Lakers Gameday | 05/29/10 | Suns

ROUND 3 GAME 6 | MAY 29 | SAT | 5:30 PM | US AIRWAYS CENTER
103
111
GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Los Angeles Lakers 37 28 26 20 111
Play by Play Phoenix Suns 34 19 21 29 103



  • GAME HIGHLIGHTS
  • GAME RECAP
  • QUOTES
  • COACH PREVIEW
  • GAME PREVIEW
  • SCOUTING REPORT
  • INJURY REPORT
  • GAME NOTES

Lakers-Suns Highlights

 









GAME PHOTOS


View Game 6 Photos

Lakers beat Suns to set up rematch with Boston

By BOB BAUM

PHOENIX(AP) Get ready, Boston. Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers want a rematch.

Bryant wrapped up a magnificent series with 37 points, Ron Artest added 25 and the Lakers held off the Phoenix Suns 111-103 on Saturday night to win the Western Conference finals 4-2.

The Lakers and Celtics, the NBA's premier teams for much of the league's history, will meet in the finals for the 11th time with Game 1 Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Bryant scored nine points in the final 2 minutes, including what looked like an impossible 23-footer with Grant Hill in his face and 34 seconds to play. The basket put Los Angeles up 107-100 and the scrappy Suns were finished.

Amare Stoudemire, in what may have been his last game with the Suns, scored 27 points but struggled to a 7-of-20 shooting night. Steve Nash had 21 points and nine assists in his 118th playoff game, the most for anyone who has never reached the finals.


Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

MORE FROM BASKETBLOG
NUMBERS
3 Straight trips to the NBA Finals for the Los Angeles Lakers.

10 Three-pointers made by the Lakers, including four from Ron Artest, three from Kobe Bryant and two from Jordan Farmar, in 24 total attempts. The Suns made nine threes in 26 attempts.

14 Offensive rebounds for the Lakers, including five from Lamar Odom, as L.A. won the battle of the glass 40-30.

29 Free throws taken by the Lakers, one more attempt than Phoenix, for L.A.’s first advantage at the foul line all series.

37 Points for Kobe, who nailed a series of dagger jumpers in the second half to clinch the Western Conference for L.A.

Mike Trudell, Lakers.com


Lakers-Suns Quotes


Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson

Q. You're going to move on and play Boston. Can you say what you saw out‑of‑this Phoenix Suns team this series. They were expected barely to make the playoffs, what they've accomplished, the effort they gave against you tonight.
COACH JACKSON: I haven't watched them all the way through the playoffs. Got surprised by Portland at home court early in the playoffs. Then they just went into another gear and played great ball. I thought they played great against Portland and finished it off against San Antonio to sweep them.
They looked like they were a live team defensively. We were fortunate to be able to figure out some things about them defensively in the first couple games. We came back, I thought they covered their home really well, moved into playing the zone about probably 35, 30 minutes of the game. It was a way to ignite their offense, get them down court quickly and get things going.
We figured out the zone, played well against it. They started finding their way in the offensive end at times to give them those bursts they're known for. They had one with two minutes to go in Game 5. Obviously tonight they were ignited by an incidental play in which Sasha got involved in a flagrant foul. It really sparked their team. They really jumped into the fray after that, got back in the game.
I thought they were pretty dead in the water at that particular time in the game. But they played behind that spirit of their home court and they made a game out of this.

Q. What did you do differently tonight than the other night where the Suns came back, but tonight you encouraged your team to hold on to the victory?
COACH JACKSON: Well, we weren't very successful offensively, but we played the defense that we had to play. You know, this he got a 29‑point quarter at the end of the game. We could survive that with a six‑point play, flagrant foul, et cetera, that goes on in that kind of situation.
Kobe was the man tonight. Obviously Ron had a great half, played well even the second half. You know, we just found a way to chip away at the end of the game and keep that lead that kept us in control of the game.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH JACKSON: I thought he was forcing the action into the two‑minute mark. I was quite concerned about the fact everybody was trying to make a play. He would try to make two or three plays, hadn't worked. Dudley played well, Lamar went to the basket, had a shot blocked. Looked like everybody was trying to do things individually rather than playing together as a team.
We tried to get back to the basics of what we do, some situations that are needs at the end of the game. He felt comfortable getting the push‑off and shooting that shot. Looked like he didn't have the lift in the early part of the quarter. But the end of the quarter he went for it, pushed off, got the elevation he needed to shoot over the top. They were great shots.

