Everybody talks after playoff games.
Both coaches, all the stars, any role player that had any kind of role, and so on.
Since postgame stories get too jumbled with too many different perspectives (we stuck with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Phil Jackson, Alvin Gentry and Steve Nash – and that was a lot) we put together a collection of some of the more interesting comments after L.A.’s 124-112 Game 2 victory, then added a few thoughts in italics for a bit more detail.
We’ll start with the coaches:
LAKERS HEAD COACH PHIL JACKSON
“We’ve been able to play both styles of basketball as a team for the last two or three years. We like to control the pace. But we feel comfortable, if it’s an accelerated pace.”
Note: Basically, L.A. can score however they want at whatever pace against the Suns’ D.
(On Andrew Bynum): “I thought he played a game for us tonight that we liked. I mean, he did some things that were really good for us offense, we got rebounds. When they went to their screen roll offense, that’s when we had to accelerate the pace a little bit and use more mobile players on the outside. I think that’s a little tough for Drew to cover right now.”
- Lost amidst the huge games from Bryant, Gasol and Odom was Bynum’s best effort since Game 2 vs. Utah. He posted 13 points and seven rebounds in only 18 minutes without missing a shot (5-of-5). His minutes could go up considerably against a bigger opponent.
SUNS HEAD COACH ALVIN GENTRY
“Well, what can you say? We are just having a hard time. We can’t slow them down. I thought we played well offensively, but every time we tried to make an adjustment to slow them down, they go somewhere else. You do a great job on Kobe … then they go to Pau, and we double team Pau and there’s Lamar, and we get it out of Lamar’s hand and Jordan Farmar makes shots. There’s a good reason they’re the world champs.”
- Gentry’s among the league’s most candid coaches, and isn’t above giving a team full credit.
(On Kobe): “Guys, there’s a reason he’s the best basketball player in the world. He’s not going to force things. He doesn’t do that anymore. And so if you ask me if we did a good job on him we took him from 40 to 21. So that’s a good job. But when you add in the 13 assists, that’s 26 more points.”
- During the last two and perhaps three seasons, Bryant’s shown an increased willingness to pass to teammates that he knows can get the job done. In related news, the Lakers got Pau Gasol in February of 2008, Andrew Bynum emerged, Lamar Odom received less attention because of the other bigs and so on down to Ron Artest and Derek Fisher. So if double-teams, whether quick or slow, come Bryant’s way, he’s simply going to pass, which has crushed opposing defenses.
LAKERS GUARD KOBE BRYANT
(On Pau Gasol understanding the game as he does): “It’s great. It makes the game a lot easier, obviously, to have a big that can catch, complete, make plays. And all of our bigs can do that. But we’re extremely well versed in playing against teams that double and zone and things like that.”
- Kobe said after Game 1 what he’d do if Phoenix gave him more attention, then executed his plan perfectly thanks in part to both Gasol and Odom’s knowledge of where to be within the offense.
“We’re extremely versatile. We can play pretty much every style … we know what our strength is, and we know how to play to that. It’s getting the ball in the paint.”
- On NBA TV, Kevin McHale offered an “uh oh” directed at the rest of the NBA with Bryant stating explicitly that he knew the team’s money was made in the paint.
(On Gasol): “He’s just making all the right reads and all the right plays, and he’s really figured it out at the right time … we’ve have a lot of bigs, but Pau eats first when it comes to that. No question about it. So it makes it really easy for everybody else to fall in line.”
- Gasol’s averages through 12 playoff games (10 wins): 21.0 pts., 12.0 reb., 3.6 ast., 1.92 blk., 58.2 FG%, 78.9% FG. But it’s Kobe’s “eats first” comment that’s most interesting, as earlier in the season, Bryant said it was he that ate first in general. Of course, Bryant does, but that he’d mention the same phrase while talking about Gasol is interesting.
SUNS GUARD STEVE NASH
(On L.A. defending the pick and roll): “I think they were loading up on the pick and roll and putting a third defender in there. So we tried to make them pay on the weak side. Grant (Hill) got a lot of open looks tonight because of that. It may not come out of the pick and roll, but other guys may benefit from it.”
- Ron Artest admitted after the game on TNT that this is part of L.A.’s game plan, since not many players in the NBA can hit a pull-up midrange jumper off the bounce like Kobe can. Hill certainly did just that in Game 2 (including his first five shots of the third quarter), but the Lakers seem willing to concede it rather than allow threes or layups.
(On what Phoenix tried defensively): “It’s a tough one. They’re bigger. And at times we tried to front the post. At other times we tried to double … have to give them credit. They’ve made a lot of shots and they’ve made it difficult for us no matter what scheme we’ve thrown at them defensively.
- Bryant said he again expects a mix of all of the above in Game 3, but clearly L.A. has a plan for all of the coverages and shouldn’t be surprised.
(On Pau Gasol): He’s extremely long. He’s able to go both ways in the post. He’s a good shooter and passer for a big guy he can look over the defense. He can look over double teams. So he’s extremely versatile. He can put the ball on the floor. He can make plays at the same time he can score going both ways in the post. So he’s a terrific player.
