Phoenix Suns practice notes: 'Stopping Kobe is not an option'

PHOENIX — Less than 24 hours after riding 54 bench points to a near-flawless Game 4 victory, the Phoenix Suns held a short practice this morning before taking off to Los Angeles for Game 5. Most of the talk after practice was yet again concerning the Suns’ zone defense and their emphasis on taking away Pau Gasol and the Lakers’ role players, because as head coach Alvin Gentry said, “Stopping Kobe is not an option.”

Since the Suns have implemented the zone they’ve done a terrific job of limiting the role players and forcing LA into shooting 60 three-pointers in the last two games. Lamar Odom (10 points, six rebounds) was a non-factor in Game 3, and Gasol (15 points, five rebounds) was held in check Tuesday night.

Kobe went off for 38 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in Game 3, but he only took two shots in the fourth quarter thanks to a slight adjustment in the zone, and Gentry was pleased with the way the Suns played him.

“The shots he made we couldn’t do anything about,” he said. “We went back and looked at the tape today and five of the six shots he made in the second quarter, there’s no one in the NBA who could’ve defended them.”

“We weren’t going to put all our effort in trying to stop Kobe, nobody’s done it in 14 years,” Gentry added. “It’s ridiculous to think, ‘OK this is the way you’ll stop him.’ You can’t get 81 points in an NBA game if somebody’s trying to stop you.”

That leaves the Suns with the rest of the Lakers, who have been fairly ineffective against the zone defense. After Game 3 the general consensus seemed to be that you can’t play zone for more than one game without the other team figuring it out. But the Lakers still haven’t found a way to combat it, and their role players still haven’t found a way to be effective.

“I’m believing in (the zone),” said Suns forward Jared Dudley. “Stats don’t lie, they’re shooting way more threes in [Games] 3 and 4 than they did in 1 and 2. They got to the free throw line more in 1 and 2 and the zone prevents that. It makes other people shoot the ball or make it seem like they’re open. We’re going to give those shots to Lamar and Artest. It’s not disrespectful to them, it’s just showing more respect to Gasol and Kobe. You have to let other guys beat you.”

The Suns aren’t going to stop — or even limit — Kobe, but if they can continue to use the zone to take away Gasol and company they should be in every game from here on out.


  • Ropyro

    @Tony — I'm with you, man. Al sounds exactly like the Lakers fans that tick me off so much by just arrogantly dismissing the Suns. Good natured competitive banter is acceptable, but in the end respect should prevail.

  • Pej

    I'm with you, AI.

    As for the Fakers fans above, look at yourselves in the mirror, and then at your own posts BEFORE teaching others about RESPECT.

    It is DIS-respectful to call people's game a "junior high school defensive style." And your language really does not add to your class.

    I do NOT care if the rest of the world discredits what Steve Nash and company are capable of. And of course, "true" basketball fans like those of the Lakers are still too savvy to notice that Nash is a two-time MVP for many reasons.

    And remember, I wouldn't break down and cry like a baby (unlike some Lakers fans I know) if the Suns, for some unfortunate reasons, could not complete their comeback.

    GO SUNS! And I used to be a Kings fan.

  • Tony

    Speaking as a life long Lakers fan who’s seen the good times and the bad, I can say this about my boys: if they come this far just to get gutted by a junior high school defensive style then they honestly deserve to come up short. The entire reason why we built this team was to give Kobe help and if Pau, Odom, Artest and Bynum are all going to get shut down by Defense 101 then NO ONE can expect the Mamba to be able to take a team like the Suns down by himself.

    I hate to bring up 2004 but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. A stacked Lakers team gets a blow to the nose by a squad with a ton of role players and a tough defensive approach and suddenly they look shook. I know this isn’t the same team we had for the Finals that year, but for any body who has been with the Lake Show for the long haul, it’s hard to forget what an underdog can do if the more talented team loses heart.

    With all that said… GO LAKERS! :-D

  • Al in Tucson

    Speaking as a lifelong Phoenix (Arizona) Suns fan, I want to tell Tony this…shut the Heck up, nobody’s gonna feel sorry for you or your team, if and when the Lakers become a homebound team in the Finals it won’t be because a bunch of role players did it it’ll be because we had the smarts to beat you at your own game, you are the same as the s#*t talking Jackson, look into the Sun baby and you’ll see how it burns!

  • Tony

    You come off more like a no-class Los Angeles bandwagon b^@th, Al. Talking a bunch of trash that hasn’t been backed up with a result to the series yet. I speak as a fan whose considering this series from all angles and you sound off like a little kid wearing a Steve Nash jersey and trying to convince people on the internet that you’re a contributor to your teams success. I thought only the Laker “homers” did that?

    My experience on these boards has been great so far and I admire the Phoenix fans for their class, but it’s nice to know that there’s a$$holes in your apple trees too. Keep talking, I’m sure your BS is going to have a huge impact on how the next game plays out. Idiot.

  • Tony

    Ropyro, I’m with you. I feel like a goodwill ambassador sometimes since I’ve been following my boys through the playoffs and visiting boards for OKC, Utah and now Phoenix, and I would be the first to say that LA fans have embarrassed themselves with the way they show up talking trash.