Q. The last time you played Boston in Boston.
COACH JACKSON: I have amnesia. When was that?

Q. Two years ago.
COACH JACKSON: (Laughter).

Q. I know you talked about redemption, not necessarily about Boston, but is there some in the air based on the finals a couple years ago?
COACH JACKSON: This is a whole new situation. We have some of the members of our team, five new members of the team, but some of these guys remember how it felt to lose. There's nothing worse than losing in a finals. It's about as low as you can get after riding a high, getting through three series, going into the fourth one and the finals.
I had hoped I'd never experience it, but I've done it twice now, so I know it's a real difficult summer after that.
After we came back in the playoffs last year, I ran into Paul Pierce in a complex where my daughter lives in L.A. I said, Get it back, we want to meet you in the finals. So here it is almost a year later. We have this opportunity, both of us, to renew this rivalry.

Q. Can you talk about what you did different against Amar'e tonight?
COACH JACKSON: We didn't give Amar'e room to drive. We tried to close out on him a little bit, tried to jam him so he would have a little bit of a tough time finding the pathway.
I thought guys contested pretty well. He got to the line a lot, but I thought we kept him off his shot, kept him from scoring a lot of field goals.

Q. You're from the generation in which everybody hated the Celtics. Is this special for you playing Boston? Can it be anything but special playing Boston for somebody with your experience?
COACH JACKSON: I don't know. I don't want to make more of it is than it is. It's obviously a huge rivalry. I know it's a huge one for the Lakers. In New York, we seem to have their number when I was playing in New York. We didn't have that same kind of like we have to beat the Celtics feeling.
It's obvious the Celtics are a rivalry with L.A. There's a renewed fervor between both these towns. It's something that has been anticipated now for the last couple weeks. So here it is.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH JACKSON: Not that much. I mean, you know, we have Ron that came in to play defense. This is his chance to shine. We had a tough matchup with Pierce the last time we played them in the playoffs. This is a guy that we know can defend and enjoys the defensive end of the court. So we anticipate that is a matchup that will be of interest.
Otherwise Ron is playing at a really high elevation. As we remember in Game 6, he had a 20‑point game against us the night they won the championship. We'll look at that matchup and continue to change things there.

Q. Is it your sense that Andrew is okay?
COACH JACKSON: You know, Andrew is going to give us what he can. He's not a hundred percent. But he's throwing himself in there. He'll do the job. He'll do what we ask him to do and be as tough as he can be out there with a limited amount of base that he can work off of.

Q. Last time you played the Celtics, I don't think you had Bynum for that series.
COACH JACKSON: Right.

Q. What's the significance of having him this time even if you only have him for 24 minutes a game? How important is it for him to play well along with Gasol? Seems like it's usually one or the other.
COACH JACKSON: It will be a matchup of bigs. Their bigs are very active and they've got Wallace and Davis coming in off the bench, along with other bodies they can bring in. They're a big team.
Our bigs have to play, have to play well. I thought we were outplayed by their bigs the last time we played them in the '08 series. Andrew will give us some help in that regard.
We played twice this year. I think both the games were one‑point games or something like that, very hotly contested games. We had to play one of them in our home court without Kobe obviously, which makes a difference.
But I don't think they played as well during the regular season perhaps as they have in the past. So we're not judging off those games at all.

Q. What can you say about Artest offensively tonight? Kept you ahead in the first half in particular.
COACH JACKSON: The Lord was with him tonight.

Q. Surprising?
COACH JACKSON: Basketball gods were on his side.









Lakers Guard Kobe Bryant

Q. Can you talk about what went through your mind when they cut that 18‑point lead down to 3. At that point did you feel like you had to take over?
KOBE BRYANT: Just had to keep attacking. Had to stay aggressive. The thing is, when that happens, you have a tendency to want to be a little too passive, instead of playing the same way that got you the lead.

Q. One thing you haven't done in your career is beat the Celtics. Wondering how much that eats at you and what you feel like getting another chance at them now?
KOBE BRYANT: Well, you know, just looking forward to the challenge of it. Last time we played them, it was a great learning experience for us. You know, it taught us what it takes to be a champion. With the defensive intensity they play with, the tenacity they play with, we learned a great deal in that series.

Q. The finals, you are 8 and 0 at home, 4‑4 on the road, what do you need to do to prepare mentally for games three and four in Boston?
KOBE BRYANT: We'll worry about it when it gets to it.

Q. At the point they got it to three, there was some great defense played by you. Looked like you willed the ball in. Can you talk about the last three possessions you had.
KOBE BRYANT: Well, solid defense. They had help coming from the weak side with traps and things like that, so it made it difficult for me to get to the basket.
You know, I just had to create a little bit of space. I had a good look. Looks like a much tougher shot than it actually is. I got a good look. Got my legs underneath me. I was able to knock it down.

