Phoenix Suns Friday Flashback – Stoudemire leads from the front under pressure – Valley of the Suns


LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 06: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reaches in to knock the ball out of the hands of Amar’e Stoudamire #1 of the Phoenix Suns during the first quarter of the NBA basketball game at Staples Center on December 6, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
There’s something to be said about a backs against the wall performance under all sorts of individual pressure. The Phoenix Suns went into game three of the 2010 Western Conference Finals down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Lakers, with star big man Amar’e Stoudemire struggling through the opening two games.
Stoudemire had 23 and 18 point performances in Los Angeles, but totaled just nine rebounds across the two games and had five costly turnovers in the Suns game two loss. His lack of aggression and impact was heavily criticised, evident by the fact he had the cumulative plus-minus in the series to that point at -37.
Stoudemire set about writing the wrongs early in the contest, bustling into a rotating Andrew Bynum, taking the contact and finishing a tough and-one. His physicality continued early as he dueled it out with Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant who, rather unsurprisingly, proved difficult to stop on the end.
A 25-15 second quarter gave Phoenix a seven-point lead at the half, before Stoudemire began to expand his arsenal to the mid-range game. The Lakers were powerless to stop him from that point – after the jumpers fell Pau Gasol was forced to play higher up on Stoudemire, allowing the latter to put the ball on the floor and drive past him with ease. At one point the Spaniard was visibly frustrated with his teammates’ lack of help rotating to the rim.
In credit to the Lakers, Bryant’s offense kept them in the game throughout. The Mamba’s 36 points weren’t enough though, with the Suns claiming a 118-109 win. Stoudemire’s mindset was a complete contrast to the opening two games, something he alluded to in the post-game.
“Just being aggressive, just really going after it. Lakers play well in the post. They got two big guys down there that play extremely well defensively. I wanted to come out with some aggressiveness and just get it going from everywhere”.
Stoudemire had 21 points and eight rebounds in game four, helping the Suns tie the series despite another 38-point outing from Bryant. A tough two-point loss proved the pivotal difference in the series, with the Lakers advancing to the NBA Finals with a 4-2 series win.
 
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