The element of surprise could be the only best weapon the Phoenix Suns could use against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Games 3 and 4 proved that the Suns are successful on what they are doing right now. The Lakers are tall and athletic they killed the Suns in games 1 and 2 on the post; Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom took turns in pounding the ball down low. The Suns coach, Alvin Gentry used the kind of defense that was never use that long in a ball game. He applied a zone defense that disrupt the Lakers offense and minimize Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum’s touches. They double and triple team Kobe and they let guys like Odom, Farmar and Artest shoot the ball, amidst all the complications and evolution of coaching, Gentry found success on the simplest defense in basketball. There are tons of ways to beat a zone defense but still the Lakers faltered and found themselves tied in the series. Here’s why:
1. In beating a Zone defense you must beat the zone before it sets up but the Lakers were outrebounded by 15 rebounds and giving up 18 offensive rebounds in return.
2. In attacking any Zone the Lakers should have the most important element in breaking it and that is quick passing. They only have 6 turnovers in the game but they only made 9 out of 28 shots which are only 32 percent compared to the Suns 49 field goal percentage.
3. Dribble penetration is effective in breaking the Zone but the Lakers only have 13 free throw attempts meaning they are shooting the ball more rather than going straight to the basket.
4. Alvin Gentry would have abandoned the Zone if the Lakers are shooting the ball well in both games 3 and 4. Zone defense are less effective against teams with good three point shooters. If Fisher, Farmar, Odom and Artest made their shots the Lakers might have been leading a 3-1 series advantage with a chance to close the series at home.
5. one way of breaking a zone is to put someone in the middle and that someone was Pau Gasol. He is tall and can pass the ball very well to cutting teammates. The Lakers were effective in the first 3 quarters whenever the Suns used Zone but in the fourth they went more on the dribble penetration and screens to break the zone. The only problem is that they were not making any shots.
Phil Jackson has never lost a series if his team was leading 2-0 in the playoffs. The Lakers will be looking for ways to stop the Suns three point shooting and they are looking for ways to exploit if ever Phoenix uses the Zone defense again. Bottom line is that as long as they are hitting their shots everything will be fine. That’s how simple it is to break any Zone defense.