The Suns, having already shown plenty of life on the court the day before, rose Monday to meet the verbal challenge from Laker guard Ron Harper, who threw down the gauntlet for Game 5 tonight at Staples Center moments after Phoenix's easy win in Game 4.
"Tuesday, we're beating the . . . out of them," Harper said Sunday.
Monday, the Suns couldn't help but feel things had just gotten personal.
"I think it is," Penny Hardaway said. "To me, there is a respect factor they don't have for us. Evidently, they felt like they were supposed to come in and just walk over us two games and then go home.
"Once we put up a fight, it was almost like they got an attitude. 'What are you guys doing playing like this? You're not supposed to play us like this.' Ron Harper's already set the tone for how Game 5 is going to be. That's what the playoffs are all about. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Said Jason Kidd: "I don't know if it's personal. It's a war. You've got two great teams going head to head. This is who respects who. I think both teams respect each other, but they [the Lakers] still feel a little superior because they think they can beat us at any given time. Our job is to make them think about that."
Rather, to think twice about it.
"Game 5 is totally different because they probably don't want to have to come back [to Phoenix] and play," Coach Scott Skiles said. "So that makes it more of a sense of urgency for both teams.
"We lose, our season's over. They lose, they have to come back here for Game 6. So I would imagine very early in the game it's going to be very intense."
Still trying to nurse along several injuries, the Suns again went very light in practice, just as they did Saturday, the day before the rousing showing in Game 4.
The newest addition to the list was the big bruise showing on Hardaway's right knee, the result of his first-quarter collision with Shaquille O'Neal under the basket. So when someone asked Hardaway on Monday what's wrong with the knee, he said simply:
"Shaq. That's what it's called."
At least Kidd is improving, as if anyone couldn't tell from the 22 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds Sunday, the first playoff triple-double of his career. That came just five days after he struggled to get through the series opener as the ankle injury continues to heal.
"Game 1 was a bad situation for me," Kidd said. "I could barely move after halftime. But I feel better. The ankle's gotten stronger. That was the old Jason out there."