NBA: Suns expect to bounce back strong from thrashing
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES — Channing Frye is just grateful an NBA playoff series doesn't follow the Tour de France's rules.
After enduring their largest blowout loss in four months in the Western Conference finals opener, the Phoenix Suns don't have to begin Game 2 way behind the guys in the yellow jerseys.
"They're not going to start out with a 30-point lead," said Frye, forgetting the Suns lost to the Lakers by a mere 21 points Monday night. "It's over, and we're going to be even again, so hopefully we'll do a better job."
The Suns seemed cautiously upbeat Tuesday at their Staples Center workout following Los Angeles' 128-107 victory in the opener. Coach Alvin Gentry held court with team personnel at the scorers' table, while Steve Nash calmly sipped a cup of tea across the way.
And Amare Stoudemire was still talking tough before Game 2 on Wednesday night.
The Suns forward, who promised physical play against the Lakers' bulky frontcourt before the series, was unimpressed by Lamar Odom, who had 19 points and 19 rebounds off the Lakers' bench in the opener.
"He had a lucky game in Game 1," said Stoudemire, who seems particularly fiery in what might be his last few games with Phoenix if he declines a contract option and becomes a free agent this summer.
"We've just got to make sure we box him out," said Stoudemire, who managed just three rebounds while Odom set a career playoff high on the boards. "I think I focused so much on (Pau) Gasol and (Andrew) Bynum to where he sneaked in there and got 19 boards."
Odom and his teammates could only chuckle at Stoudemire's bravado after another workout at their El Segundo training complex. Odom's versatile, aggressive effort helped Los Angeles hold off the Suns in the first half until Kobe Bryant scorched them for 21 points in the third quarter.
"It was good. We can do better," Odom said. "Hopefully I can have another lucky game."
"You have to earn luck," Gasol chimed in.
With a little luck, the Lakers could be on a roll to their third straight NBA finals after a commanding performance in their seventh straight playoff win.
Stoudemire's teammates aren't counting on good fortune to help them recover from their one-sided loss. They remain confident their pick-and-roll offense will create easier baskets later in the series, and they also hope to stop the Lakers from hitting 58 percent of their shots, as Bryant and Co. did in their highest-scoring playoff game in more than two years.
"Some of the things we game-planned for, we actually did well," said Nash, who had 13 points and 13 assists. "We just didn't hit shots. We want to cut down on their transitions and create some easier stuff for ourselves, but some of the things they did, you've just got to tip your hat to."
The Suns hadn't lost since April 24, but their playoff streak skidded to a halt in their most one-sided loss since Jan. 16, featuring the most points they've allowed since March 26. Phoenix hasn't lost back-to-back games since Jan. 25-26, when the Suns began their 28-7 finish to the regular season, pushing them into third place in the conference standings.
Bryant, who had the first 40-point game against the Suns all season, didn't speak to reporters after taking it easy in another practice session. Yet for all the talk about Bryant's accumulated injuries, the Suns realize he shows no signs of slowing down after five straight 30-point playoff games capped by his first 40-point postseason performance since last year's NBA finals.
"The shots he made, we could run anybody at him — we could run Schwarzkopf at him," Gentry said, referring to former Gulf War Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. "It doesn't matter. He's going to make them. The shot he made at the end of the first quarter, that's what I'm talking about. That's why they pay him $30 million a year. I think he's the best finisher that ever played."
The defending NBA champions mostly seemed unimpressed by their opening victory, which kept them unbeaten in six home playoff games.
Coach Phil Jackson felt numerous flaws in Los Angeles' defensive performance were covered up by the Suns' poor shooting, while Derek Fisher worried about going through a seven-game series at Phoenix's preferred pace.
"Sometimes we played a little bit too fast," Fisher said. "Something we want to come back to in Game 2 is making sure Pau and Drew and Ron (Artest) and Kobe get their opportunities inside to test their D. That's where we're difficult for teams to guard."
Jackson dismissed the notion of any distraction for his team in the small protest outside Game 1 over his unclear stance on Arizona's new immigration law. The coach said he saw about 30 protesters outside Staples Center after the game, and they had a few choice words for him as he drove away.
"Luck is part of the game," said Jackson, whose teams in Chicago and Los Angeles are 46-0 after winning the first game of a playoff series. "You make your own luck, that's what sports people like to say."