    You can always tell a bandwagon fan by how ignorant they sound. Anybody who was with the Suns OR Lakers this season had to go through some rough patches and drama and had to watch their teams go down hard. Talking trash like your team can’t lose is just funny to me, since a series like this has nothing to do with the ones that came before it. Suns are legit, and these ignorant clowns who come on these boards predicting blowouts are going to have a real sad summer if they underestimate what Phoenix can do to our guys.

    Of course that kind of fan doesn’t care about that because they cry about the loss for a week then forget the team exists until NEXT June. LOL.

  • http://morgamic.com/ Mike

    Tony – zone works because LA lacks perimeter shooters. But if the Lakers lose it’s not because the zone shut them down. 49% and hovering around 50% for pretty much the entire time Phx was in zone doesn’t shout defensive domination to me.

    The FT margin I think is a key stat. The deltas in Phoenix wins have been pretty significant. And I don’t think they are getting gift calls either — the Lakers don’t seem to be moving their feet, or they are just out of position because of the ball movement Phoenix is used to generating via picks and penetration.

    So, shot distribution caused by the zone is a factor, yes, but the lower FT attempts per game is key. More jumpshots, less FTs and less charity points. The other part is that when they do miss a jumper, it’s triggering early offense which is pretty devastating to the Lakers because it negates their size and length with speed.

    So, I’m wondering what the FT distribution will be like in LA. There will be some home court calls, no doubt, but will the aggressiveness be there for LA to get calls in the paint?

    Aside from that, Phoenix can dictate the pace and outcome of the game by its shooting % and rebounding. If they win _true_ FG% and rebounds, they win game 5.

    One thing I really wonder is if LA is getting tired. Starters are playing big minutes for LA and we’re seeing less hustle, mental lapses leading to turnovers and lost rebounds. What do you guys think?

    All things aside, this is a wonderful series and I’d rather not have it turn into a shouting match. When you guys start slinging mud it just sounds like political bipartisanship BS and nobody likes that.

    I’m looking forward to game 5. The best part is nobody knows which Lakers team will show up. Nobody knows which Phoenix team will show up. It’s game 5 and will probably determine the West champ.

    Doesn’t get much better than that in basketball. We all win no matter who loses.

    Now, group hug everybody!

  • http://www.auterytech.com/ Steve

    Ropyro, I'm with you. I feel like a goodwill ambassador sometimes since I've been following my boys through the playoffs and visiting boards for OKC, Utah and now Phoenix, and I would be the first to say that LA fans have embarrassed themselves with the way they show up talking trash.

    You can always tell a bandwagon fan by how ignorant they sound. Anybody who was with the Suns OR Lakers this season had to go through some rough patches and drama and had to watch their teams go down hard. Talking trash like your team can't lose is just funny to me, since a series like this has nothing to do with the ones that came before it. Suns are legit, and these ignorant clowns who come on these boards predicting blowouts are going to have a real sad summer if they underestimate what Phoenix can do to our guys.

    Of course that kind of fan doesn't care about that because they cry about the loss for a week then forget the team exists until NEXT June. LOL.

  • Tony

    Pej, I’m sorry but you lose all credibility in talking down to people by admitting that you used to be a Kings fan. Let me guess, you liked them when they were hot a few years back and now that they became a joke you decided to get with a winner?

    Say whatever else you want. I’ve been blue and gold since I was old enough to sit up in my seat at GWF in ’87 and have seen a lot of lean years for LA. You can use cute little insults like Fakers fans (Which I prefer to the Rapers comments some of y’all were making on the Game Two boards… stay classy) but it just shows that you’re about gimmicks and the latest flavor and have no real stake in the GAME. It’s easy to talk smack at other fans but in the end, the best team will win.

    And Mike thank you for your response. I love the DDL, I love reading Valley of the Suns (Go ahead, call me traitor LOL) and you called it here. A poster on another Game 4 thread had an analysis like this, noting that zone (And it IS junior high school defense, even Gentry called it “girly” while he was being sarcastic, so let’s not get it twisted because we’re suddenly bleeding orange and purple, Sacramento) is Phil’s bread and butter.

    I’m not burning my jersey or calling it a season but it also looks like LA is realizing this too. They need their COACH to provide answers, not sound bites in the post game that sound like some of the trash that gets posted on these boards. I still stand by what I’ve been saying all along: if all it takes to drop a team is Defense 101 then they have to admit that they got BEAT. Not by whistles, not by whoever the hero of a game is (We all know it’s Kobe anyways… j/k) but by better BASKETBALL.

    And if the Suns do that, I’ll be the first one on here congratulating Phoenix, which is more than a lot of the haters would bother with. :-)

  • Tony

    I messed that up a little: the other poster noted that zone completely upsets the TRIANGLE which is Phil’s bread and butter.

    Talking about adjustments is one thing but making them happen is something real different. Gentry has proven that and now it’s time for Phil to stop teasing retirement and whatever and to FOCUS ON RESULTS.