Q. Can you talk about the conversation after that at all?
KOBE BRYANT: I just patted him on the butt.

Q. You played Rajon Rondo when you played the Celtics. Before, he was a guy who could fall off. Now he's kind of the guy that makes it happen for them. Are you looking forward to playing him again? Is it different?
KOBE BRYANT: Not really sure. I mean, we'll see. We'll see. Haven't really had a chance to look at him, aside from just mere entertainment, watching games. He's really turned into a helluva player.

Q. How much have each of these three rounds prepared you to be where you need to be entering the finals? Any aspect of your game that you feel is lacking for the Lakers or is everything clicking?
KOBE BRYANT: We're good. We're good. We're playing a different style of ball now. We've had three series here, which every single one of them have been different. Now we're going to this series where the level of intensity and physicality is going to be at an all‑time high. They still do a great job of getting out in transition. This series prepares us well for that.
But we're not looking at games that are 115 or 110 point range.

Q. What was the exchange between you and Gentry after your key shot after Hill? Looked like you kind of tapped him a little bit.
KOBE BRYANT: After I knocked down the shot, I just heard him mutter something like, "That's BS," you know, something to that effect about the shot. Just made me smile.

Q. You said on the broadcast you wanted to kill Sasha after the game. Can you elaborate on that?
KOBE BRYANT: He's still breathing (smiling).

Q. Obviously you didn't have Bynum the last time you had the Celtics in the final. You have Artest to check Pierce. What do you think those two changes in the roster make?
KOBE BRYANT: We'll see. Pierce is a very tough matchup. He's very smart. He's one of the few players that has a long ball, has midrange game, can get to the basket. I think that makes him tough to cover, but Ron is up for the challenge.

Q. Andrew is not a hundred percent going into this series either. He said he would be good for maybe 20, 24 minutes in the next series. Is that significant that you at least have him for that period of time, given you never had him the last time you played the Celtics? His synchronicity in the low post, how significant or important is that in order for you guys to be able to beat the Celtics this time?
KOBE BRYANT: I think they have to be on the same page defensively more so than offensively. Offensively they're both very skilled. If they miss assignments offensively, their talent can make up for it. I think defensively is where they have to be on the same page.
It helps having him against this Celtics team. They're a big team a physical team. I'm excited for him. This is a big challenge for him.

Q. There's some guys in the locker room saying there's a score to settle from two years ago, that that has stayed with you. Others are saying it's ancient history. What camp are you in? Is '08 still with you or not?
KOBE BRYANT: It's a great challenge for us to see how much we've improved, how much we've gotten better, to be able to go up against this team in a playoff series, so...

Q. Do you feel like there's a score to settle?
KOBE BRYANT: I didn't give a damn who we played. Didn't matter to me.

Q. Even though you were able to avenge '08 by winning a title, have you been conscious of a little fire burning or does that only resurface now that the moment is here?
KOBE BRYANT: The challenge is to win the championship. The Celtics are in the way. They feel the same way about us. Obviously this is a matchup, it's very easy to talk about. There's a lot of things that people can write about and talk about. It's a sexy matchup.
We're looking forward to this challenge, looking forward to the test. When the ball goes up, we'll be ready to go.









Lakers’ Forward Lamar Odom

(On Playing Celtics)

“Tough, prideful for both teams. You consider all the times we’ve fought for a Championships, I would say this has to be one of the biggest rivalries in sports. Everybody’s looking forward to it. When you compete on a high level you can respect someone for that. “

(On Series two years ago)
“It’s about now, not about the past. We have pride. This is our third straight year getting here. We look forward to competing or a Championship again and this is about us really, we don’t really worry about the other team and what they do. We wanted the best team in the east.”

(On Kobe)
“I told Hubie Brown that Kobe is so good he makes incredible normal for us, those that are around him. There’s a couple plays where he trusted us and we didn’t come through and he decided to take the game over. He spins away from a double team, leans back and hits those medium range jumpers. He uses his footwork to free himself while he’s being double teamed. There’s not too many players ever in the history of the NBA that can make those plays. I always commend Kobe for his competitiveness, his preciseness, the way he studies the game and his goal as far as being the best player ever. There’s not too many guys that want that responsibility but time and time again he embraces that moment and that’s what makes him so good.”









Lakers’ Forward Ron Artest

(On Tonight’s Performance)

“There was no real keys, as a team we moved the ball. We stayed poised and played hard.”

(On Playing Celtics)
“There’s no feeling. We’ll just play another game. Whether your home, whether it’s a first round game or a season ending game you always want to give 100%.”

