Steve Nash looked almost as dead as the Suns' defense.
The Phoenix Suns: Well...that was ugly. I'm talking "Steve Nash's nasty, bulging, black-and-blue eye socket" ugly. Game 1 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals turned into such a laugher, here's what Kobe Bryant was doing during the second half of the fourth quarter:
Jesus! I didn't know Sasquatch was Mamba's personal masseuse.
So much for the improved Phoenix defense, huh? The Lakers scored 128 points on 58 percent shooting, hit eight of their 17 three-point attempts, outscored the Suns 56-38 in the paint and got 44 points out of their bench. And the majority of those bench points came before garbage time ensued.
A lot of people are writing poetry about Mamba's performance -- he had his 11th 40-point playoff performance, and 21 of those points came in the third quarter -- but the real story of this game was the hot shooting of his teammates. Pau Gasol (21 points, 5 assists, 2 blocked shots) went 10-for-13, Lamar Odom (19 points, 19 bords) was 9-for-15, and even the scrubs (Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown) were 7-or-12.
And damn, even amatuer porn directors don't allow this much penetration, unless there's some kind of penetration-specific fetish going on. Or so I've heard. Anyway, the Lakers were 22-for-30 at the rim. That's a 73 percent conversion rate. That's 44 points on field goals alone. And that penetration led to wide-open shots from distance, which might help explain why the Lakers were 13-for-24 (54 percent) from 16-23 feet.
As you'd expect, Phoenix was outrebounded 42-34, although that deficit was bigger when the game was still in doubt. The Suns found out that when your opponent doesn't miss and grabs all the boards, it's awfully hard to win.
The bottom line: The Suns are still too short.
The Suns' only highlight from Game 1.
And despite the fact that they scored 107 points on 50 percent shooting, the Phoenix offense struggled. The Suns managed only 4 fast break points while giving up 19 points off only 12 turnovers. Steve Nash (13 points and 13 assists in only 28 minutes) and Amar'''''e Stoudemire (23 points on 8-for-13 from the field and 7-for-10 at the line) did their thing, but Grant Hill shot 1-for-5 and finished with almost as many fouls (4) as points (7). Even more troubling -- although you probably could have predicted it -- was the misdirected shooting of Channing Frye (1-for-8, including 1-for-7 from downtown) and Jared Dudley (1-for-5, all threes).
If those two guys can't spread the floor by drilling treys, the L.A.'s bigs can just clog up the paint and disrupt the flow of the Suns' offense.
But, again, offense really isn't the problem. Defense is. And unless the Suns are allowed to play on stilts, or David Stern makes Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom play on their knees, I'm not sure what Phoenix can do to counter all that size.
The Suns' psyche: For a team that finally got the Spurs monkey off their back, the Suns seemed to get pretty down on themselves. There were an awful lot of slumped shoulders in the fourth quarter, even when they were still technically within striking distance. Guys stopped challenging -- Kobe took a couple shots in Jason Richardson's mug, and Richardson didn't even bother to put a hand up -- and looked ready to concede the game. That's never a good sign. It's never too late to start building momentum for the next game
The Suns' outside shooting: Brick city, baby. Although they were 17-for-26 at the rim (65 percent) and 12-for-22 (55 percent) from 16-23 feet, the Suns were only 5-for-22 from the Land of Three. Look, we all know Phoenix lives and dies by the three...and they have to connect from distance if they're going to make this series competitive.
Channing Frye and Jared Dudley: Like I said, 2-for-13 from the field, 2-for-12 on threes.
Grant Hill: It was announced before the series began that Hill would be defending Manba. When asked how he was going to do it, Grant said: "You just have to make a guy like that work." I can only assume Hill's waiting for Game 2 to carry out that "make Kobe work" plan. Although, in all fairness to Grant, he had to deal with The Phantom Foul Menace last night.
Hill also got his surgically repaired ankles re-broken. There's better video of this, but the "commentary track" on this one cracks me up.
Here's the same play from another angle:
Amar''''''e Stoudemire: So...3 rebounds in 35 minutes, eh? Nice. Oh, and how 'bout that defense on Lamar Odom...which is best described via this picture sent in by Stephanie G:
Robin Lopez: Sure, the big man had 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting in his first game in months...only to have the Suns suffer their worst loss in months. It's all Robin's fault! Start Jarron Collins!
Actually, Robin was the only Suns player with a positive plus-minus score (+2).
It's okay, Robin. I was just kidding.
Update! Steve Nash, quote machine: Submitted by Dick Sullivan: "They're [Lakers] probably going to continue to be taller than us as the series goes on."
Genetics: Seriously, I will always be a little bitter that I can't do stuff like this. Well, unless it's on a Nerf hoop agains a 10-year-old girl.
Craig Sager's suit:Dan B demanded I include this picture in WotN...and rightly so. No matter how low the bar gets, Sager always manages to limbo his way under it. If you think about it, Sager is the Wilt Chamberlain of bad suits. He's putting up numbers so unthinkable that nobody will ever, ever reach them.