nash & Alvin need to talk Sarver out of getting rid of our Brazilian Blur, just to save more cost. Leandro The Laker Killer MUST STAY!!!!

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