Game 3 of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Suns tips off at 8:30 Eastern on ESPN. Before, during, and after the game, school up with our Suns blog, Bright Side Of The Sun, and our Lakers blog, Silver Screen And Roll.
Preview courtesy of Sports Network.
The Lakers dominated the first two games of the set in Los Angeles and took a 2-0 edge on Wednesday when Kobe Bryant scored 21 points, and deferred to his teammates to the tune of a career playoff-high 13 assists , as the Lakers rolled once again over Phoenix, 124-112, at Staples Center.
Pau Gasol was the main benefactor of Bryant's charity, scoring a game-high 29 points with nine rebounds and five assists. Ron Artest scored 18 points and Lamar Odom, after being called "lucky" by Suns forward Amare Stoudemire for his play in Game 1, notched a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
"We like to control the pace, but we feel comfortable at an accelerated pace," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson after the Lakers again topped the 120- point barrier after pouring in 128 in a high-scoring Game 1. "We have to figure out how often to run."
The Lakers won their 10th straight home playoff game and eighth straight postseason contest overall.
"We need to take better shots (in Phoenix)." said Bryant. "They (the Suns) are much better at running at home."
Jason Richardson scored 27 points and Grant Hill added 23 for the Suns, who were outscored 34-22 in the final period. Stoudemire scored 18 points with six rebounds and Steve Nash added 11 points and 15 assists in defeat.
"What can you say? We can't slow them down. Every single time we made an adjustment they went someplace else," said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry.
The Suns will have to buck some serious history to get back in this series and seem almost resigned to their fate. Jackson coached teams are a perfect 46-0 when taking a 2-0 series lead.
"They are a more talented team than we are," Nash said. "They are a more balanced team. It's probably not a stretch in most people's minds just to say they're a better team than we are. So how do we overcome that? That's just all spirit, fight and belief. We've got to rely heavily on those characteristics with this group."
Stoudemire, who has been vilified for his poor interior defense, also lauded the Lakers effort.
"We're doing everything that the coaching staff asks us to do," the All-Star said on Friday after practice. "Front the post or double Kobe or set traps on Gasol. We're doing everything that coach asks us to do. They're just doing a great job of finding open spaces there and taking advantage of the high low action. A lot of fingers are being pointed at me right now. It's hard when you're undersized. We're playing as hard as we can. We have to try to make adjustments, see if we can win."
LA, however, knows things will be tougher at US Airways Arena, where the Suns were 32-9 during the regular season and are 4-1 in the playoffs.
"We understand how tough it's going to be in Phoenix," Gasol said. "The pace and energy they're going to bring is going to be hard to match, but we have to understand who we are and play to our capabilities."
Phoenix, which has never captured an NBA title, is in the conference finals for the first time since 2006, when the Suns lost to the Dallas Mavericks. Phoenix last made it to the NBA Finals in 1993 when they fell in six games to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. Meanwhile, Nash, a former two- time NBA MVP, has played in 114 career postseason games without reaching The Finals, the most in NBA history without the chance to play for a championship.
The Lakers are appearing in their third straight Western Conference final and are attempting to become the first repeat league champions since they won three in a row (2000-02) with teams fueled by Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
LA won three of four games vs. Phoenix in the regular season and won the Pacific Division by three games over the Suns.
In the postseason, the clubs have a long and storied history, meeting 11 times previously dating back to the 1969-70 season. The Lakers have won seven of those series but the Suns have rebounded to take four of the last five playoff sets between the two teams after dropping the first six. Phoenix has also taken the last two postseason matchups between the clubs, first round series in 2005-06 and '06-07.
LA and Phoenix have met twice previously in the Western Conference finals with the Lakers winning both, in 1984 and 1989.
Game 4 of the series will be in Phoenix on Tuesday.