NBA Basketball News

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Suns beating Lakers in NBA playoffs

The Phoenix Suns repeatedly use one word when describing their breakneck style: energy.

With it, they are an NBA title contender. Without it, they can lose to anybody.

Energized and efficient most of their first-round series, the Suns can finish off the Los Angeles Lakers with a victory at home in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

''When you've got a team down 3-1,'' Suns forward Shawn Marion said, ''you don't want to give them no sign of life.''

Phoenix should know. The Suns trailed the Lakers 3-1 in a first-round series last year, then won three straight to advance. These Lakers aren't last year's Suns, though, and Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson has tried a bit of everything to make his team competitive.

A disgusted Jackson sent his players home Monday after a brief video session.

''As irritated as I've ever seen him,'' Kobe Bryant said after the Lakers practiced in California on Tuesday. ''He was really upset - frustrated. That was his way of saying, 'You'd better get your butts in the game.'''

A lack of energy stirred Jackson's ire.

''Hustle makes up for a lot,'' he said. ''They bounced us around, things like that. That's irritating for a coaching staff. You've got to get the first blow in this game.''

During the video review, Jackson said, he pointed out to his players how wide open Phoenix's 3-point shooters were.

''I did tell them they have the brain power of slugs or earthworms,'' he said. ''That was just in a moment of irritation.''

Jackson called the Suns ''whippets'' for the way they ran down Los Angeles in a 113-100 victory in Game 4, a contest that was nowhere near as competitive as the final score would indicate.

There were standout performances by Phoenix's ''big three.'' Steve Nash had 23 assists, one shy of the NBA playoff record; Amare Stoudemire 27 points and 21 rebounds, and Marion 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said he didn't know what a whippet was - it's a dog that resembles a small greyhound - but he knows a repeat performance would send the Suns into the Western Conference semifinals.

''They'll throw everything at us that they have, and Kobe won't go down easily,'' D'Antoni said. ''We'll have to come out with the same kind of energy and fire that we had on Sunday.''

Since trailing last year's playoff series 3-1, Phoenix is 9-2 against the Lakers, including the regular season.

''We've only played the Lakers 107 times the last few years,'' Nash said, exaggerating slightly. ''We know each other well. It just comes down to who plays their best. So far we've done that most of the time, and we'd be ready for that.''

The Suns' concerns center on their habit of going flat from time to time, a tendency that spells trouble for a team that depends on running, running and running some more.

The Lakers said the right things — their backs are against the wall, they're taking it game by game, etc. — but just enough slipped out to confirm the existence of doubt and remorse heading into Game 5 tonight in Phoenix.

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