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The Heat Is Turned Up in Phoenix

May 14, 2000|MARK HEISLER

PHOENIX — Guess where the Suns' backs are?

"Well, you know, obviously our backs are against the wall," Kevin Johnson said Saturday. "We're playing a great team. You can't not give them respect and acknowledge their accomplishments.

"You know this wasn't a cakewalk for them [Lakers] to get up 3-0. They had an easy game in Game 1. They had to fight in Games 2 and 3. There's no moral victory for us, there's no consolation in that. But now we've narrowed it down to, we need to win one ballgame and that's what we can do. That's all we can hope for at this point."


Dear referees, could you please call more fouls on the Lakers?

Sun Coach Scott Skiles, who can use all the help he can get, made his debut at trying to influence the officials for today's Game 4 in the time-honored playoff way, noting the Lakers have nearly made more free throws than his team has attempted.

The Lakers have been to the line 105 times, making 72 (68.6%). The Suns have attempted 83, making 60, a .722 percentage but a deficit of four points a game. Shaquille O'Neal has shot 39, making 22 (.564).

"It was the same way in the San Antonio series," Skiles said. "We won that series. It was the same way, kind of, for us all year long. We've shot the fewest free throws in the league in the playoffs. We shoot 22 a game. . . .

"I leave [the reasons] to other people. I'm simply stating a fact. We go to the hole strong. . . . I don't know if it's our reputation of being a jump-shooting team."

Skiles stopped short of a show of indignation, conceding part of the difference comes from hacking Shaq. Also, both their playoff opponents--the Spurs and Lakers--run low-post offenses, while the smaller Suns tend to start outside and drive.

"Obviously, everyone knows you're going to get more fouls called at the basket than you are out in front," Skiles said. "It's just the nature of the game of basketball."

This is only his first year. Next year, he can be indignant.


Penny Hardaway, O'Neal's teammate in Orlando, on Phil Jackson's contribution to Shaq's game:

"I think Phil Jackson has taught him so much. I think he's taught him when to go, when not to go, how to read the double-teams, how to sometimes go quick, sometimes wait, look at all the cutters before you go. . . . Shaq used to just bull over people, get a lot of offensive fouls. Now he's not making those mistakes any more."

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