In Game 3, the Lakers headed to Phoenix in an attempt take the last breath from the Suns.
Unlike the Orlando Magic, the Suns fought back. The Suns were able to stay in it, even when the Lakers hit crucial shots and cut the lead at several points in the game.
The Suns emerged victorious 118-109, cutting the Lakers' series lead to 2-1.
How did this happen? Does this mean the Suns have a legitimate chance of knocking Kobe and the Lakers off their throne?
If they continue to play the way they did last night, they might.
But, the question is: What did they do? What happened?
Let's just see. First off...
The Suns had their defensive struggles in the first two games.
The athleticism of Bryant and the interior play of Gasol, Odom, and Bynum has been hard for the Suns to contain because of their faltering defense.
Last night, they played primarily in a zone defense, with Robin Lopez roaming the middle and Amare Stoudemire playing on the left wing.
This resulted in better plays on defense and less penetration from the Lakers.
The Lakers' lack of penetration forced them to take more outside shots. They did, however, capitalize on three-point shooting earlier in the game.
Unfortunately, their shooting wasn't consistent enough to keep them in the game.
The zone also created more opportunities for Amare Stoudemire to make more of an impact down in the paint on defense.
The zone did not solve all of the Suns' recent defensive problems, but it showed that they had more life than most expected.
Playing on their home court helped bring some energy as well.
Foul trouble from the Lakers' big men allowed Stoudemire to flourish on the offensive side.
Due to foul trouble, Bynum only played eight minutes. This left Gasol to handle Stoudemire on the offensive side.
Stoudemire took advantage of this opportunity by pouring in 42 points, while going 14-for-22 from the field. He also grabbed 11 rebounds.
Without a consistent big man to assist him, Gasol had his hands full on defense, which isn't a strong point of his game.
Steve Nash's performance wasn't the only factor in last night's victory. However...
Stoudemire and Robin Lopez stepped up the intensity at home. Lopez was the sidekick that Stoudemire needed to help contain the Lakers' big men.
Lopez collected 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field.
He had not been much of a threat in the previous two games in L.A., but because of the Lakers' foul trouble, Phoenix's big men were able to benefit.
The Suns have not laid down like the Orlando Magic and have gained even more by this win. They have an opportunity to even things up on Tuesday.
To win, Nash must continue to lead his team.
Stoudemire has played well up to this point and must be able to maintain dominance inside the paint like he did in Game Three.
Lopez will also have a major role, as he must provide the Suns with a second threat down low to complement Amare.
The Suns must stay versatile, maintain their good outside shooting, and improve their defense—which took a step forward with the zone.
Their zone defense is a big reason, next to Amare, that they were able to give the Lakers a hard time on the offensive side of the ball.
L.A. has hit a little bump in its run through the playoffs.
The Suns surprised them in Game Three with the zone, hurting the Lakers' ability to score inside.
In order for L.A. to prevail and get to the championship, they can't look ahead to the next series against Boston or Orlando (Bynum was heard saying that he was looking forward to playing Boston again in the Finals).
The Lakers have to keep their big men out of foul trouble.
This way, they have two forces to contain the threat of Amare. Also, Gasol best functions when he has another big man next to him.