1. For all the talk of Kobe Bryant and his 40 points, the game actually changed once Lamar Odom came off the Lakers bench. Until then, the Suns had been winning and doing a decent job of at least making the Lakers shoot from the outside. But Odom entered midway through the first quarter and the Suns immediately fell into an 18-4 landslide.
2. Odom’s presence created an immediate matchup problem near the basket. It didn’t help that everything he (and the rest of the Lakers) threw up from the perimeter went in. As Suns coach Alvin Gentry told TNT’s Craig Sager at the end of the first quarter, “They’re making shots and there’s not much we can do about it.”
3. Gentry spoke the truth, as the Lakers were a sizzling 58 percent from the floor for the game. With numbers like those, not even Bill Russell’s 11-time champion Boston Celtics teams would have beat them. The good news is, the Lakers aren’t likely to continue to shoot at such a remarkable pace.
4. That said, it’s obvious the Suns need to do a better job of defending the paint. Of the Lakers’ first 68 points, half of them came inside the lane. Odom finished 9-for-15 shooting, while Pau Gasol was even better at 10-for-13. Odom also had 19 rebounds, and that can’t come close to happening again.
5. The Suns clearly are more physical and focused defensively than they have been at any other time during the Steve Nash-Amare Stoudemire era, but they will have to improve even more in that area against the Lakers. Many NBA coaches want opposing offensive players to “feel” their defense — or to know that guys like Stoudemire, Robin Lopez and even Louie Amundson will not only leap to block shots, but play an elbows-out-feet-on-the-floor brand of basketball if necessary. And make no mistake, it will be necessary if the Suns are to beat L.A.
6. Perhaps more than anything, the Suns just have to make the shots they normally make. In some cases, offense is your best defense, particularly on the road. When you bury jumpers in opposing arenas, it tends to confuse and frustrate the home team. The Suns got plenty of open looks, but went just 5-for-22 on 3-pointers. That included a 1-for-7 performance from reserve center Channing Frye, who is usually pretty reliable beyond the arc. If the Suns had made anywhere from 3-to-5 more threes, it likely would have been a different ball game.
7. Goran Dragic (13 points, 5-for-8 shooting) and Leandro Barbosa (11 points, 5-for-7) were two bright spots, always hustling even when things seemed lost. The Suns will need more similar performances off the bench in Game 2.
8. Finally, before you get too depressed, remember that the Suns also lost Game 1 of their first-round series against Portland. Granted, the defending champion Lakers are a different animal, but no matter how you spin it, it’s just one game. The Suns have been surprising NBA fans all season; they may not be ready to stop just yet.
Sam Amico is a reporter for NBA.com and a regular contributor to Suns.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.