Game 4 Pre-Game Report
By Craig Morgan
Suns coach Alvin Gentry offered Lakers coach Phil Jackson a deal on Monday.
�We won�t play zone if they won�t throw it to Kobe (Bryant),� Gentry said.
You can guess how that offer was received. No matter. The Suns aren�t concerned with vanity. If they have to play what some writers have called �a girlie zone� to stop the Lakers, so be it.
�You try to win by whatever means necessary,� forward Amar�e Stoudemire said.
Phoenix could certainly use another performance like Stoudemire�s 42-point, 11-rebound showing in Game 3. But games like that are hard to duplicate. The Lakers are likely to collapse on Stoudemire tonight, meaning other players will have to step up if the Suns want to send this series back to L.A. for anything more than a perfunctory fifth game.
Here are five key aspects to watch in Game 4.
1. How much zone? Gentry was as stunned as anyone that the Suns� zone defense was so effective against L.A. in Game 3, particularly because it looked so bad in practice. But the Lakers were somewhat passive against the zone, shooting 32 three-pointers, and the Suns did a good job closing off the seams. Most impressive, the Suns rebounded well (normally a weakness of the zone) because the high men did a good job of coming back to the basket and helping out on missed L.A. shots. Gentry fully expects the Lakers to adjust to the zone tonight, which means we�ll only likely see it in spurts � unless, of course, it�s working.
2. Monster Nash: His nose is broken and his eye is still bruised, but Steve Nash keeps on plugging. He had his most efficient game of the series in Game 3 — a 17-point, 15-assist, one turnover night, but Nash hasn�t had one of those big scoring nights we see periodically in the playoffs. He�s only averaging 13.7 points per game in this series. With Stoudemire likely blanketed and the Suns� bench struggling, is this the night Nash goes off?
3. Andrew Bynum: The Lakers center says the pain is his knee (slightly torn meniscus) is no worse, but he labored to get up and down the floor in Game 3. Bynum was pretty effective in Games 1 and 2, so was Game 3 an aberration or is the pace of this series getting to him, making him a weakness that the Suns can exploit?
4. Robin Lopez: The Suns center is becoming increasingly comfortable in this series, as evidenced by his 20-point (8-of-10 field goals) Game 3. With the Lakers likely focusing even more of their attention on Stoudemire tonight, can Lopez repeat the effort? If so, we may start talking about the Suns� length instead of the Lakers.
5. Channing Frye: Yep, we brought it up again. Frye is 1 for 20 shooting in this series, a staggering 5 percent. Gentry said he will continue to go to Frye in hopes that he breaks out of his shooting slump, but expect the leash to be much shorter tonight, even if it means taking a big body out of post defense. Frye is killing the Suns with his ineffectiveness and his insecurity. It�s time to step up.