Phoenix call for back-up handcuffs Lakers
Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:35 pm
By: By BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) — Hold that foregone conclusion. The Los Angeles Lakers are in a fight out West after all.
The Phoenix Suns, led by a hustling, scrappy bench and a zone defense that again disrupted the vaunted triangle offense, beat the reigning NBA champions 115-106 on Tuesday night to even the Western Conference finals at two games apiece.
The series moves back to Los Angeles, where a week ago a columnist was lamenting that the Suns wouldn’t provide the necessary competition to ready the Lakers for Boston in the NBA finals. Game 5 is Thursday night, with Game 6 Saturday back in Phoenix.
Kobe Bryant and his teammates still are in control, with two of the three games potentially remaining in the series at home, but the margin of error isn’t what it appeared to be after the Lakers blistered the Suns for 128 and 124 points in the first two games of the series.
“I think people were overlooking them after the first two games,” Los Angeles’ Pao Gasol said, “and just thinking ahead already. And so obviously that’s a big mistake.”
Bryant followed his 36-point, 11-assist night in Game 3 with 38 points and 10 assists in Game 4. He put the blame for the loss squarely at one end of the court.
“Our attention needs to be on the defensive end — period,” Bryant said. “That’s second-chance opportunities. Their bench came in and gave them a big boost in getting balls back and getting them extra possessions. We’ve got to cut that stuff out.”
The Suns’ reserves outscored their Laker counterparts 54-20, but that’s misleading because often the Phoenix backups were outplaying the Los Angeles starters.
Coach Alvin Gentry kept all five subs — Channing Frye, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic and Lou Amundson — in the game for nearly the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter.
After Los Angeles took an 87-85 lead, the super-subs responded with an 18-3 run that was the difference in the game.
“We may not be the most talented team,” the Suns’ Steve Nash said, “but we’ve got depth.”
Phoenix’s bench had been a major factor in the team’s success all season but had not been the advantage it was expected to be in the series’ first three games. That all changed in Game 4, when the reserves dominated the Lakers’ starters as well as their backups.
“We believe in those guys and they really believe in themselves,” Gentry said. “I thought they were much better defensively than they were offensively, and they were great offensively.”
Frye broke out of a horrendous shooting slump to make four 3-pointers and score 14 points, Barbosa also had 14 on 6-of-8 shooting and Jared Dudley added 11 points. Dragic ran the show at point and had eight points and eight assists in 18 minutes.
Amundson made all three of his shots, grabbed seven rebounds, had two steals and blocked a shot.
The five made 20-of-32 shots, including 9-of-20 3s.
“We just got it going,” Amundson said. “We got a lot of contributions. Channing played really well tonight, he got his jumper back so I’m really happy about that.”
Frye had made 1-of-21 shots in the series and missed 18 in a row when his second shot of the night, a 3-pointer, finally fell to the roar of the home crowd.
“I told you I was going to continue to shoot, and my teammates believed in me,” he said, “and I continued to just believe in myself.”
Gasol managed just 15 points after getting 29 and 23 in the previous two games. Lamar Odom also scored 15. Andrew Bynum, playing despite a torn meniscus in his right knee, had 12 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes.
Jordan Farmar opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, his only basket in five shots all night, to give the Lakers an 87-85 lead. Barbosa responded with a 22-footer to tie it, then Amundson scored inside on a pass from Dudley before Frye sank a 3-pointer for a 92-87 advantage.
That was the first of three consecutive 3s for Phoenix, the second by Barbosa and third by Dudley to make it 98-89. The biggest lead was 103-90 on Dragic’s driving layup with 4:02 to play.
“We thought we could come in here and get a game, and unfortunately you know we weren’t up to the task,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “But we outscored them from the field I think both games, shot better than they did, did a lot of things very good and it still wasn’t enough to win the game. They beat us at the foul line both nights, and that’s the difference in the margin of the game.”
The Lakers had more field goals than Phoenix (45-41), but the Suns dominated at the foul line for the second game in a row, sinking 22-of-32 to Los Angeles’ 7-of-13.
NOTES: Jackson is 46-0 when his team takes a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. … Phoenix has led or been tied after three quarters in three of the four games. … The Suns are 6-1 at home in the playoffs, the Lakers 7-0. … Derek Fisher got Nash squarely in his broken nose in the third quarter, sending the Suns playmaker to the court in pain. Nash recovered to make two free throws. … The two teams combined for eight consecutive 3-pointers in a second-quarter stretch.