Channing Frye’s first shot, an open look from 3-point range, clanked off the rim Tuesday night. But when he finally splashed in a 3 a few minutes later, the Phoenix Suns were off and running–literally.
Frye ended his series-long shooting slump with four 3-pointers–all of which came in the midst of Suns’ runs–and the dynamic Phoenix bench outscored the Lakers’ bench 54-20.
More importantly, the bench absolutely smothered the Lakers in the fourth quarter.
Kobe Bryant was brilliant in the third but appeared to tire in the fourth. He struggled to get good looks against Jared Dudley and didn’t attempt to get to the basket.
Despite doing almost nothing in the first and second quarters, Kobe finished with 38 points on 15-of-22 shooting, including a playoff career-high six 3-point buckets.
Pau Gasol was nowhere to be found throughout the game, including in the fourth. He scored 15 points and grabbed just five rebounds, and once again got schooled by Amar’e Stoudemire.
Stoudemire led Phoenix with 21 points.
Surprisingly, the Suns’ zone defense continued to baffle the Lakers. L.A. launched 28 3-pointers and shot just 13 free throws in what was a fairly physical game. By the fourth quarter, a passive 2-3 zone became a crowd-inspired aggressive 2-3 zone with man-to-man principles.
Momentum is a powerful thing.
The Lakers need to regroup. They clearly can’t shut down the Suns, who have scored at least 112 points in three of the four games. L.A. must attack the zone and must get the ball inside to Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
As amazing as Kobe has been in the series, he has settled for jump shots and hasn’t been getting to the free throw line. Kobe and the Lakers know they can get any shot they want, but are content to shoot open shots from the perimeter.
This series has been very entertaining and well-played. The Suns clearly have a something in Goran Dragic, who prior to the 2009 playoffs was best known for getting obliterated by Derrick Rose. Dragic had eight points and eight assists in 18 minutes in Game 4, including a wonderful spinning layup in the fourth quarter.
Game 5 is Thursday night on TNT.