Trappings of success
Instead of writing out “Crying” and “Whining,” Coach Phil Jackson could have scrawled these words on the locker-room board Friday morning: “Nice Job,” followed by “Now Move On.”
The Lakers were in move-forward mode at practice, having already saved themselves after overcoming a 17-point hole in the first quarter of Game 3. Their defense roared, their trap confused the fun out of the Phoenix Suns, and Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom carried the Lakers on offense for their first win in the series.
It was unexpected, it allowed ever-doubting Lakers fans to finally take a breath, but, nice job and everything, Jackson now wants the 95-89 victory to go away. After all, Game 4 in the best-of-seven series takes place Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
“The basic concept is we haven’t done anything yet,” Jackson said. “We have to win another game before we have a chance to challenge in this series. I told them not to get too full of themselves. They had a good game and it’s over. Sunday’s contest becomes the critical matter.”
The Lakers’ camaraderie issues were temporarily pushed to the side, and Bryant seemed pleased by what unfolded after Jackson grabbed a marker Wednesday morning, approached the white board and, in two effective words, wrote that the Lakers needed to stop sniping at each other, or pouting, or whatever.
It didn’t exactly inspire them to a great start in Game 3, but they managed to erase a 31-14 deficit in part because of a defensive trap that caught the Suns off guard.
Brown and, to a lesser degree, Odom took turns confounding the Suns by joining one of the Lakers’ guards and trapping the Suns’ ball-handler after a pick-and-roll sequence.
The Suns were stunned.
“It felt like they had six or seven guys out there on the floor,” guard Raja Bell said Friday. “I felt like I was shadowed the whole night.”
Said Jackson: “We’ve never used that type of defense on a consistent basis. It was a little bit different. Kwame’s quickness gets him out there to contest the guards 25 feet out from the basket rather than having to deal with them 15 feet and in.”
The Lakers ranked 25th in the league in defense during the regular season, giving up a generous 103.4 points a game, but they kept the Suns to a mere 58 points and 40.3% shooting over the last three quarters of Game 3. They began trapping in the second quarter.
“We did a good job being aggressive,” Bryant said. “I don’t think they expected us to be that aggressive. We’ll see what adjustments they make for the following game, which I’m sure they will make them. When they do, we have to make ours.”
Though it was only one game in a series that still swings in the Suns’ direction, it brought a measure of redemption for Smush Parker and also underscored the Lakers’ revolving door at the guard position not occupied by Bryant.
Parker played the last 8:46 of the game and Shammond Williams played 11 minutes in the fourth quarter as the Lakers matched the Suns’ smaller lineup. Neither Parker nor Williams scored in the quarter, but they played well on defense. Williams, inactive for Game 1, took Vladimir Radmanovic’s spot on the roster for Game 2 and probably won’t be going back to the inactive list the rest of the series.
“Smush’s length is confusing to some people. He’s 6-[foot]-4 with a lengthy reach and he can do some things that really help,” Jackson said. “Shammond’s a stocky, strong guy that is quick enough to handle a guy like [Leandro] Barbosa. I’m not saying he’s going to ‘handle’ him, but he’s going to stay around him and compete with him.”
Jordan Farmar, who started his fifth consecutive game, did not play in the fourth quarter. His starting job was not necessarily guaranteed beyond Game 4, Jackson said.
“I told him I wanted to ask him today why I should start him. He said because he’s a complete player,” Jackson said. “So we’re asking him to measure up to that Sunday.”
Many Lakers, including Williams and Parker, will be asked to measure up more on offense.
Odom, Bryant and Brown scored 82 of the Lakers’ 95 points. The other Lakers made only three of 24 shots. Williams missed all five of his attempts, Parker was 0 for 4, and Farmar missed both of his shots.
“Offensively, we know we have a ways to go with our guard corps not hitting shots outside of Kobe, so we asked them to step in today in practice and start making some shots and get involved in the offense,” Jackson said.
Luke Walton sustained a dislocated pinkie finger on his right hand during practice Friday but was expected to play Sunday.
Odom was also expected to play despite sustaining a hyper-extended left elbow in Game 3. He was injured when his hand hit the backboard while he tried to block Barbosa’s shot early in the fourth quarter.
Times staff writer Steve Springer contributed to this report.