There's no mystery as to why the Los Angeles Lakers lost game three of the Western Conference Finals to the Phoneix Suns last night. The Suns, led by an unstoppable Amar'e Stoudemire, played extremely well at home. On top of that, the Lakers turned the ball over way too much, shot too many threes, and had 22 fewer free throw attempts than the Suns (Tim Donaghy alert?).
No big deal.
The Lakers knew the Suns weren't going to roll over like a certain Eastern Conference Finals opponent (my brother said that Rashard Lewis needs to "retire from the game of basketball" when this series is over). Quite the contrary, we knew the Suns were a solid team that was playing extremely well and that they would be tough to beat in Phoenix.
The thing about last night that is concerning, however, is the disappearance of Andrew Bynum. The young center's knee just doesn't seem to be able to handle the pace of the game, and we're starting to wonder whether he will even be a factor should the Lakers make it through to face the Boston Celtics.
Bynum played just under 8 minutes last night, which is leading to suggestions that Phil Jackson bench the big man for the remainder of the series to rest up for Boston. Whether rest will help or not is up for debate, but what's not up for debate is the fact that the situation stinks for pretty much everyone involved:
- Bynum himself - this is the third straight postseason in which Bynum isn't 100%. For a young man who, by all accounts, has worked extremely hard to improve his body and his game, you can't even imagine the level of frustration.
- The Lakers - The Lakers are a decidedly different team with Bynum in the lineup. While he might not be the best matchup for the Suns series, even if he were healthy, his value is clear against a physical team like the Celtics.
- The Celtics - I know you don't even want to think about it, but God forbid the Celtics beat the Lakers again, Boston fans will continue to hear from Laker fans, "you know, we still didn't have Bynum."
- The fans - Everybody is anticipating another Lakers-Celtics final, but you would love to see both teams at full strength. The Celtics have managed to steamroll through the playoffs, getting their old guys rest so that they're going to be at relatively 100% for the Finals (barring some sudden growth of huevos on the part of the Magic...which I don't think we have to worry about). The fans deserve to see the two best teams in the league going at each other at full strength. We were robbed of it in 2008 and it looks like we will be robbed again.
Obviously Bynum's injury is not going away, so it's just a matter of whether rest will help. As I said before, he's not a tremendous asset against a running Suns team, so I don't see the harm in resting him...if it will help.
Hopefully he can be as close to 100% for the Finals as he can be. It'll make everyone a lot happier.