(On Playing for a Championship)
“I don’t really have any feelings yet. We’ve still got to execute more, still have to box out. We still have a few more things to do. They’re a good team. They have a different style but they are one of the better teams in the NBA. They have really good players and you have to respect them.”

(On Tonight’s game)
“I think you saw us relaxed and playing together. We made shots and Pau was aggressive. Kobe was letting us build our confidence and everybody pitched in.”











Lakers’ Guard Derek Fisher

Q. It seems like every night it was somebody different for you tonight. Tonight was Ron. Can you talk about that a little bit? Then talk about Kobe.

DEREK FISHER: Yeah. No, Ron was spectacular for us tonight. His offense really set a tone for us early. It's key to have more than just Kobe really being the guy attacking on the offensive end.
We couldn't have won this game without Ron's effort. Putting Kobe in a position to do the things he did late.
I've said it before. He's one of the very few guys that I've seen play myself that, you know, literally can will the ball in the basket. He has the ability to lock in on the rim. No matter what you do, the ball is still gonna go in. He hit a few of those shots tonight.

Q. What does it mean to get to go back to the finals and face the Celtics?
DEREK FISHER: Yeah, no, it means a great deal, not just for me, but for the team, for the organization, for the City of L.A. For all of our fans. You know, it takes a tremendous amount of effort and heartache and pain and injuries, you know, a lot of 2:00, 3:00 in the morning landing in another city, trying to do everything you can to get back to this position where you have a chance to win a title.
You know, we feel good about that part of the accomplishment. But, you know, we're still a long way away from really where we want to be, and that's champions.

Q. Early on in the season, not much was expected of the Suns. Can you talk about the team, the effort they gave?
DEREK FISHER: Well, I think they became the true essence of a team as the season went on. If I remember correctly, I think they got off to a good start, then went down a little bit. It seemed like as they got closer to the trade deadline, then after, once everybody knew they would be there, which happens on a team that has a lot of young guys, once everybody knows, I'm going to be here, you have a guy like Amar'e who wasn't sure about his future on a day‑to‑day basis, seems like once that was done, they turned the corner, became a team that played together, with a tremendous amount of energy and fight. I think Coach Gentry deserves a lot of credit for the mindset that this team started to play with as the season wound down.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about that second‑quarter run. I believe you went on a 15 to 4 run, how it carried over to the third quarter.
DEREK FISHER: I think our bench guys really were a huge factor in that second quarter where we were able to get that separation. Our bench has been poked at a lot in this series and other series. You know, tonight guys like Jordan Farmar, Sasha, Lamar, came off the bench, did some really good things for us. That was key in this game tonight. To have the cushion we had to withstand the run that the home team made tonight, that was really key. Those guys off the bench deserve a lot of credit.

Q. The Celtics are obviously a really physical team defensively. Can you talk about the difference between what you saw from the Suns this series and what you can expect from the Celtics. Is that going to be a tough transition for you guys?
DEREK FISHER: From this team to the Celtics, it will be ‑‑ I don't know if it will be a tough transition, but it will definitely be different in terms after the first couple games really playing against a team that played zone defense the rest of the way. We understand that's what we gonna see theoretically. However, if you really break down the Celtics' defense, it's basically a zone defense.
So, you know, when we think about the teams we matched up against like Oklahoma City who fronted the post, were extremely athletic, great shot‑blocking team, great in transition, then you go to the Jazz who passes the ball well, plays as a team, physical team. Then this team, a little bit different.
We feel like we're prepared basically. You know, we'll be ready to go Thursday evening.

Q. Two major differences you have from a couple years ago, Bynum kind of semi‑healthy but available to you guys, then Ron in the lineup. Can you get a sense of how much difference that can make against the Celtics? Do you think the Celtics are back to who they were when you last saw them in 2008?
DEREK FISHER: I don't know, man. You know, I don't know if it does us any good to compare ourselves or their team to the teams in '08. For ourselves, we know Andrew is an extremely important member of our team. The things he's able to do for us out there, even not being a hundred percent, are going to be huge in this series.
You know, we missed Trevor back in '08 as well. You know, so just having all of our guys available, even Andrew not being a hundred percent, we feel like will be something that is good for us.
We aren't looking at them and lining them up against the team in '08 and trying to figure out how they're not as good as they were then or how we're better. This is gonna be the 2010 finals. If we want to win it, we're going to have to work extremely hard and continue to make the sacrifices necessary.












Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry

COACH GENTRY: I guess first of all, I'd just like to say, I'd like that congratulate the Lakers. They've had a phenomenal year. They played a great series. I mean, what can you say about Kobe? I don't know if there's words.
There's an intense game going on and you almost have to laugh at what he does. I mean, I thought we played great defense on him. He just made tough shot after tough shot.
You know, I wish them well. Obviously, we'll be pulling hard for them. They're a Western Conference team. We have this in that case of losing to the champs quite a bit when we get this far. Hopefully they'll win another one for the west.

Q You're disappointed you lost the game. Talk about what you told your players in the locker room after this game and what you have accomplished this season?
COACH GENTRY: I just told them to me, you know, it's been the most enjoyable year of my coaching career. It was fun pause we had really high‑character guys. We had great leadership, when you think about what Steve and Grant and Amar'e brought to the table. I was real proud of where Amar'e has come. He has worked hard to get better defensively, worked hard to become a better teammate. He's worked hard on his game.
Steve has become a great leader. More vocal than he's been in the past. Grant, just lead by example of what he's done. We have great guys that are willing to be led. I think in order to be a great team, you have to have leaders, but you have to have guys that are willing to be led. I told them I appreciate everything they've done. We played extremely hard. We played extremely hard tonight. We couldn't quite get over the hump. Every time we got it close, Kobe made an incredibly tough shot that was well‑defended. For that there is no answer.
You have to give them credit. They came in here, understood the urgency of the game. I thought it was a well‑played series, I really did.

Q What appeared to be looks like a sweep in the beginning, you turned I it around and inspired your players to make it a true series. What are your most proud of your team tonight?
COACH GENTRY: Well, I just think we still believe that we would win the game tonight, go to L.A., have a chance to win and go to the NBA Finals. I think we're a very confident bunch.
I think the thing we talked about all year is we'll lose as a team, we'll win as a team, but we have to stay together. I think there was a chemistry that developed with this team that was a real positive thing.
You can see that there's games where the starters didn't play, and the bench didn't play very much at all. But it was easy to do that because we had such great guys. I mean, I really have not been around a team like this that had the chemistry not in my 22 years in the league.

Q You mentioned sometimes you can only laugh when you see Kobe doing what he's doing. Seems like you were literally laughing when he hit that shot.

COACH GENTRY: We guarded him. I thought Grant was going to block the shot. That was a fall‑away three‑pointer with a hand in your face, off balance. You know, that's who he is. That really is who he is.

Q Looked like he might have said something to you.
COACH GENTRY: I said, Good defense to Grant. Said, Not quite good enough.
You know, it was a well‑played series. The one thing that I said to our guys, and I said this today even at shoot‑around, we should enjoy this. We're in a situation where we're playing a game that means an awful lot. You know, contrary to what anybody thinks, we earned our way here. We beat a really good Portland team that was decimated by injuries, but played hard and very difficult. We beat a very good San Antonio team that we've had a lot of difficulty getting over the hump. Then I thought we were very competitive in this series. We happened to run into a team that was the world champs and is going to have an opportunity to win another one.
I think rather than have any negatives, and I told our guys, there is no negatives to anything that happened to us in the last month. This is a really good thing. We gave it our all. I think I would be really disappointed if we didn't play extremely hard and was very competitive. We did. We happened to play a team, they were just better than we were in this series. You have to give them credit.
But for us, it's still going to be a real positive. I refuse to have anything be negative about the season.

Q For some clarification, on the shot that Kobe hit, did he nudge you first or did he say something to you?
COACH GENTRY: No, he just patted me. Hey, I've known him all his life, since he was about 16 years old. I've always been a big fan of is. He knows that. I always thought he was the best player in basketball. He didn't do anything in this series against us to make me think otherwise. As a matter of fact, he probably solidified my thought process as to he's the best basketball player right now.

Q You think he is the best player, even better than Jordan, is that correct?
COACH GENTRY: I'm not going to get into that. I might have to work for the Bobcats someday. I'm not saying that, no (laughter).
I'm saying at this time right now he's the best player in basketball. And I don't think it's even close.

Q Your thoughts on Ron Artest's impact in this game, and the second quarter when the Lakers winning that 14 to 4 blew it open?
COACH GENTRY: Ron played great. He shot the ball extremely well. As I said, you have to make a decision when Kobe is on the floor. Sometimes you have to leave guys open. Once again, you have to give Ron credit. Did a great job, stepped up and made shots. That's the way we played him the whole series.

You're going to have to either leave Kobe in a one‑on‑one situation, which is not a good idea, or leave somebody open in the rotations to try to make shots. We chose to leave Ron. He stepped up and made shots. You know, you have to give him credit. He did a very good job.
But you have to pick your poison. You can't leave Kobe on an island one‑on‑one. We chose to try to get the ball out of his hand. We played a lot more man defense tonight. They shot the ball so well in the first half, you know, going 8 for 14 from 3, we were forced to just play man and tried to Gordon them.








