Phoenix Suns-LA Lakers: Bench Provides Lift, Phoenix Outshoots Los Angeles

Very few teams put an entire second unit on the floor during playoff games. The Phoenix Suns are one of those few teams.

Alvin Gentry spent all season developing roles for Goran Dragic, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley and it paid off on Tuesday night. Phoenix’s bench provided 54 of the team’s 115 points and 23 of the team’s 51 rebounds.  This included key runs in the second and fourth quarters that helped the team to win Game Four 115-105, evening the Western Conference Finals series against the Los Angeles Lakers at 2-2.

The easy way to explain it is to focus on LA’s offensive struggles due to PHX’s zone defense.

Although the zone didn’t necessarily stop the Lakers—they shot over 50 percent all game long and only finished below it (49.5 percent) because of consecutive misses late—it did affect their shot selection. LA shot 28 three pointers and only 13 FTs. Add to that the fact that most of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum’s touches were clean ups.

More importantly, LA lacked defensive awareness. The Lakers were out rebounded 51-36, could not stop the Suns in the transition, and didn’t protect the perimeter at all.

Kobe scored 38 points on 22 shots with 10 assists in 45 minutes, hitting a career playoff high six three pointers, and yet the Lakers lost.

Moving forward, do not expect Phoenix’s bench to have the same sort of impact as the venue shifts back to Southern California, because role players perform better at home with the home crowd behind them.  But now we can all see a scenario where this series goes seven, an outcome which seemed impossible after the way the Lakers handled the Suns in the first couple of games.

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