Substitutions Cost Suns a Loss in Game 5
To my surprise, no one on the “Inside the NBA” post-game program discussed the real issue with the final play of Game 5 between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. During that final play, the Lakers won the game on a lay-up by Ron Artest that put the Lakers up 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals.
Sure, it’s hard for a defense to account for an airball, and Ron Artest made a heck of catch-and-shoot play to win the game. However, the fact that the Suns didn’t have one bona-fide rebounder in the game left the Suns vulnerable to that play and ultimately cost the Suns the game, and perhaps the lead in this series.
So who did the Suns have on the court for that final play?
Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson and Channing Frye were deemed the defensive stoppers for the final play of the game. No disrespect to any of those guys, but if I had to possibly get a crucial rebound, I wouldn’t want any of those guys to be the person I needed to depend on.
The best defensive rebounder in the Suns rotation is Louis Amundson. I can understand the hesitation to have him on the court at such a crucial junction in the game, especially if he got switched on to a guard, so I have no problem with him not being on the floor. But why was Amare Stoudemire on the bench?
Stoudemire is clearly the Suns next best defensive rebounder, and yet he was on the pine while Channing Frye was in the game. One could make the argument that Suns coach Alvin Gentry wanted the height of Frye out there to bother a potential shot from Pau Gasol. Also, Frye did have 10 rebounds on the night versus Stoudemire’s 4. However, the Suns lose athleticism by having Frye on the court instead of Stoudemire, not to mention Stoudemire is a much more “aggressive” player, and perhaps an even a better defender than the notably “softer” Frye. That athleticism and aggressiveness could have come in handy not only in the case of the ensuing airball, but also in the pursuit of one, single, do-or-die rebound.
Maybe I’m just splitting hairs though. After all, the Lakers had just one big man on the court, and with height being somewhat of a concern, you would not want to give Gasol a turnaround jumper against Stoudemire in that situation. Also, Channing Frye, as soft as he appears, just happens to be the third best defensive rebounder for the Suns, so it’s not as if he was the last guy you wanted on the court.
Still, the fact remains that there was a loose ball to be had and the Lakers had better rebounders on the floor to get that loose ball. Again, I will admit that an airball could have went to the Lakers no matter who was on the floor for the Suns, but having some longer arms on the floor, and perhaps a more aggressive big man than Frye, could have prevented giving up the go-ahead lay-up to Ron Artest, who may be considered a better rebounder than anyone the Suns had on the court during the final play of the game.
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