You’re playing a pick-up game in the park and you’ve just fouled someone, blatantly, but you deny it. They step to the line and shoot the free-throw and the players from the other team echo a sentiment heard throughout the playgrounds and courts all over the country: “Ball don’t lie.” He sinks the free-throw and you play on.
This is where the Lakers find themselves after the Game Four loss on the road. The only difference between this scenario and what happened in Phoenix is millions of dollars, fans, and that the ball isn’t a ball, it is statistics.
After the first two games of the Lakers-Suns series, I was very, very disappointed. I’m a Suns fan and, quite frankly, I was appalled at how they performed. The good news, however, was that the stats supported the Suns rebounding from terrible performances much more than the Lakers continuing great performances.
Let me explain, if you will.
Lakers nation had a lot of reason to applaud the first two games. They beat the high-octane Suns by 33 points in two games. It was more than obvious that the pesky Suns team that had beat the Lakers the last two times the teams met in the Playoffs just weren’t the same team.
Not only were the Lakers the defending champs, but the Suns had done nothing in these playoffs. They didn’t sweep a Jazz team that was near impenetrable at home. They didn’t defeat a Thunder team with an all-out man in Kevin Durant. They beat a depleted, injured, inexperienced Portland in six and an old, injured, gassed-out Spurs team in four. The path to the Western Conference Finals was obviously different.
After two games, Lakers fans had no reason to doubt their team. No reason at all. Unless, of course, they looked at the regular season and their players’ actual abilities and realized that those players who stepped up in the first two games where performing well beyond expectations! Unless, again, they looked at a Suns team that was shooting uncharacteristically bad from the perimeter and a Suns’ bench that hardly showed up.
Then again, the Lakers did beat the Suns 3-1 during the regular season. Two of those Lakers victories came with the Suns playing at Staples Center on the second night of back-to-backs, of course, but that didn’t matter.
It also didn’t matter that the final two games of the season series were washes because Artest was out for one and Frye was out for another. No, it didn’t matter. Laker nation— can I even call them that?—had decided that Phoenix was the BEST team for them to meet in the playoffs, and the first two games proved that.
The sad thing about two wins in the playoffs is that you need four. Four wins. Four outings of consistent play from players other than Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Apparently, for the Lakers, you also need the Suns' most reliable players of the year to completely disappear for the false hopes obtained from those first two blowout losses.
Here are the facts—the Lakers and Suns, in this series, have now scored 467 points to 452, respectively, and they’re tied 2-2 heading into Game Five. This is without Nash, clearly one of the best shooters in the history of the league, putting up more than 40 shots in four games. Imagine, if you will, Lakers fans, that Nash actually shot 15 attempts per game...scary, right? What’s your answer, Farmar?
Again, bleacherreport.com fans, if you’ve been paying attention to the articles floating around during this series, what’s more likely: the Los Angeles bench continues to shoot phenomenally, or the Phoenix bench AND starters shoot their season averages, at the very least?
Be worried, Lakers, be very worried.
This series has went from the Lakers winning by 21, to winning by 12, to losing by nine TWICE. I predicted tonight would be a good night for Nash, Dragic, or Frye—or all three —and look what happened. Phil Jackson claims it was a “hot spell” but the ball don’t lie. The Phoenix TEAM is better than the Los Angeles STARTERS, period. Ball didn’t lie tonight, did it?