Match-Up: Los Angeles Lakers (2-1) at Phoenix Suns (1-2)

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Amare Stoudemire played with a purpose in Game 3. After scoring 23 and 18 points respectively during the first two games of the series, Stoudemire erupted for 42 points and 11 rebounds in Phoenix’s Game 3 118-109 victory. With the win, the Suns cut the Laker series advantage to two games to one in the best-of-seven format.

The Suns were able to neutralize the Laker size by giving seven-foot center, Robin Lopez more opportunities in Game 3. Lopez played 30 minutes and scored 20 points on 8 of 10 shooting. As a team, the Suns were great on the glass, losing the rebounding battle by only one (41-40). The Suns were blown away on the boards in Game 1, 2, being out-rebounded by 13. The Suns outside shooting also improved. Suns guard, Jason Richardson played better in Game 3, knocking down four of his seven three-point attempts.

Kobe Bryant also had a great game for the Lakers, scoring 36 points, dishing 11 assists, and grabbing 9 rebounds. Pau Gasol was solid once again, adding 23 points, but the Lakers were hampered by the injured Andrew Bynum. Bynum is dealing with a knee injury and only gave the Lakers eight minutes in Game 3. From the way he was walking, there’s no way Bynum plays in Game 4.

After watching Game 3, two startling trends emerged about this game. The Suns took 42 free throws (and made 37) while the Lakers went 16 of 20 from the foul line. The Suns out-scored the Lakers by 21 from the foul line!

The Suns also forced the Lakers to turn the ball over 17 times, five those came from Kobe Bryant. The relentless Suns pressure forced the Lakers hand on multiple occasions. The Suns only turned the ball over seven times in the game.

Given all of the statistical advantages the Suns had in this game, I surprised that they did not win by 20+ points. Out-scoring the Lakers by 21 at the foul line and committing ten less turnovers should be the recipe of a blowout win and it wasn’t. The game was tied going into the 3rd quarter before Phoenix pulled away.

The Suns played their hearts out in Game 3 and the Lakers probably could have found a way to win this game. Kobe and crew kept the game close late, but there was just too much Amare in Game 3.

However, in Game 4, I’m picking the Lakers. I don’t see how the Suns could play any better than they did in Game 3. Amare gave a max effort in Game 3, but Gasol will play better defense in Game 4. Kobe will be Kobe and the Lakers have defended the Suns three-point shooting well in this series. The Suns opened as a one-point favorite.

The Pick: Los Angeles Lakers

May Record: 10-13

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