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Yes, they could sweep, but Lakers aren't talking trash about Suns

Kobe Bryant says L.A. needs to work on controlling the pace as series moves to Phoenix, where the Suns 'run much, much better.'

May 20, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

Bring on Boston?

Not quite yet. Not if you talk to the Lakers.

Caution and superstition are key parts of many playoff series, particularly when Team A is in the same spot it was four years ago against Team B, holding a comfortable two-game lead in a best-of-seven series.

The Lakers lead Phoenix in the Western Conference finals, 2-0, not quite the 3-1 edge they had before losing to them in seven in the first round in 2006, but still too tight to begin trashing the Suns.

Kobe Bryant had barely sat down for interviews after Game 2 before saying how great the Suns play at US Airways Center, where the series resumes Sunday.

"They run much, much better at Phoenix," he said. "So we've got to do a much better job holding them down, pacing the game. We can't play with this kind of tempo in Phoenix. It's different."

But the Lakers are averaging 126 points a game and shooting 57.8% in the series.

"Got to take better shots, not as many transition threes," Bryant said. "We've got to be more patient."

Patient? The reaction from thousands of Lakers followers: Whatever. Bring on the Celtics.

The Lakers have won four of their last six games in Phoenix, where the outdoor temperatures are already creeping into triple digits and the local fans are restless because their two All-Stars aren't even close to matching the impact of the Lakers' two All-Stars.

Reader comment No. 1 on the Arizona Republic's website: " Pau Gasol is like a big bully taking candy from the little guy."

Reader comment No. 2: "Hey, we swept the Spurs in the semis. That was fun."

Yep. It's getting hot in Phoenix, in case the ramped-up cries among some fans for playing time for untested Suns rookies Taylor Griffin and Earl Clark don't prove the point.

Meanwhile, Coach Phil Jackson gave the Lakers a day off Thursday, allowing them to rest and reflect upon the success that has them within six victories of the franchise's 16th NBA championship.

Their role players are outplaying those of the Suns, be it Jordan Farmar averaging 10.5 points and shooting 72.7% through two games or Ron Artest — a role player on offense, to be sure — scoring as many points, 18, as Amare Stoudemire in Game 2, thanks to a recently rediscovered touch from three-point range.

And there's still Bryant, averaging 30.5 points, nine assists and five rebounds this series.

"He's a very unselfish guy," Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said after Bryant's 13-assist effort in Game 2, the most by a Lakers player in a playoff game since Magic Johnson had 13 against in 1996 against Houston. "I mean, he really trusts his teammates now. … He finds open guys.

"He's not going to force things. He doesn't do that anymore."

History is on the Lakers' side despite their slip-up against Phoenix four years ago. They are 41-1 when winning the first two games of a best-of-seven series, their lone blemish coming in the 1969 NBA finals, when they lost a 2-0 lead and ultimately lost in seven games to Boston.

Perhaps the only thing bothering them is the torn cartilage in Andrew Bynum's knee, which continues to be an issue. He posted decent numbers in Game 2 — 13 points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes — but was then asked how confident he was that he would be able to finish the season.

"Confident," he said. "I'm going to do it no matter what."

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