x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Season almost set on Suns

Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers' offence are proving too much for Phoenix to handle, Gregory Dole reports.

Lamar Odom of the La Lakers beats the Phoenix Suns' defence during Game 2.
Lamar Odom of the La Lakers beats the Phoenix Suns' defence during Game 2.

The Phoenix Suns have long been derided for being an offensive team that cannot play defence. This year, some suggested that the Suns had changed their ways. Better check that. Two games into the Western Conference finals, the Los Angeles Lakers have shown the Suns still cannot play defence, at least not when they face elite offences such as the Lakers.

"We can't slow them down," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said, after the Lakers averaged 126 points a game in easily winning the first two games of the series. "I thought we played well offensively, but every time we tried to make an adjustment to slow them down offensively, they would go somewhere else. There's a good reason they're the world champs, but we'll keep plugging away, keep trying." Game 3 is tonight in Phoenix.

Kobe Bryant has dominated the series for the Lakers, scoring 40 points in the first game and handing out a play-off career high 13 assists in the second. His baseline, turnaround fadeaway jump shot at the end of the first quarter in Game 2 was proof enough that Bryant is at the top of his game. He was forced to launch a shot with a ridiculously high degree of difficulty. The shot did not even touch the rim as it swished through the net.

Amare Stoudemire is taking a lot of heat for the Suns' defensive problem, but he insisted on Friday that it is not all his fault. "I'm doing everything the coaching staff is asking me to do, every single thing, from fronting the post, to doubling Kobe, to helping out," he told the Associated Press, "Those guys are big down there." Gentry said the media were "making way, way too much" of Stoudemire's culpability.

"We had a lot of guys out of position on certain plays. To say that he's the guy that's out of position is not an accurate statement. That's not true at all." Steve Nash said Phoenix must rediscover their chemistry and drive if they hope to rally against LA. "They're a more talented team than we are," Nash said. "They're a more balanced team. It's probably not a stretch in most people's minds just to say they're a better team than we are.

"So how do we overcome that? That's just all spirit, fight and belief. We've got to rely heavily on those characteristics with this group." * With agencies