Phoenix Suns: 3 Keys to Victory Over the Lakers in Game 3

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Phoenix Suns Key to Victory #1 – React to Los Angeles’s Defensive Paint Adjustments

This one feels a bit obvious given Los Angeles’s superior height and strength compared to that of the Suns, as they often enjoy the services of Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, and Davis as anchors down low. But even amidst all this depth for the defending champs, Ayton still had his way with the LA giants during Game 1.

Scoring inside with ease and efficiency while gathering almost as many offensive rebounds than the entire Lakers team on Sunday, Ayton proved too fast and explosive to guard for a discombobulated and uninspired looking Davis. Drummond struggled even more mightily against the former Wildcat, often appearing lost on switches during pick and roll sequences screened by Ayton.

But Game 2 took a different route as far as paint control goes, ending oppositely as well solely on the account of this. After not playing at all during this series’s inaugural contest, Gasol fielded 20 minutes off the bench for the Lakers, not doing anything too flashy, but disrupting Phoenix’s offense with decisive shifts and anticipatory instincts that helped him bother shots and passes through the lane. The Lakers also won the rebounding battle this time 39-31, surely improving on their ugly 33-47 loss on the boards the game before.

With the Lakers having improved their paint defense during Game 2 and consequently securing a road victory, the Suns must try and make a response for themselves down low, first countering the recently inserted Gasol and the high game IQ which he brings to the floor.

To carry out this goal, Phoenix needs to implement less pick and roll sets featuring Ayton as the screener where Gasol’s mindfulness between him and Booker/Paul cannot hurt their offensive flow. Instead look to just feed Ayton the ball while posting up Gasol one on one, where his superior athleticism will help him give him an advantage on the attack.

However, Drummond still remains part of the equation, having still played 24 minutes during Game 2 despite Gasol’s reemergence. During pick and roll plays featuring Ayton as the screener, Drummond still looked dazed during both Game 1 and Game 2. With this considered, the Suns should continue to run the pick-and-role with Ayton as the screener, at least until Drummond proves his adequacy against it. It all just comes down to adjusting properly to whatever big Frank Vogel decides to ride with.