Scouts Inc.: Lakers vs. Suns Game 7
• Lakers Offense: Lamar Odom did a better job recognizing the double team in the second half of Game 6. When Odom sets up away from the paint on the baseline, he is easier to trap. Odom started positioning himself in the paint or facing the hoop more to avoid what has been a solid trapping effort from the Suns.
The big question is: Did Kobe Bryant's 35 field-goal attempts lead to the Lakers' loss? Bryant hit 20-of-35 attempts, so it is hard to argue that he is hurting the team with bad shots, but the Lakers become disinterested on both ends of the floor when they don't get looks from Bryant. The Lakers didn't get a lot of points in the paint in the second half, but it is hard to trust that Kwame Brown will catch any pass that isn't perfect.
• Lakers Defense: The Lakers got beat up in the two-man switch game with Steve Nash and Boris Diaw in the fourth quarter. When the Suns use a lineup of Shawn Marion, Tim Thomas and Diaw, it leaves a smaller defender on Diaw; expect the Lakers to double this earlier or fight through the pick more to prevent so much switching.
• Suns Offense: The Lakers have not pressured Steve Nash enough as he brings the ball up court. When Nash gets some momentum, he dribbles to either side of the pick set for him at the top of the key and gets past both defenders. The defense has two choices: collapse on Nash or let him go one-on-one with a backpedaling big man who will likely foul him.
Tim Thomas was much more aggressive going toward the hoop, and that is really the key for the Suns. Everybody talks about their fast-break ability, but what makes them tough to defend is that every player is thinking about driving to the hoop; it gets their opponents in foul trouble.
• Suns Defense: The Suns get Raja Bell back in Game 7 to defend Bryant, and that is good news because the Leandro Barbosa/Shawn Marion combo was not effective. Against Barbosa, Kobe shot 7-of-11 from the field and 3-of-4 from the line for 18 points. Against Marion, he shot 13-of-21 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line for 32 points. Kobe also had three field-goal attempts vs. Thomas in switch situations.
The Suns should be prepared for the Lakers to focus on scoring in the paint in Game 7. But if the Lakers turn the ball over in the paint the way they did in Game 6, the Suns could be the first team to beat Phil Jackson in a series he has led. Jackson right now is 44-0 in his coaching career when he's led in a playoff series.
• Prediction: Suns win Game 7.
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