Amar’e Stoudemire has an amazing combination of size, strength, and athleticism. There’s no reason he can’t dominate whenever he puts his mind to it. In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, he finally put his mind to it.
Ultra-aggressive from the opening tip, Amar’e scored 42 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He played harder defensively, even taking a charge in the third quarter.
Stoudemire’s performance showed that he is worth a max contract. He endured a onslaught of well-deserved criticism in the days following a horrible performance in Game 2, but didn’t make any excuses or lose confidence in his ability.
The Suns’ best defense against Pau Gasol is to attack him on the defensive end in pick and rolls. Amar’e and Robin Lopez destroyed the Lakers in Game 3–Lopez erupted for 20 points in just 29 minutes.
The attacking Suns shot 37-of-42 from the foul line in the game, while the Lakers attempted just 20 free throws.
Alvin Gentry’s strategic adjustment also helped the Suns take Game 3.
The Suns scrapped the double-teaming concept against Kobe and turned to a 2-3 zone. Although zone defenses rarely work in the NBA, the Suns did just enough to bother the Lakers. L.A. settled for long jumpers and 3-pointers against the zone, ignoring Pau Gasol for long stretches of the second half.
Kobe Bryant, who finished with 36 points, nine rebounds, and 11 assists, didn’t shoot his first free throw until the third quarter. He did much of his damage from outside the lane and didn’t look to penetrate against the zone.
Phil Jackson and his staff appeared to be caught off guard by the zone defense. Expect the Lakers to make adjustments, starting by pounding the ball inside.
Both teams played well throughout, making Game 3 a delightful watch in what has been a very disappointing playoffs thus far. The Suns might not beat the Lakers, but they won’t stop fighting.
Here are some other notes from Game 3:
-Steve Nash was brilliant–offensively at least. 17 points, 15 assists, and one turnover. He was responsible for leaving Derek Fisher open throughout the game: Fisher finished with 18 points. That really shouldn’t happen.
-Jason Richardson had 27 points in Game 2. Somehow, his 19 points in Game 3 seemed much more important. He shot 4-of-7 from behind the arc and hit a number of big shots.
-Robin Lopez is an ugly, ugly, man. He looked exhausted by the end of the game, but he did work throughout. His offensive game is much improved and he won’t back down from Pau Gasol.
-Andrew Bynum is basically worthless at this point. He played seven minutes in Game 3, scoring two points and committing four fouls. The Lakers would be wise to shut him down for the remainder of the playoffs.
-TNT analyst Doug Collins spoke briefly about his new job as head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, saying he was excited to go back to the City of Brotherly Love.
Game 4 is Tuesday evening. Don’t bank on a Celtics-Lakers finals quite yet.