A Kobe Bryant 3-pointer gave the Los Angeles Lakers an 89-68 lead against the Phoenix Suns with 4:39 to play in the third quarter, an insurmountable lead or so they thought. But the Lakers would need triple overtime to outlast the Suns 139-137.
The Suns proceeded to go on an 18-6 run to close the third quarter which cut the Lakers’ lead down to nine, 95-86.
The Lakers started the fourth quarter with their bench. Shannon Brown, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and Luke Walton took the floor with Lamar Odom who moved into the starting lineup due to Andrew Bynum’s two game suspension. Then inexplicably, Phil Jackson left the bench on the floor only to squander the remainder of what was once a 21 point lead. The Suns went on a 15-6 run to tie the game at 101 with 6:52 remaining in regulation.
Jackson’s philosophy is to allow his players to figure things out on the floor by letting them play through stretches in which they face the most adversity rather than calling timeout or making substitutions. Phil’s decision to tweak his own team while toying with an inferior opponent may not have cost them the victory but it did force his aging players to work much harder than they should have, an extra 15 minutes of game time to be exact.
Phil expressed that he expects his players to learn from these experiences to better prepare them for the playoffs. But was his stubbornness to stick with such a philosophy a gamble worth the risk? After all it took Pau Gasol’s two free throws at the end of double overtime to force a third extra frame. The Lakers were actually that close to giving one away, something they can ill afford to do with Dallas only one game behind at the time.
And what lesson can be learned from this experience? That the Lakers can blow 21 point second half leads? That their bench is unreliable and looks lost at times?
It only exemplifies how arrogant Phil and his players can be. Lets play three…extra frames. Rest? Who needs rest? Injuries? No need to worry about sustaining an injury late in a game that should’ve ended in regulation. We are invincible.
Apparently Kobe Bryant’s ankle injury isn’t as serious as he would have you think. For someone that was terrified that he dislocated his foot on March 12th against Dallas, not only has he not missed a game, but he played 48 minutes Tuesday night which led to a season high total of 42 points.
The Suns’ Grant Hill hit a clutch 3-pointer to tie the game and ultimately force the first overtime period.
Lamar Odom and Kobe could only laugh after Lamar’s bonehead play of fouling Channing Frye on a 3-point attempt which led to three made free throws and double overtime. Frye finished with a career-high 32 points.
The Suns may have needed and wanted this game more as evidenced by a valiant effort. Steve Nash played admirably, dishing out 20 assists to go with 19 points. However, the loss put a serious dent in Phoenix’s playoff push as they now trail Memphis by three games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
The Lakers don’t return to action till Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, who will try to earn a season split.
Don’t count on Phil to be more proactive should the Lakers see a big lead begin to shrink. He didn’t do much of anything to stop the Boston Celtics comeback from a 24 point deficit to defeat his Lakers in game four of the 2008 Finals. If he was too stubborn when it mattered most, he certainly won’t change a thing now.