The 2000 Western Conference Semifinals are underway as the Phoenix Suns are visiting the Los Angeles Lakers. In the first round the Lakers had a bit of a scare against the Sacramento Kings, but advanced 3-2. On the other side of the coin however, the Suns dethroned the reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in four games. Obviously we are familiar with the Lakers starting lineup of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Ron Harper, A.C. Green and Glen Rice; but let’s talk about the Suns starters- Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Anfernee Hardaway, Cliff Robinson and Luc Longley. Kidd also had blonde hair, let us remember and never forget again.
O’Neal makes the first bucket of the game — two things apparent — the Lakers like the Longley/O’Neal matchup, also they are trying to get him going early. After that first shot, O’Neal missed his next seven, unfortunately for the Lakers. It was more of the same for the rest of the team, Bryant 1-4, Green 1-5, Harper 1-4, Rice 2-5; all around bad shooting. The saving grace for the Lakers was that they got to the free throw line eight times- making seven. The Lakers stayed in the game because the Suns were not shooting well either.
19-16 was the rebounding battle in the first quarter, giving the Suns the edge by three, combined for 35 missed shots in the first quarter alone. While the Lakers shot terribly, the shots that did go in were high energy- keeping the crowd into the game. The story for the first 12 is the missed shots for the Lakers and Marion starting off hot hitting 4-6 for eight points.
Shaq and Kobe heat up the Suns
Finally turning things around in terms of field goal percentage the Lakers are still driving the lane and finishing close around the hoop. While the first quarter ended with a tie, the Lakers started tipping the scale as Bryant and O’Neal took the reigns. Early in the second the Suns were up by four then O’Neal dunked, and again, and again- he’s just overpowering this team. Scoring 14 points in the quarter, with two blocks and five more rebounds, you won’t like him when he’s angry. Bryant supplied two blocks of his own to go with seven points. Kidd played the entire quarter, but only took one shot, this was a Hardaway quarter scoring 12 shooting .667 from the floor in eight minutes.
The Sun has set
When the second half started, the Lakers set fire to the Suns. The team only made six shots, also adding six free throws. An even larger problem stood in their face — besides themselves — the Lakers made 11 shots and six of their own from stripe, led by O’Neal with another 12 points. It’s certainly nice to see Green finally turning it on with six points and five rebounds, he was virtually invisible the past few games. Bryant supplied nine points to the scoreboard in this one, but again it was just too much O’Neal for the Suns to handle. The Lakers outscore the Suns by 10 (29-19) in the third.
The scorching continues
The fourth quarter was no different than the third, other than the Lakers outscoring the Suns by 13 this time- and sitting most of their starting rotation for the finale. The Lakers forced the Suns to 23 turnovers, to their 11, and won the rebounding battle by 10 (52-42.) Wherein lies the issue for so many teams is that the Lakers do such a fantastic job at getting into the paint, that if your team isn’t making baskets- they stand no chance. The Suns shot 34.6% from the floor, you have to do better than that, the Lakers are going to almost certainly going to out-rebound their opponent
37 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks is how O’Neal finished his night. Bryant was good for 25 points and six rebounds, with three blocks to add to his stat line. The final score was a landslide in favor of the Lakers as they appear to be, without question, the team to beat.