Phoenix Suns Guard Steve Nash


Q. Would it be fair to say that the best team won this series? Talk about your emotions after, what you and your teammates discussed after the game?
STEVE NASH: Totally unfair. No (laughter).
Going into the series, I thought they were the better team, but I thought we had a chance to do something special. You know, I don't know. I think the last four or five days, I've been questioning who the better team is, and have had a lot of belief that maybe we were, or at least maybe we could find a way to win the series regardless. I think that's a tribute to my teammates, their attitude, commitment.
This is about as special a group as I've been a part of, to be picked anywhere from seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 in the west, to go through a stretch in the middle of the season where we weren't very good, and to really finish up so strong and get ourselves to a place where we were almost an overtime away from being up 3‑2 coming home.
You know, I got to say, it's a great source of pride for me to get a chance to play with these guys. They're just, you know, such great, great people, great teammates. They've committed absolutely to what we're trying to do.
You know, you want to say we overachieved until you think about it and say, We're a good team. We had a real legitimate chance to beat the Lakers and go to the finals and play for a championship.
I'm sort of rambling praise about my team, but I'm really, really proud. You know, I'm excited I got a chance to have a year like this with these guys.

Q. Is it your hope to keep this group together? Is there anything you can do about it?
STEVE NASH: You know, after everything I just said, yeah, it's pretty clear I'd like to keep the group together. I mean, it's phenomenal to come to work every day with the group of guys we had, everyone fighting for the same thing, you know, proving when you commit to one another and to what we're trying to do, you know, you really can ‑‑ all the clichés really are true. You can maybe be greater than, you know, the sum of your parts.
It was a lot of fun. I'd love to keep it together and keep going.

Q. From a shooter's standpoint, rate that last shot that Kobe made, and the two before that?
STEVE NASH: I'm not sure those are shooter's shots. Those are scorer's, best player-in-the-game-type shots. You know, he is incredibly skilled, talented. He's a great competitor, clutch. What can you say? He deserves an incredible amount of praise for his ability.

Q. Early on in your comments, you mentioned the word 'team.' How much of this team effort do you give to Coach Gentry for?
STEVE NASH: Alvin is incredible. You know, it says something a little bit about the nature of our business that he's on his fourth I think job, one of the lowest‑paid coaches in the league, and he probably did as good a job if not the best job in the league this year.
He's a phenomenal coach as far as his understanding of the game and ability to put his team in a position to succeed at both ends of the floor. He's even better at, you know, handling his players and building a team, understanding, you know, who he's coaching, the dynamics of the group, the individual, how to make it fun and at the same time how to hold everyone accountable so we improve all the time.
He was phenomenal this year.

Q. How does it feel from your perspective knowing what it took to get to this point, knowing you don't get too many chances to get two victories away from the finals, how many more chances you feel like you'll have to get to this point?
STEVE NASH: Well, who knows. I mean, it was a phenomenal run and we fell short, and it hurts, you know. It hurts a lot. We'll worry about next year next year. The attitude is that you stay in the moment, you stay in the journey. I know it sounds cliché. I don't want to pretend to be Zen or anything, but it's the truth. Especially when you're my age, it's a pleasure to get to this point and have a chance.
Next year I think we're gonna have another steep hill to climb to get back here, but we can do it if we really work hard.
You know, I know everyone makes a deal out of I've never made the finals. You know, maybe I won't. But if I play with teams like I played with this year, the guys I played with, you know, I'll be satisfied with that. It's phenomenally rewarding to be part of a group like this. I think some of the years we made the Western Conference Finals, truth be told, it was the final. Our teams in my career here, the last six, seven years, has been rewarding even though I haven't got to the finals or won a championship.
We have no one to blame, but on the other hand we were phenomenal. We have a lot to be proud of. There will be a lot of disappointment a lot of sting. Really proud of my teammates, coaches, staff, organization, fans, it was great.







Suns’ Forward Amar’e Stoudemire


(On the game)
“We gave it all we got. We didn’t give up at all and played extremely hard and went after it out there. We played extremely, extremely hard, honestly I felt like I was going to pass out for awhile there. Give it to them, they played well and Kobe hit some tough shots down the stretch. “

(On Kobe Bryant)
“I think those guys down the stretch hit tough shots. Once we went on a run Kobe was able to bail them out. Kobe had energy down the stretch. We had energy, we gave it all we got, we fought back in both games, we were able to make a game out of it but just down the stretch that 18 (point lead) gave them just enough to get over the hump.”

