Even the staunchest L.A. supporters probably expected a loss Sunday night. Eight straight playoff wins, and there was reason to believe a slip up was coming. It’s clockwork. Plus, it could be argued that no other Western Conference squad has shown as much resiliency as Phoenix has this past season. They went from darlings to dead to playoff surprises, all in one season. Predictions on how they will come out in Game 4 will be all over the place. The Lakers? It’s never a secret what they need to take the W.
Key #1: Less jump shots
22. When shooting less than that number of treys, the Lakers are undefeated this postseason. Over? They sit at a pedestrian 2-2. L.A. threw up almost as many threes (32) in their initial visit to Arizona as they did in the first two games combined (33). It all comes back to Kobe. When he gets into the post, the triangle seems to settle. The bigs still get their touches and the Mamba is closer to his target. But, sometimes he takes it back to 2005. And that itchy trigger finger of his always rubs off on the other wing players. Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom combined to shoot 1-9 from deep in game 3. That’s too many.
The last time the Lakers took over 30 threes was during their first round Game 3 loss at Oklahoma City. And we all know how they responded to that in the next game. Don’t expect similar results this time.
Key #2: Supporting cast needs to step up
The purple and gold got 59 points from Bryant and Pau Gasol in Game 3. Plus, they got an unexpected 18 from Derek Fisher. And while hardly a soul expects the 35-year old point guard to bring an encore tonight, the rest of the supporting cast must play better. Ron Artest had an up-and-down night, hitting a few shots in the third quarter but was otherwise silent. Odom was good for 10 and 6, solid enough for October games, not in the WCF. And the rest of the bench should probably aim for slightly more than 8 points. Just sayin’. As for Odom, you never know what he is thinking about during a game or where he’s at. Ask Bill Simmons.
Key #3: Killer instinct
There’s no need to reiterate the Lakers’ largest Achilles heel. For much of the past two seasons, L.A. has won all of the games they’ve had to win. But, they’ve struggled at times in games like this. Tonight’s matchup doesn’t fit that do-or-die term, but Game 4 is normally the swing game in a 2-1 series. The Lakers can effectively wrap up this series nicely with a win tonight. Up 3-1, there wouldn’t be much doubt they would cap it with a finisher back at Staples Center.
At some point, you have to think Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye will string together some buckets. If the Lakers can make it through that early second quarter bench jolt, and if they can solve the zone defense to an extent, the Suns should be in trouble. Phoenix has no answers for L.A.’s best players. If they can get the rest of the team to fall in line and play smart, the Lakers will have a great opportunity to win.
What do you think? Will the Lakers win Game 4?
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