Reporting from Phoenix —
In reality, all the Phoenix Suns really did was "hold serve" on their own home court by winning Games 3 and 4 at US Airways Center against the Lakers in the Western Conference finals.
After he made that comment, Suns Coach Alvin Gentry paused and smiled.
He knew it was much more than that for his team.
The Suns had lost the first two games in Los Angeles at Staples Center, leaving many to think the Lakers were going to sweep the series.
The Lakers had run up 128 points in Game 1 and 124 in Game 2.
The Lakers had shot 58% from the field in Game 1, 47.1% from three-point range.
The Lakers had shot 57.7% from the field in Game 2, 56.3% from three-point range.
There seemed to be no stopping the Lakers.
But that all changed in the next two games, games that the Suns won to even the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
When the Suns got down 0-2, there was talk of their demise.
"I think the feeling was we didn't play well and part of it was what they [the Lakers] were doing," Grant Hill said. "Part of it was what we weren't doing. Our focus those three days [off] was to just get back to being us, doing what we do, get back to the basics."
That meant shooting and making three-pointers.
That meant playing with more effort and passion.
It also meant using a 2-3 zone defense that seemed to throw off the Lakers in both games.
"Now we have an opportunity to improve upon our performance in L.A.," Hill said. "We haven't played well in that building all season."
The Suns outrebounded the Lakers for the first time in the series, 51-36, in Game 4.
The Suns shot 36.7% from three-point range.
The Suns reserves scored 54 points.
The Suns slowed the Lakers down enough to limit LA to 106 points, the least the Lakers scored in four games.
The Suns were more aggressive for the second straight game, getting to the free-throw line 32 times, making just 22. The Lakers were just seven-for-13 from the free-throw line.
"It was fun to see the shots go," Steve Nash said. "But we got to continue to do the little things to win in L.A. …We've got to prove it either in Game 5 or Game 7 that we can win in L.A."
First, there will be Game 5 at Staples Center Thursday night.
Then Game 6 will be back in Phoenix Saturday night.
"To beat the Lakers twice in a row, it gives us confidence," Hill said. "Obviously we know it's going to be tough. We feel better than we felt after Game 2, put it that way.
"What that means, I don't know. But I think we'll go up there with more confidence. And I think [the Lakers] are going to play desperate. It should be a good game."
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