Kobe Bryant’s Near Triple Double Can’t Save the L.A. Lakers From Themselves

Kobe Bryant was definitely prepared to face the Phoenix Suns in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals, but his near triple double was not enough to offset the Los Angeles Lakers' glaring flaws in other areas of the game.

On most evenings a 36-point, 11-assist, nine-rebound effort from Bryant would be enough to clinch a victory—but the Lakers were facing a desperate Phoenix Suns team who employed the most basic strategies to climb back into the series.

The Suns had success using the pick and roll offense in the first two games of the series, but on Sunday night they were the beneficiaries of a fully engaged Amar'e Stoudemire who dominated the paint.

Stoudemire, who has been the object of relentless criticism for his lackluster play, responded with a 42-point, 11-rebound performance, which erased all the memories from the first two games.

Phoenix may have the NBA's best two man scheme in point guard Steve Nash and Stoudemire, and on this night the Lakers had no answer for Nash's "pocket passes" to Stoudemire after he rolled to the basket.

Los Angeles has long been troubled by the pick and roll, but they have never looked as helpless as they did on Sunday, with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum providing Suns-like resistance in their defensive efforts.

I'm sure Phoenix fans will take that as a slight, but the Suns actually did perform a little better on the defensive end, although it was due in large part to the decision to employ a zone defense.

Under most circumstances, the Lakers would prey on a zone defense by forcing the ball into the post to their larger players, but in this game they fell victim to the normal response to the gimmick defense.

Los Angeles lofted 32 three pointers and only connected on nine, as they attempted to prove their long distance artistry from the first two games was no mistake.

It was a critical mistake, becaus...

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