Solving the Zone Defense: Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol Must Take the Lead

It's not rocket science.

The Phoenix Suns' Game Three victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals was due to an inability to adjust to the Suns' zone defense, and the Lakers' 115-106 loss in Game Four bears parallel undertones.

The zone defense actually goes against the Suns' principles because they would much rather play at a faster tempo, but trying to defend the Lakers' in single coverage proved to be impossible for the Suns in the first two games of the series.

The Lakers' response to the zone has been typical, because an emphasis is placed on forcing offensive players to hit perimeter shots, and the Lakers obliged by jacking up 32 three point shots in Game Three and 28 in Game Four.

Attacking a zone defense with dribble penetration is the most common method of countering the gimmick scheme, and Kobe Bryant's two performances in Phoenix were a tutorial on how to do this.

Bryant accumulated 74 points, 23 assists, and 16 rebounds in Phoenix, and almost single-handedly rendered the Suns' zone irrelevant, except he has been missing some help in the post.

The second most common method of attacking a zone defense is with an entry pass to the high post, and even though this has been a constant option for the Lakers, they have failed to capitalize on it.

Gasol did score 23 points in Game Three and 15 in Game Four, but he found it tough to find shots in the fourth quarter of the latter when the game began to get away from the Lakers. 

Credit has to be given to the Suns' reserves who contributed more than 50 points in their best postseason showing yet, and forward Channing Frye managed to avoid NBA playoff notoriety by discovering his missing jump shot, which until Game Four had accounted for a 0-17 series from three point range.

The Suns' ability to punish the Lakers in the pick and roll also continued to be a problem, b...

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