WCF Game 3: Suns make it a series

I’ll write more about the game tomorrow — I have a “Lost” finale that is screaming my name — but the Suns played very well in Game 3 and have made this a series. They went to a zone on defense and it puzzled the Lakers a little bit, leading to a 118-109 win.

Amare Stoudemire (justifiably) took a lot of heat over the last few days, but answered the critics by posting 42-11 on 14-of-22 shooting. Steve Nash went for 17-2-15 and Robin Lopez added 20 points.

The Suns won despite Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol combining for 24-of-38 shooting and 59 points. Lamar Odom went just 4-of-14 from the field for 10 points and fouled out of the game.

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WCF Game 2: Lakers put Suns away late

Phoenix had a chance to win this one. They were tied heading into the fourth quarter, but with their normally productive reserves in, the Suns started to fall behind. Down four with 7:48 left to play, Alvin Gentry put Steve Nash (11-3-15) back in the game, and he promptly threw the ball out of bounds and gave up a wide open three to Jordan Farmer…Lakers up nine. L.A. goes on to win, 124-112.

The other emerging edge for the Lakers is Pau Gasol (29-9-5). He’s simply better than Amare Stoudemire (18-6-1), or at least he looks better against the Suns’ porous defense. Lamar Odom (17-11-4, three steals) has also played well in this series, so well in fact that he forced Andrew Bynum (13-7 in 18 minutes) to the bench.

As for Kobe, he was in pass-first mode tonight, posting 21-5-13 on the heels of his 40-point outing in Game 1.

The Suns shot 49%, which is great, but L.A. shot 58%. They have to find a way to limit the Lakers easy shots as the series moves back to Phoenix for Game 3 and Game 4. The Suns desperately need to even the series. Otherwise, it’s over.

Russell Westbrook posterizes Lamar Odom [video]

Kobe doesn’t think the Lakers are hungry enough

“[The Cavaliers] were the hungrier team and I think that they sense that they want to win a championship, they want to go after it, so they’re playing with a sense of urgency that we played with last year. We have to make some adjustments, we have to make some improvements. Our mentality has to change a little bit playing against these teams. These teams are physical, tough-minded and hard-nosed type of teams and we need to make some decisions.”

— Kobe Bryant, via ESPN Los Angeles

Dave McMenamin titled this post, “Bryant Lashes Out At His Teammates,” but I have no problem with anything that Kobe said. It’s 100% true. The Cavs are hungrier and there is no getting around it. It will be very difficult for the Lakers to match that hunger since they just won the title last year. So to beat the Cavs, they have to play tougher and execute better. Pau Gasol looked like a big white bedsheet on a clothesline, flapping around in the wind. And Lamar Odom is not known for his toughness either. Both players have to finish their shots inside and rebound well to offset the Cavs’ hunger (or any other opponent for that matter).

That said, let’s not forget that Kobe missed 19 shots last night and went just 1-5 in the fourth quarter. If he shoots 45-50%, the Lakers probably win that game.

NBA News & Rumors: KG, Westbrook, Jackson, Bynum/Odom, Miller and Millsap

Garnett’s knee is just fine. It has been a concern in camp, but apparently KG has his explosion back. In a recent practice, he caught an alley-oop and slammed it home. The Celtics’ fortunes depend heavily on the health of Garnett’s knee. Without him at full strength, they’ll have a tough time competing with the Cavs and Magic. As an NBA fan, a healthy KG is good for the league.

Is Russell Westbrook turning into a dependable point guard? The Oklahoman reports that is A/T ratio in the preseason is 5.4. Last season it was 1.6, which is quite bad. It’s a small sample size, but if Westbrook can get his A/T ratio above 3.0, it will reap dividends for the Thunder. From a fantasy perspective, if he were to cut his turnovers in half and have the same number of assists (which would result in a A/T ratio of about 3.0), then he’d be the 15th most efficient point guard (just below Mo Williams) instead of the 21st most efficient.

Stephen Jackson will play for the Warriors, but he’s not happy about it. There’s a good chance the Warriors will acquiesce and try to fulfill Jackson’s wishes to be traded, but the 31 year-old has three more years remaining on his contract at the tune of $9.3 per season, so there’s no guarantee that a playoff team would be willing to make a move for him. Miami could move Michael Beasley, but Jackson’s contract would ruin the Heat’s financial flexibility next summer. The Suns could use Jackson to replace an aging Grant Hill, but they’re in financial trouble. The Hornets probably make the most sense, but are they willing to spend?

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