- Nash a big fan of his fellow international player.
LAKERS FORWARD PAU GASOL
“I imagine it’s got to be frustrating to give up 120 some points in the last two games and I think they played and shot the ball pretty well, and they played pretty well offensively, but still hasn’t been enough. So I imagine it must be frustrating so far. But we’ve got to continue to play better and stronger, and we understand it’s going to be harder in Phoenix. So it’s going to take a much bigger mindset or focus to go there and be successful and put the type of games and wins that we put in here.”
- Responding to a question asking if Phoenix might be frustrated, Gasol couldn’t disagree, but seemed sincere in saying L.A. would need to crack down further to win in the Valley of the Sun.
“Well, if our shooters make shots like they have been, they force their defenders to be aware of them and not be able to be in the lane so much. So it opens things up. It opens the floor, it creates more space for us to penetrate and to go to the post and be a little more effective there. Guys are shooting the ball really well. That’s always a plus, because then they don’t really know what to do, whether allow the outside shots or just make sure they play one-on-one on the post or on penetrations and they stay with the shooters. ”
- On why L.A.’s offense has worked so well.
SUNS FORWARD AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE
“They’re doing a great job offensively. With the triangle offense, they’re moving the ball. Artest shot the ball extremely well tonight. That’s something that we didn’t expect.”
- Artest made 6-of-9 shots, including 3-of-6 three-pointers and 3-of-4 free throws for 18 points. But his offense has quietly picked up considerably as the playoffs have gone forward as his comfort level has increased, and it shouldn’t be a surprise for a career 15.5 points per game scorer.
LAKERS FORWARD LAMAR ODOM
“Playing with these guys, Kobe and Pau, they really got it going. They opened things up for us, cutting to the hole and getting easy looks.”
- Simple statement, but should always be noted how much easier having Bryant and Gasol, who draw so much attention, makes it on the rest of the Lakers.
“It’s not really about me versus Amar’e (Stoudemire). I’m saying this is about the Lakers versus the Suns. That’s how I look at it.”
- Reporters were trying to goad Odom into a response for Amar’e calling L.O. “lucky” after his 19-point, 19-rebound Game 1, but Odom kept quiet after putting up another double-double with 17 and 11.
SUNS FORWARD GRANT HILL
(On the Suns’ defense): “We have to figure it out. We’ve given up 120-plus these past two games. We’ve scored enough points but defensively, they’re scoring at will. We fought there in the third quarter, competed, but when you give up 60-plus points in the first half, you’re digging yourself a hole. We’ve just got to figure it out … I don’t really know what the answer is. They had a lot of points in the paint. Our rotations aren’t great and we’ve just got to play better.”
- Among the league’s smartest players searching for an answer. He did have an impressive career-playoff-high 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
LAKERS FORWARD RON ARTEST
“They just kept making runs and we were like, ‘OK we don’t know what’s going to happen but we need to just play hard and try to win it.’”
- Fun Artest quote.
(On beating L.A.) “It’s pretty hard because we have dead-eye shooters and dead-eye finishers and unselfish players… I don’t know how many assists we had tonight but I’m sure it was pretty good for us.”
- L.A. amassed 32 assists, a very impressive number, including Bryant’s 13, five each from Gasol and Fisher, four from Odom, three from Artest and two from Shannon Brown.
SUNS FORWARD JARED DUDLEY
(On the game, Kobe and Odom): “It shows you how good the Lakers are offensively. We are a good team defensively. It shows you that Kobe can go from one night scoring 40 and then another night play making or Lamar playing that good. You guys in the media know, they’re almost impossible to beat when Lamar is that effective.”
- Dudley was an impressive 5-of-5 from 3-point land before fouling out late in the fourth.
LAKERS CENTER ANDREW BYNUM
(On how confident he is about his health to finish off the season): “Confident. I’m going to do it, no matter what.”
– The Lakers like to hear that.
(On banging the Suns down low): “That’s what they’re trying to do … we have mobile bigs in L.O. and Pau. They’re both on the court together, passing the ball back and forth. Pau is unbelievable. He really took advantage of his shot and we attacked the rim out there.”
- Bynum loves Pau (and Odom), deliberately running towards the Spaniard after the game with a huge grin on his face. Bynum at times seems amazed by Gasol’s skill, and understandably so.
SUNS GUARD JASON RICHARDSON
(On scoring 27 points): “It doesn’t matter how many points I put up. We still lost that game. We kind of let up a little bit. I think we did great in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, we kind of just let off the gas a little bit.”
- Not sure if Phoenix let off the gas, or if L.A. adjusted, or if the Suns six turnovers in the fourth quarter did them in, but the Lakers seemed well in control of the outcome.
LAKERS GUARD JORDAN FARMAR
(On L.A.’s offensive execution): “We’re just trying to take what the defense gives us. They got to give up something. We have so much depth and so much talent. And they had to give something up and we’re just making them pay.”
- Farmar hit three triples, including two big ones at the start of the fourth quarter, to offer a key bench boost. L.A.’s bench outscored that of Phoenix 36-26.