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Art Garcia

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Channing Frye was just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc in the Suns' blowout loss in Game 1.
Noah Graham /NBAE/Getty Images

Suns' bench looks to bounce back in Game 2


Posted May 18 2010 10:39PM

LOS ANGELES -- Channing Frye kept jacking them up Monday night and they kept clanging. Is that going to change his approach in Game 2?

"You're talking to the wrong dude," Frye replied, confidence not impacted one ounce. "I'll shoot that ball every single time I get a chance. I had a bad game. It happens."

The 3-point hoisting backup center wasn't the only member of the Suns' bench not feeling it in Game 1. The second unit as a whole never found its rhythm in the 128-107 rout that gave the Lakers the early edge in the Western Conference semifinals.

Phoenix doesn't treat its bench like a traditional bench. They're not just used to giving the starters a rest. Frye, Jared Dudley, Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic and Louis Amundson function as a team in themselves, and each blends in with members of the first team as needed.

The Suns wouldn't be in the conference finals without their contributions, so when they struggle, the Suns struggle. Phoenix got only 13 points from the bench through three quarters -- pretty much when the opener was decided.

"Before the series is over, we'll play well and they won't play well in the second unit, and vice versa," said Dudley, who scored five and found himself in early foul trouble trying to guard Kobe Bryant. "You don't want to be peak and valleys, you want to be consistent."

In a series where most contend the Lakers have an edge at every position except point guard, the Suns were supposed to be deeper. Going 10-strong helped outlast Portland and bury San Antonio through the first two rounds.

But Game 1 had the defending champs getting more from everyone up and down the lineup. Los Angeles' bench brigade had Lamar Odom go off for 19 points and 19 boards. Jordan Farmer scored 10 and dished a team-high tying five assists, and Shannon Brown chipped in nine points and nearly brought Staples down with a soaring almost-dunk over Jason Richardson.

"It was tough," Frye admitted. "They did a good job of taking advantage of that and they kept putting it on us. That second group for them really had a lot of energy, really forced the issues and when you're making mental mistakes it affects you both ways."

Odom provided the spark late in the first quarter, as the Lakers erased an early 7-0 deficit and went up by as much as 10. Odom, Farmer and Brown also played big minutes in the second quarter before Bryant exploded in the third.

"We took them out of their offense, and we have to expect for them to come out really firing, really on," Odom said. "They missed a lot of shots that they normally make, and I'm pretty sure the next game they'll make them, and we have to be prepared to take their best punch, and we will be."

Frye (three points) missed seven of eight shots from beyond the arc. Dudley knocked down just one of five. Dragic (13 points) and Barbosa (11) did manage to get going into the fourth quarter, but the Lakers already had the game in hand as Suns coach Alvin Gentry rested his starters.

"They got some open looks, some of their guys, Frye, Dudley, they're 3-point shooters," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "That was one of the things that we were able to hold them down a little bit in that area, even though defensively I wasn't totally pleased with the game."

There was little the Suns were pleased with. Frye said "mental mistakes" were the culprit, and unlike the previous two rounds, they never hit their stride.

"In the past series, we've done a better job of establishing how we want to play, being aggressive and taking things away," he said.

Phoenix had just one fastbreak basket in each half. Steve Nash didn't have an imprint on the proceedings despite 13 points and 13 assists. The Suns were blistered by Odom and Pau Gasol inside, and had no hope against Bryant.

"I don't think that we can really pin this loss on the first unit or the second unit," said Nash, who sat out the entire fourth quarter. "I thought we both needed to play better. We both had success in stretches, but we couldn't sustain it. We'll look to have a better effort for the entirety of Game 2."

The Suns were down 1-0 in the first round against Portland, dropping the opener at home. They came back to win four of the next five before sweeping the Spurs. As frustrating as Monday night was across the board, the Suns had to remind themselves it's only one game.

"You can't get discouraged," Dudley said. "They did what they're supposed to do and now you've got to go back. Probably the media and everybody say now the series is over. I remember Steve told me after we lost to Portland, 'In the NBA playoffs, when you lose a game it's like the end of the world and everyone says you're done and when you win a game it's like you can't lose.'

"We just have to stay even keel and relax."

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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