(On his future)
“Still not sure what the future holds right now so I’m just going to take a couple days, enjoy the family and enjoy the rest and start figuring out what the next move is.”

(On whether he is still 50/50 on returning to the Suns)
“Absolutely. Absolutely still there but I’m pretty sure there will be a conversation between myself and the organization and my family and figure out what the best scenario is and make a smart decision.”










Suns' Guard Jason Richardson

(On the game)

“You definitely can’t find a way to dig a hole especially against those guys, they are too good, they know how to win games and with probably one of the greatest players to ever play this game, Kobe Bryant, they know how to finish games and you could see in his game that he just wanted to close it tonight.”












Suns’ Channing Frye on how they got back into the game:


(On Kobe Bryant)
“When Kobe gets it going you have to throw the kitchen sink at him. He was hitting shots when me and Grant Hill did a great job on him and there is nothing much you can do. If one of those doesn’t go in it’s a different ball game. So, give credit where credit is due, they are a good team and he (Kobe) hit big shots all fourth quarter.”

(Message to the fans)
“I have to say thank you guys so much. I think at the beginning of this year we were kind of counted out as underdogs and the fans stuck with us. I have to say you guys helped us win a lot of games and make this place what I remember it was and make this place tough to get a “W”. I can’t thank you guys enough for supporting me through thick and thin even when I wasn’t doing very much. For the future this is a team you definitely want to stick with. We have great guys. There is nothing more you can ask of a professional team. You have great guys, you have unselfish guys, you have guys around the community and for us it’s just a chance to be a part of something special and for them too.”










Suns' Guard Goran Dragic

(On altercation with Sasha Vujacic)

“I was just close to him and he hit me but that’s all. I know he wants to help his team and I want to help my team and that’s it. I’m not mad at him and I hope he’s not mad at me but I want to say that I wish him good luck in the finals.”

(On his season)
“It was a great year for me but still I have to work hard to get better every year. But, like I said, it was a great year and I’m really happy to be with the Phoenix Suns.”

(On Kobe Bryant)
“You know Kobe. He is going to hit shots. One shot Grant Hill hit him in the face and he still scored. He is just an unbelievable player.”













Lakers-Suns Preview

By BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer

PHOENIX (AP)—Steve Nash says he’s no “Joe Namath who walked in in his fur coat” but the Suns playmaker is not backing away from his post-game promise that Phoenix will beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

Not might win, not try hard to win, not hope to win.

“I just said we’re going home and win Game 6 and come back in Game 7,” Nash said after practice on Friday. “Take it how you want to take it.”

The Suns didn’t seem devastated by Thursday night’s last-second 103-101 loss in Los Angeles. Quite the opposite. The close call seemed to bolster their belief they can win this series, even though the Lakers are up 3-2 and can advance to the NBA finals for the third straight year with a victory in Phoenix on Saturday night.

“There’s some really good things that we did last night, some things to build on,” the Suns’ Grant Hill said. “I think the main thing is the confidence that we can beat this team. Obviously we’ve done it twice, and we’ve got to try to do it twice more.”

Nash’s assurance may not have packed the flamboyance of Namath’s famous guarantee that his huge underdog New York Jets would beat Baltimore in the Super Bowl, but it was enough to rile Game 5 heroRon Artest.

“That’s like no respect for us. There’s no respect. That’s how it’s been for a long time this season. I’m sure we’ll talk about it,” Artest said before the Lakers left Los Angeles on Friday. “Coaches have no respect for the Lakers at all. They have no respect for me. The players don’t respect—a lot of the guys don’t respect. … I’m sure Kobe heard that (what Nash said), and I’m sure he’ll do his part tomorrow.”

Artest’s comments came after he was fined for showing up late for practice on Friday.

Phoenix rallied from 18 down in the second half to tie at 101-101 when Jason Richardson banked in a 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds to play. The Lakers pulled it out when Kobe Bryant threw up an air ball and Artest hustled to retrieve it, then banked in a shot at the buzzer.

“It was a great moment for him, for our team,” the Lakers’ Derek Fisher said. “Ron has really sacrificed a lot for our team. He’s a big part of our team. A lot of things he does go unnoticed on the stat sheet, but he’s committed to doing one thing, and that’s helping us win.”

The home team has won every game so far in this series, which looked to be a Lakers romp after Los Angeles scored 128 and 124 points and shot 58 percent in the first two games. Suns Coach Alvin Gentry turned to a zone defense and, buoyed by a raucous home crowd, Phoenix won the next two. Game 5 was the first truly close finish of the series.

