Phoenix Suns' 3-point struggles lead to big deficit in Game 1 loss to Lakers
When the Phoenix Suns can't hit a three-pointer, they realize their chances of winning the Western Conference finals are a long shot.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - When the Phoenix Suns can't hit a three-pointer, they realize their chances of winning the Western Conference finals are a long shot.
The Suns went 5 for 22 on three-pointers in their series-opening 128-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night, getting practically nothing from the most impressive area of their offence.
Phoenix made 101 three-pointers while hitting nearly 42 per cent from behind the arc in the first two rounds of the post-season, easily the best numbers for any playoff team. The Suns relied heavily on the three-pointer to beat Portland and San Antonio, but their touch abandoned them at Staples Center.
So was the Lakers' defence or the Suns' streaky shooting responsible for what likely was the decisive factor in Game 1 on Phoenix's end of the court?
"It was a combination," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. "They do a really good job of running you off from three-point shots. We have struggled some against them from the three-point line. We had a lot of shots available to us that we didn't make. They're No. 1 in three-point percentage defence in the league, so they do a good job of closing out on that."
Phoenix struggled both with open three-point shots and contested tries against the Lakers. Channing Frye went 1 for 7, and fellow reserve Jared Dudley was 1 for 5 after the duo combined for 34 three-pointers in the first two rounds.
Victoria's Steve Nash was 0 for 2 behind the line, while three-point dynamo Goran Dragic missed his only attempt in nearly 21 minutes of play. Only Jason Richardson enjoyed the Suns' usual success, going 3 for 6 to keep his post-season three-point shooting per centage above 50 per cent.
"We didn't really do everything we were supposed to do, but I can't take a win away from them," Richardson said. "They came in and played a great game."
While the Suns led the NBA in three-point shooting during the regular season, the Lakers were the NBA's best at defending the three-pointer. Los Angeles' perimeter players give the credit to seven-foot duo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who patrol the paint well enough to allow the Lakers' outside defenders to overplay long shots.
"I think mostly they missed shots," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They had a good look. There were a couple of times we kept them off balance, some of their three-point shooters, but for the most part, I think they'll be back on beam come Wednesday night."
The Suns' bench didn't have its usual influence on the game, either. While Phoenix's 10-deep rotation had caused trouble for its previous playoff opponents, the Lakers' inconsistent bench met the challenge posed by Frye, Dudley and Dragic.
Led by 19 points and 19 rebounds from Lamar Odom, the Lakers' reserves outscored Phoenix's bench 44-35 — a rarity for Los Angeles, which often isn't as deep as its opponents.
"They just kept putting it on us, and that second unit really had a lot of energy," Frye said. "They really forced us to shoot, and we were making a lot of mental mistakes. Usually it's not like that, but tonight was just one of those nights."