The Phoenix Suns breathed life back into their hopes of claiming an NBA title after beating the Los Angeles Lakers, 118-109, in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday night, May 23.
The Suns played poorly in both Game 1 and 2, allowing the Lakers to score at will and dominate inside the paint. But Phoenix made a key adjustment in Game 3, saving itself from the possibility of a series sweep.
The major adjustment made by the Suns was a switch to a zone defense, which prevented LA’s big men from beating them up on the inside.
“It took us a long time to figure it out,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said of the Suns’ zone. He finished with 23 points, but failed to record double-digits in rebounds. LA star reservist Lamar Odom scored just 10 points with six rebounds, far less than the 20-plus combined rebounds he nabbed in the first two games of the series.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant scored a team-high 36 points, but his production fizzled out in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Suns’ star Amar’e Stoudemire performed outstanding in the final minutes of the game, finishing with a game-high 42 points with 10 rebounds.
Stoudemire had been criticized for his subpar rebounding in Game 1 and Game 2, but his play in Game 3 silenced the critics.
“He's a great player,” Bryant told reporters of Stoudemire’s performance. “He had a couple of tough games. He wasn't going to come out here and roll over. I saw this coming.”
LA still leads the series, 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for May 25 in Phoenix.