Suns Helped By Large Free Throw Disparity In Game 3 Win Over Lakers

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: the Suns were the more aggressive team and they deserved to win Game 3. Amare Stoudemire was fantastic because he played more aggressively than he did in Games 1 and 2. The Lakers weren't aggressive against Phoenix's zone and that cost them.

With all that said, though, the free throw disparity in this game was kind of ridiculous. Nobody is saying both teams should get called for the same number of fouls, but the fact that Phoenix shot 42 free throws compared to just 20 for the Lakers is, well, fishy. Stoudemire himself nearly shot more free throws (18) than the entire Lakers team, and while Amare was aggressive driving to the basket, he also got bailed out several times. Or, more accurately, he got foul calls the Lakers didn't get. As SB Nation's Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll writes:

Between Kobe's hot hand and teamwide success on the offensive glass, the Lake Show appeared to be chugging along, untroubled by life away from Staples, except... well, except for one small thing.

The whistles. Dude, the whistles. The Suns attempted 11 FTAs in the first period to the Lakers' zero. Amare alone was awarded seven freebies in the first period. Most of them seemed fairly earned, as he attacked Pau Gasol on the dribble and got to the rim repeatedly. The Lakers, however, weren't getting the same calls on the other end.

As an impartial observer, I think that's being very diplomatic. Sure, the Lakers have themselves to blame for their inability to get to the line, but while 20 free throws in a game is low, it's not that low. The more abnormal stat was Phoenix's 42 attempts. It seemed like, whenever the Suns drove to the basket, they were given the benefit of the doubt with a foul call. In addition, there were several ticky-tacky loose ball fouls that killed the Lakers in the final period, when they were trying to rally. The stretch began at the 4:32 mark, when Derek Fisher was called for a foul trying to get through an off ball screen, the kind of play that is never called, especially down the stretch of a close game. Then, Kobe Bryant was called for a foul on a rebound when Robin Lopez appeared to slip and fall, giving the Suns the ball back. Finally, after a Lakers miss, Lopez ran over Lamar Odom trying to change ends, and the call went against Odom. That was Odom's sixth foul, taking him out of the game with the Lakers trailing by six.

None of those plays won Phoenix the game, mind you. The Suns won with aggressive play and a zone defense that befuddled the Lakers. But they did contribute to a free-throw disparity that shouldn't have been nearly as wide as it was. I really shouldn't complain, since this means we at least have a series, but I would have liked to see Phoenix win without the benefit of some friendly whistles. 

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