By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: May 18, 2010
Week off or no week off? That is the question.
The Suns, who had captured six-straight wins coming into Monday’s Game 1 matchup against the Lakers, flashed visible signs of rust after spending eight days waiting to play their next game. The layoff was a positive in that it allowed center Robin Lopez some extra time to rehabilitate his injured back, but the time off also seemed to have put the team out of synch defensively.
Two-time MVP Steve Nash said the week off effects different players in different ways, so we took it upon ourselves to see what the Suns players thought.
Jason Richardson: “I don’t think the week hampered us at all. We played pretty well in the first quarter. I think we just lost a little bit of focus, we had some breakdowns, we didn’t shoot the ball well and they played well."
If Richardson could have the week off again he would say, “Let’s do it again.”
Channing Frye: “I got good looks, my rhythm was just off. Maybe I was just a little too anxious to shoot.”
As a team Frye said that the week off “probably upset the team’s rhythm. But it’s not an excuse, they weren’t off, they hit tough shots.”
Looking back, if he could have the week off again, Frye said, “I don’t know, man. We’ll see at the end of the series. I’ll be able to tell you then.”
Louis Amundson: “It would be foolish to say it didn’t (affect us). But they had the same amount of time off too. But being at home, it may have given them a little bit of an edge from a timing and rhythm standpoint.”
If he could have the week back, Amundson said, “I don’t know if you can look back and say one way or the other whether we would’ve won if we would've played sooner. It’s tough to go that route and play ‘what if’ games. We try to just move forward and get back into the rhythm defensively. We shot the ball well, so I don’t think it was too much of an issue there. It’s tough to say what it was, but we were out-of-synch.”
Jared Dudley: “In a perfect world, two-three days off (would’ve been ideal). I agree that after that, to a certain degree (the rust begins to accumulate).
Amar’e Stoudemire: (On whether having an extra week so Lopez could be healthy for this series) “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Grant Hill: “We did enough to stay prepared, although we didn’t kill ourselves. We’re not going to use (the week off) as excuse though.”
Leandro Barbosa: “I don’t think it hurt us because it would hurt them at the same time. It happens. We had a good percentage on our shots, but we didn’t play like the series before. The playoffs are all about adjustments and I think we’ll be fine for the next game. We need to set the tone. We watched Kobe set the tone.”
Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry: “I don’t know. That’s hard to answer. I don’t want to say a week took away all of our rhythm because they’re a very good defensive team and they did a good job against us. We’ll see tomorrow night.”
As of whether he would have liked to shorten the break between the end of the Spurs series and the beginning of the Lakers series, Gentry said, “Well, I can say that now because we had a week off and we didn’t play well, but what if we had two days off and didn’t play well? I would’ve said, ‘Boy, I wish we had a week.’ So I don’t think we can go back and look at that.”
Steve Nash: “I don’t think our rhythm was that bad, we just didn’t make shots that we normally make. We came out and took the lead early, so you’ll have to ask guys to a man how they felt. I’m glad for Robin though. It did give us a chance to get Robin back.”
It's interesting how twice this season the Suns have played the Lakers after an extended layoff. The same scenario occurred with the Lakers in March.
After taking an unheard of six days off in early March, the Suns seemed to have lost their rhythm when they faced the defending champs after their "Spring Break." After shooting 43 percent from the floor and an abysmal 29 percent from downtown against the Lakers on March 12, the Suns followed that game by winning 10 straight.
We'll see if they’ll have a similar reaction Wednesday.
Jared Dudley From the 619
Jared Dudley, who is playing in his first-ever playoffs and Conference Finals, is especially enjoying the added bonus of playing in Los Angeles. A Southern California native, Dudley grew up in San Diego and was a fan of the Lakers as a youngster.
Dudley, who trains in LA during the offseason, cites Magic Johnson as one of his favorite two players growing up. The Suns swingman said his mother was a Lakers fan and his father was a Bulls fan.
"I was a Lakers fan," Dudley admitted. "Anyone who lives in California has to love the Lakers. Now (for me), not so much."
Dudley had friends and family on hand in Game 1. He promised that they were rooting for the Suns.
Battle for the Paint
The Lakers won the battle of the paint three of the four times they faced the Suns this season, with the first occasion being and outright pummeling. In their first meeting this season, the Suns were outscored 78-48 in the paint.
Unfortunately for the Suns, Monday’s contest was very reminiscent of that initial meeting. The Lakers established themselves around the basket, outscoring the Suns by 14 in the paint in the first half.
Both Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were able to get to rim, with Gasol shooting 10-of-13 from the floor and Odom shooting 9-of-15 from the field.
“Gasol had a great game and had some good post up moves, but for the most part it was them breaking down our perimeter defense and driving in the paint and creating situations that way,” Gentry said. “It wasn't exactly the post up plays and the big guys. It was the middle drives and the perimeter players driving in the paint.”
Lakers reserve guard Jordan Farmar was one of those culprits, coming off the bench to register 10 points and five assists. The Lakers would continue their dominance in that department all evening, outscoring the Suns 56-36 for the game in the paint.
One of the reasons the Suns have been so successful this season has been their ability to execute their defensive game plans. As a team, they’ve made considerable strides in their ability to take away an opponent’s strength.
Whether it’s through double-teaming a tough low-post threat or closing out on accurate perimeter shooters, the Suns have been able to adjust to whatever a team throws at them. In the first round, the Suns were able to keep Portland’s Andre Miller out of the paint, while in the second round, they were able to limit Tim Duncan’s effectiveness in the mid-post.
In fact, the Suns entered Monday’s game with stingier defense than the Lakers this postseason. They were allowing less points, had the second-best scoring differential of all teams in the playoffs, allowed less 20-point scorers and permitted less 30-point quarters from their opponents than the Lakers.
Unfortunately, that improved defense was nowhere to be found in Game 1. The Suns surrendered three 30-point quarters in the contest.
“I think our room for error is small,” Nash said after Game 1. “We've got to play really, really solid defensively, try to make everything as tough as possible, try to limit the paint touches and catches and offensive rebounds. I thought tonight we gave a few too many of those obviously but also a few too many breakdowns.”
"They're a lot bigger than we are," Nash said."They had a lot of points in the paint. They're probably going to continue to be taller than us as the series goes on."
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