PHOENIX - MAY 25: Jared Dudley #3 and Louis Amundson #17 of the Phoenix Suns celebrate after Dudley hit a 3 point shot against the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference finals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on May 25, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 115-106. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Finally, Good Playoff Basketball: Suns Take Game 4 To Even Series With Lakers

Channing Frye broke out of his shooting slump and scored 14 points, as the Phoenix Suns used strong bench play to even the Western Conference finals with a 115-106 Game 4 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at US Airways Center.

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Suns-Lakers, Game 4: Robin Lopez Boxes Out His Teammates, Too?

In a previous update, I wrote that Phoenix is "everyone's sentimental favorite at this point." That may have seemed presumptuous, but stuff like this explains where I'm coming from:


(Gif courtesy of Jose3030 ... Remember him?)


Suns-Lakers, Game 4: Team Suns Prevailed Over Team Kobe

After Tuesday night's thrilling Game 4 victory, suddenly the Phoenix Suns have new life. And they're doing it their way, to boot. Playing team basketball, as SB Nation's Bright Side of the Sun wrote postgame:

Tonight, the story was of a team. A group of guys that love each other, that run through walls for each other, that gladly sacrifice their minutes and individual stats for the great glory of winning. And while the Kobe Bryants of the universe might be wired such that winning is all they know, this Suns team is wired collectively to succeed for each other.

It is the communal David beating the individual Goliaths. 

The series is now tied at 2 all and guaranteed at worst, the Suns will have made this a long series and have bounced back from two tough beatings to earn the respect of their peers, fans and media. There is nothing that can happen from here on in that can take away from what's been accomplished so far.

At yet there's only two more wins to get to the NBA finals. 17 years after the 1993 team who followed 17 years after the 1976 team. Destiny awaits.

Now, to be fair to L.A., it's not so much as "communal David" beating "individual Goliaths." Really, Kobe was the only "Goliath" on the court for L.A. last night. That's not to detract from the Suns' performance—because Phoenix's zone has completely discombobulated Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and nearly every other L.A. Laker—but the idea of "Team vs. Kobe" is mostly myth. It's indicative of a situation the past two games that's arisen out of necessity, not by L.A.'s design.

While Suns fans might want to paint this series as a war of clashing ideologies, it's moreso a question of strategy, where they've allowed Kobe to dominate, while the zone's flummoxed the rest of L.A. No question, though: the Lakers know they can't win without Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom clicking, too.

And no question, that'll be the top priority as both teams head back to L.A. for Game 5. Can Phoenix—everyone's sentimental favorite at this point—continue to keep L.A. on their heels?

For more on the Suns, check out SB Nation's excellent Suns blog, Bright Side of the Sun.


Phoenix Rules From The Bench In 115-106 Win Over Lakers

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - Channing Frye broke out of his shooting slump and scored 14 points, as the Phoenix Suns used strong bench play to even the Western Conference finals with a 115-106 Game 4 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at US Airways Center.

The Suns were dominated in the first two games at the Staples Center, but rallied behind a 42-point, 11-rebound effort from Amare Stoudemire in a 118-109 victory Sunday night. Stoudemire had 21 points and eight rebounds Tuesday, while Steve Nash contributed 15 points and eight assists.

Frye came into the game 1-for-20 in the series and had missed his last 17 shots until knocking down a three-pointer midway through the second quarter. He went 4-of-8 from long distance and Phoenix's reserves outscored the Los Angeles bench players, 54-20. Leandro Barbosa had half of his 14 points in the last quarter. Jared Dudley added 11 points, while Goran Dragic contributed eight points and eight assists for the Phoenix reserves.

Phoenix's bench players accounted for all the points during a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter, turning a two-point deficit into a 10-point cushion with just over five minutes left.

Kobe Bryant went 6-of-9 from beyond the arc, on the way to 38 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers. Lamar Odom had 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while starter Pau Gasol also scored 15, but the Lakers lost the battle of the boards by a 51-36 count.

Despite the loss, the Lakers and head coach Phil Jackson still have history on their side as they had back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Thursday. Jackson's teams are 35-0 all-time when winning the first two games of a series and are 53-1 all-time when holding a series lead of any kind in the playoffs.

Jordan Farmar nailed a three-pointer to give the Lakers an 87-85 edge just 72 seconds into the final quarter, but Barbosa responded with a jumper and Louis Amundson added a layup to give Phoenix the lead for good.

Frye, Barbosa and Dudley hit three-pointers during the spurt for a 99-89 difference, energizing the home crowd. Amundson capped the burst by sinking 1-of-2 free throws with 5:14 remaining.

Gasol's put-back jam had the defending NBA champions within 103-97 with 2:24 to play, but the Lakers got no closer as the Suns held on by going 11-of-14 from the foul line in the final quarter.

