Alvin Gentry asked his team to step up its defensive game as they came into the Western Conference Finals with the Lakers. He asked them to front to keep the ball out of the post, to pressure the ball out of Kobe Bryant’s hands, he asked them to do things a little bit differently and count on rotations. He asked them to take their defense to the next level.
Didn’t work. Not even close. In two games the Lakers have scored 132.6 points per 100 possessions, just a ridiculous number (best regular season number was 112.7, by Phoenix, ironically). The Lakers have done whatever they wanted.
And while we and others have piled on Amar’e Stoudemire for his defense — and it has not been good — the problem is much larger than one man. This is a whole team failure. There were no rotations behind Stoudemire. There was terrible communication and recognition of assignments. Watch these videos for the details. It was a team failure.
So the Suns are going back to simple back home for Game 3. Back to what they did prior to this series, Gentry said. Maybe that will help.
The Suns are also counting on scoring more at home. They will play at a little faster pace, and they hope to suck the Lakers into that pace more. Some of their role players will need to step up — backup guards Goran Dragic and Leandro Barbosa were a combined 2-10 with six points in Game 2. They should — they need to — play better at home.
Then there is Channing Frye, who has been a disaster this series and needs to show up if the Suns are to have any chance.
The Lakers role players have stepped up — Jordan Farmar is 8-11, Ron Artest is 12-23 and Shannon Brown 5-9 in this series. The Suns need to slow them down, because if the Lakers stars and subs are scoring you are doomed.
The Suns may be doomed anyway. They cannot change the core problems of size and skill inside. But they can mask the problem with some better scoring and some improved defense. That may come at home.
Just keep it simple stupid, and hope that is enough.