Forget the good news and bad news. I’ve got some really horrible news: The Lakers are who we thought they were.
Even on a night when Kobe’s jumper looked like Shaq’s free throws the defending Western Conference champions blew the Suns out of their own building. They have power, size, speed, defense, shooting, and depth deeper than the Pacific (the ocean, not the Division).
And of course they have Kobe. Although he couldn’t buy a jump shot he still contributed 24 points and was his usual tough self on defense. And to give you a idea how versatile these guys are, Pau Gasol, who came in averaging 17.6 points managed a meager 4 but had 9 assists and 9 rebounds.
And they bring guys like Lamar Odom off that deep bench. Odom is stronger than dirt and drives better than some NASCAR guys. This night he was the leader of a bench brigade that accounted for 43 points and seemed to come up with every rebound and run down every loose ball, and also play some pretty salty defense.
So don’t go blaming the Suns for last night’s mess. It was all the Lakers fault.
Coach Terry had said he this game would provide a good measuring stick of where his team was, but what he has to hope now that it was a more accurate measure of where the Lakers are, and that against lesser teams (i.e. — everybody else in the West) the Suns will be in a much better place.
Meanwhile, they are still struggling to find consistent offensive rhythm, and the defense they said they would be hanging their hat on is almost as mistake prone as the offense. If there was any one statistic that pinpointed the team’s problems, it was the Lakers 21-7 edge in turnover points.
“We’ve GOT to do something about that,” sighed Coach Terry. “It’s something we’ve been fighting all year.”
Shaquile O’Neal had good numbers (15 points and 9 boards) and got future phenom Andrew Bynum in foul trouble. But alas, while Shaq is having a good year he may, through no fault of his own, be as much a part of the problem as the solution, .
The thing is that mostly because of Shaq (plus Coach Terry’s philosophy) Nash doesn’t seem to driving the bus, or at least he’s using a much lighter foot on the gas. Although you’d never know it by looking at his line in the box score (10 assists), he’s really not breaking down defenses and free lancing like he used to.
I’m not saying this is not the way the Suns should go. For one thing, the benefits of the switch in philosophy are not really supposed to kick until the playoffs. Don’t forget that in switching coaches Steve Kerr wasn’t trying to fix the regular season, because even as you and I he knew it wasn’t broke.
Also, it’s important to rush to any judgments solely on the basis of what this Laker powerhouse did to the Suns. (We have to assume the Lakers are a powerhouse because the alternative is too grim).
The bottom line: The big question is, how do so many Laker fans manage to get seats in a sold out building? Just askin.