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Art Garcia

Phoenix needs some luck and a scheme to hold back Los Angeles to grab its first win of the series.
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Suns in need of some good fortune

Posted May 20 2010 2:35AM

LOS ANGELES -- Try being lucky and good. That's the Lakers right now. Is there any worse nightmare for the Suns?

Amar'e Stoudemire probably needs to expand his circle of luck to include more than Lamar Odom. Two nights after getting torched by Kobe Bryant, the Suns were force fed heaps of Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, and, you guessed it, Odom.

Throw in a historic, albeit unselfish, effort from Kobe and it's easy to see why Phoenix heads are spinning. The Lakers took a 2-0 grip on the Western Conference finals by breaking away late Wednesday night for a 124-112 win. The series shifts to Phoenix for the next two games -- will there be a need for more? -- starting Sunday.

"Well, what can you say?" Suns coach Alvin Gentry said before being prompted by a question. "We are just having a hard time. We can't slow them down. I thought we played well offensively, but every time we tried to make an adjustment to slow them down, they go somewhere else.

"And, you know, you do a great job on Kobe, and I thought we did. Then they go to Pau and we double-team Pau and there's Lamar, and we get it out of Lamar's hand and Jordan Farmar makes shots. And there's a reason they're the world champs. There's a good reason they're the world champs."

The reasons are many through the first two games. The Lakers are averaging 126 points and shooting 58 percent, numbers that mock the Suns' season-long improvement defensively. The champs are continuing to exploit their superior length and have shown more depth off the bench.

So even when the Suns dug out of an 11-point hole early in the third quarter to tie it at 90 going into the fourth, the Lakers never appeared threatened. The small Phoenix lineup that gave L.A. fits in the third was overpowered by Gasol and Odom in the fourth.

A trio of turnovers to start the final period, including two poor passes from Steve Nash, were turned into baskets and the Lakers were quickly up 11 again. Stoudemire, practically helpless defensively due to foul trouble in the fourth, didn't go to the lucky card after.

Surprise was more like it.

"They're doing a great job offensively," said Stoudemire, who backed up his three rebounds in Game 1 with six. "With the triangle offense, they're moving the ball. Artest shot the ball extremely well tonight. That's something that we didn't expect."

The Suns had to expect another vintage Kobe exhibition, and in a way No. 24 delivered. Bryant just didn't see the need to single-handedly take over, as he did in the third quarter of Game 1. Instead, he surveyed the situation, found the soft spots and took on the role of facilitator. His 13 assists stand as his most ever in 187 career playoff games and the most for any Laker since Magic Johnson had as many 14 years ago.

In the deciding fourth, Bryant had four assists. Each led to a layup for either Gasol (game-high 29 points) or Odom (17).

"It makes the game a lot easier, obviously, to have a big that can catch, complete, make plays," Kobe said. "And all of our bigs can do that."

Bryant going from 40 points to 21 and 13 had Gentry scratching his head again. The straight-talking Suns coach left the podium soliciting advice for slowing down Kobe. "I'm open for suggestions," he quipped. He wasn't really joking.

No one spoke up.

"What happens if you try to start to double team Kobe and try to get the ball out of his hands, he's a very unselfish guy," Gentry said. "I mean he really trusts his teammates now. And when you do that, he finds open guys and he gets you in rotation. When you get in rotation, they've got players that are very capable of making shots.

"So it's pick your poison with these guys. I mean, you look at the stat sheet there's like 27, 21, 28 ... I mean it gets to be real difficult. But we have to continue to try to find an answer. That's why we're here."

The Lakers are in the West finals for reason, too, and aren't going anywhere the next four days. They're not going to get any shorter or less talented. Maybe, for the Suns' sake, they will get somewhat complacent.

But unlike the happenings out East, the Phoenix predicament isn't as extreme as Orlando's. The Suns return to the desert with at shot at tying this up, and they're 4-1 at US Airways Arena during the playoffs.

"Well, we've got to win," Nash said. "Obviously, we can't keep losing. So we're going to try to win Game 3 and try to win Game 4. So they did hold home court. We've got to now hold home court and we've also got to win on the road.

"So we've definitely got our work cut out for us."

They could use some luck.

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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