NBA: Lakers lucky’ Suns can’t play defense
By Randy Youngman
The Orange County Register
LOS ANGELES — Alvin Gentry is a nice guy, but the Phoenix Suns need a new coach.
Is Rex Ryan available? How about Monte Kiffin?
Or Scott Niedermayer?
The Suns are the NBA's highest-scoring team, but somebody needs to teach them how to play defense.
Either that or a bunch of Lakers had "lucky" games Wednesday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
Right, Amar'e Stoudamire?
Lucky Stiffs 124, Phoenix Suns 112.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I believe the Lakers are lucky.
Lucky that most of the Suns — especially Stoudamire — play matador defense.
Here comes Kobe Bryant (21 points, 13 assists) driving through the lane.
There's Ron Artest (18 points) open in the corner. Let him shoot; he can't shoot 3's.
There's Lamar Odom leaping off the bench to crash the boards — excuse me, Stoudamire calls it "sneaking in" to grab rebounds — en route to another double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds).
There's Pau Gasol (game-high 29 points) shooting with his right hand, then his left hand, to make the Suns post defenders to feel doubly humiliated.
The Lakers also are lucky the Suns don't box out well. Ask Lakers center Andrew Bynum, the guy with torn cartilage in his knee, who went 5 for 5 from close range and finished with 13 points in 18 minutes.
After shooting 58 percent in Game 1, the Lakers also shot 58 percent in Game 2 and withstood a furious third-quarter rally by Phoenix to pull away in the fourth, grabbing a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series as it shifts to Phoenix for Games 3 and 4.
"We played well offensively," Gentry said afterward, "but we can't slow 'em down."
"We're scoring enough points," said Suns point guard Steve Nash (11 points, 15 assists), "but ..."
But the Lakers are a bunch of lucky stiffs.
Bird's-eye view: Who said the Lakers had a height advantage over the Suns?
From the hockey press box high above the court, where I watched the first half Wednesday night, all of the players looked the same.
Like gold ants and orange ants.
And now I know what it's like to be a Lakers fan watching from the seats near the rafters of Staples Center. Good thing I had my binoculars.
I can also say the concession prices are as high as the arena ceiling. Cost of a spicy Italian sausage, bag of caramel corn and a bottled water: $17.
The experience, however, was priceless. (I'm on expense account.)
All kidding aside, it was fun watching a game from a different perspective, but I'm still waiting for the sheet with the power play stats.
Home court: The Lakers are on such a roll — that's eight in a row since the back-to-back losses in Oklahoma City that panicked Laker Nation — the Jackson Five is on the way to regaining home-court advantage in the NBA Finals.
OK, the Boston Celtics actually are doing them the favor, first eliminating Cleveland and then winning the first two games at Orlando. (The Cavaliers and Magic were the only two teams that finished with a better regular-season record than the Lakers and thus were the only two teams that could have the extra home game in The Finals.)
You always want the home court in the playoffs, but does anybody else think the Lakers would have a better chance against the Magic than the defensive-minded Celtics?
Prolific precedent: This high-scoring series has a chance to be the first since the 1991 Western Conference semifinals that the Lakers and their playoff opponent scored at least 100 points in every game.
This is the first time since that series that the Lakers have scored at least 120 points in back-to-back playoff games.
Mulligan, anyone? In case you were wondering, there were three writers from ESPN.com who predicted the Suns would win this series.
Marc Stein, a former Register colleague, and John Hollinger picked the Suns in six games; Chris Sheridan picked the Suns in 7.
Call the locksmith: The Lakers are 40-1 in Los Angeles when winning the first two games of any playoff series.
Envelope, please: The Lakers' Sixth Man Award in the first two games of this series goes to Phoenix's Channing Frye, who is a combined 1 for 13 from the field.
Parting shot: Gentry, as he left the postgame interview room Wednesday night: "I'm open for suggestions. Even (from) the media."
Call Scott Niedermayer.