The Phoenix Suns’ bench put up first team numbers, and the Lakers were over-matched on defense Tuesday night in Game 4. The Suns looked like a team on a mission defensively, holding the Lakers to just 106 in a 115-106 victory. A week ago the Lakers looked as if they were going to make it an easy sweep, but the Phoenix Suns were more determined than ever to even the series at two games.
The Lakers bench provided some relief, but there were stretches during the second half when it looked as if the Suns couldn’t miss. Channing Frye, after terrible performances in Games 1 and 2, lit up the Lakers for 14 points. Frye shot 4-8 from behind the three-point line, and added 6 rebounds off the bench.
Leandro Barbosa showed up again in a playoff rivalry that has been going on for a decade. Barbosa added 14 of his own on 6-8 shooting from the floor. The Suns bench collectively had 54 points, 23 rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 4.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry praised his second team. He is proud of the way the believed in themselves Tuesday night.
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“We believe in those guys and they really believe in themselves,” Gentry said. “I thought they were much better defensively than they were offensively, and they were great offensively.”
The Suns starters weren’t bad either. Amare Stoudemire led his team in scoring, putting up a second straight dominating performance inside. After two bad games to start the series, Stoudemire did not let the bigs of LA dominate. The Suns center had 21 points, 8 rebounds, and shot 7-12 from the free-throw line.
The Lakers fell short of the performances they put up in the first two games. Kobe Bryant had a huge game scoring 38, with 10 assists, and seven rebounds, but it was not enough to have the Lakers on top as time expired. Bryant realized that his team has gone away from the defensive efforts they gave last week.
“Coming up here, we lost a sense of urgency defensively,” Bryant said. “I think our concentration was focused on how to attack the zone and I think it kind of flipped our attention to detail defensively. Our focus was on the [offensive] side of the floor, which doesn’t win championships.”
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When asked if he was concerned after his bench got smoked, Lakers coach Phil Jackson joked, “It wasn’t a Cohiba, I’ll tell you that.”
Paul Gasol, who added 15 points, says the Suns should never be underestimated again.
“I think people were overlooking them after the first two games and just thinking ahead already,” Gasol said. “Obviously that’s a big mistake.”
NBA Sportsbooks have set the Laker’s odds to win the 2010 NBA Finals at 4/5. The Phoenix Suns’ are one of the underdogs at 13/2.