Jason Richardson sank a three-pointer in the closing minute of the first quarter, drawing the Suns even at 23 after the opening stanza.

The Suns, who went 11-of-30 from behind the arc, got three-balls from Frye and Dudley in a 52-second span midway through the second to provide Phoenix with a 44-34 lead. They were in front 64-55 at the break despite Stoudemire having just six points and three rebounds.

Stoudemire turned that around in the third, scoring 11 of Phoenix's 21 points, but it was Bryant's team taking the lead briefly thanks to his 16-point quarter. He sank back-to-back three-pointers to draw LA within 70-68 and one Gasol free throw moved the Lakers to an 84-83 edge with 56.7 seconds left in the quarter. Dragic, though, sank two from the charity stripe to send the Suns into the fourth with a one-point edge.

Bryant has 4,785 career playoff points, passing Karl Malone (4,761) for fourth place on the NBA's all-time list. Shaquille O'Neal (5,248) is third...Nash, who suffered a broken nose in the fourth quarter of Game 3, went 3-of-11 from the field...Ron Artest scored 13 points, while Andrew Bynum finished with 12 points and eight boards for the Lakers.


9:00 P.M., Game 4: Can Phoenix Level The Series, Or Will L.A. Take Commanding 3-1 Lead?

(Sports Network) - All hope looked lost for the Phoenix Suns after the team suffered a pair of emphatic losses in Los Angeles during the first two games of the Western Conference finals.

But, things can change greatly in a week and the Suns now have a chance to even their set with the reigning NBA champion Lakers if they can capture Game 4 at US Airways Arena tonight.

Home cooking has proved to be the difference so far in the West finals and Phoenix got back in the series Sunday night when Amare Stoudemire erupted for a career playoff- high-tying 42 points to go with 11 rebounds, as the Suns took a 118-109 Game 3 victory over the Lakers.

Phoenix had been abused in the post in losing the first two games in LA, but Stoudemire's valiant effort, coupled with a 37-of-42 showing from the free throw line, helped the team cut its series deficit to 2-1.

"We came out with great intensity. It was an important game. We had to get this one and we played well," Stoudemire said. "I was ready. I wanted to attack their bigs a little bit and get them into foul trouble."

Robin Lopez put in 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, Jason Richardson added 19 points and Steve Nash contributed his usual 17 points and 15 assists for the Suns despite suffering a broken nose in the fourth quarter when Derek Fisher went for a steal.

"We did a good job tonight and now we have to put all of our focus on Tuesday to try to win another game," Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said.

Kobe Bryant finished with 36 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for Los Angeles, which committed 17 turnovers against a confusing Phoenix zone compared to just seven for the Suns.

"Some of them were bobbled balls, dribbling with a toe out of bounds. Some of them came from their zone." Bryant said of the giveaways. "We were expecting them to have a breakout game at some point in this series."

Pau Gasol scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Fisher netted 18 points for the Lakers, who had their eight-game winning streak broken.

Lamar Odom, after averaging 18 points and 15 rebounds in the first two games in LA, had 10 and six before fouling out. Andrew Bynum, battling a knee injury, played an ineffective 7 1/2 minutes, making his lone field goal attempt but picking up four fouls trying to slow down Stoudemire.

"They attacked the rim and got 42 foul shots. That appeared to be their game plan," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. "We didn't start out the way I wanted and we didn't finish the right way."

Despite the Phoenix win, the Suns still face an uphill battle in the series. Jackson-led clubs are 46-0 when winning Game 1 of any playoff series, 35-0 when capturing a 2-0 edge and an astonishing 53-1 when holding a series lead of any kind.

Nash underwent what was described as a minor reduction on Monday that put his nose back in place and was able to practice on Monday. The two-time former MVP will be in the starting lineup tonight.

"I think he's as tough as they come," Gentry said of Nash on Monday. "You saw what happened in the game last night, he tried to rearrange his own nose. My wife was in a car accident and broke her nose. It almost made her physically sick to see him grab his nose and just try to rearrange it himself."

Meanwhile, the oft-injured Bynum, who has struggled since tearing cartilage in his right knee at the end of the Lakers' quarterfinals series against the Oklahoma City, refused to blame the injury for his woes.

"No excuses. I feel a little pain, it goes away. I feel a little pain, it goes away. I just need to play better," Bynum said.

Talk Monday revolved around the Suns' zone defense that was so effective in Game 3. Jackson remarked that he had never seen an NBA team use the zone so much since it was legalized in 2001-02, while some members of the Lakers seemed to infer the philosophy was less than "manly."

"We have to try every way we can to find a situation where we can win," Gentry said. "Whatever that takes. If we have to play our girlie zone as somebody said, we'll play our girlie zone."

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.

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 5 of the series will be back in LA on Thursday.

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