The Suns have won six straight playoff games at home since losing to Portland in their first-round opener. The Lakers can earn their 31st trip to the NBA finals by ending that streak.

“We don’t plan on going to Phoenix and losing three times on their home court,” Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. “We’re not making this trip over there just to fill a date. We’re going over there to win a game. We’re highly motivated for this game, but we understand that if it has to go seven, we’re damn well ready to come back home and defend our home court again. This is a series that has taken a lot of different faces to it in the course of these five games, and we don’t expect Game 6 to be any different.”

Hill said the only constant for either team in the series has been the magnificence of Bryant, who is averaging 33 points, 9.6 assists and 7.4 rebounds in the five games. Bryant had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists on Thursday night.

“He’s made unbelievable shots,” Hill said, “against our man-to-man, against our zone. I mean, the guy’s due for an off game. I mean he’s just hit some shots like you wouldn’t believe. We watched the film (of Game 5) and there was one shot he took where it wasn’t contested. Other than that every shot for the most part was a hand in his face. He’s been awesome.”

The difference has been how much help he gets from his teammates. On Thursday it was Pau Gasol (22 points) and Fisher (21).

This could be the last, and most important, game Amare Stoudemire plays for the Suns. The All-Star power forward can opt out of the final year of his contract after this season and said chances are “50-50” that he will be back.

“We’ve played all season for this game,” he said. “We’ve got to take advantage of it. It’s all about determination now.”

Richardson blamed the loss on himself because he failed to box out Artest on Bryant’s errant last shot.

“I boxed out every time but one,” he lamented.

But Nash said no one on this team is pointing fingers.

“We all make mistake and it’s misleading to pin the game on the last play when there were hundreds of plays at both ends of the court that determine the game,” Nash said. “We lost the game. J-Rich did a lot of great things for our team and we believe in him. We need him, so I don’t place any blame on him.”

Nash had a series high 29 points and 11 assists on Thursday night, his 117th playoff game, more than any other player in NBA history who has not made it to the finals. He didn’t expect to get this far with this undersized group of overachievers and the 36-year-old point guard may never get this close again.

“I thought we could make the playoffs. I thought we could get out of the first round and who knows what happens from there,” he said. “But to be right here with a real opportunity where we believe, that’s pretty outstanding and special.”

AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

MORE FROM BASKETBLOG


Lakers-Suns Scouting Report

Déjà vu all over again….

For those Lakers fans who remember the Phoenix series a few years ago the sequence where Jason Richardson hit his game tying three must have seemed like reliving a nightmare. We lost our chance to close the series in Game Six when we failed to secure the offensive rebound in a sequence similar to the one on Thursday night. We were able to win the game on Ron Artest’s game-saving putback. Needless to say there are some areas that we will need to improve in order to close this series on the Suns court.

Regster to Lakers Courtside Connection to read more.



Lakers-Suns Injury Report


Shannon Brown (sprained right thumb) will play.
Kobe Bryant (arthritis, right index finger) will play.
Andrew Bynum (slight tear, lateral meniscus, right knee) is probable.
Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) is probable.

None

Lakers-Suns Game Notes

SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers won their season series with Phoenix 3-1 this year, marking the third consecutive season the Lakers have taken a season series from the Suns by a 3-1 margin. The Lakers series victory in 2007-08 that started this current run snapped a run of three consecutive losing seasons to the Suns from 2004-07. This will be the 214th meeting between the two teams with the Lakers leading the all-time series 125-88. The Lakers are 16-6 against the Suns all-time at STAPLES Center during the regular season and 7-3 in their last 10 regular season home games against Phoenix. On the road, the Lakers have gone 4-6 in their last 10 regular season visits to Phoenix but are 4-2 in their last six regular season games at US Airways Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 26-14 against the Suns during the regular season. In 49 career games against the Suns including 42 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.8 points. Last season, Bryant shared MVP honors with Shaquille O’Neal, then with the Suns, at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix. Additionally, last season, the Lakers defeated the Suns by 26 points 2/26/09 at STAPLES Center. The 26-point margin of victory was the Lakers largest over the Suns since January 4, 2002 when Los Angeles defeated Phoenix 118-86 at STAPLES Center. Suns forward Jared Dudley was a teammate in Charlotte with both Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison while Lakers forward Luke Walton and Suns center Channing Frye were teammates at Arizona for two seasons (2001-02, 2002-03). Also, Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright won three championships as a center for Phil Jackson’s Bulls from 1990-92 and served as an assistant coach under Jackson from 1996-98 when the Bulls won their final two championships of the 90’s.

CLOSING IT OUT
Leading their Western Conference Semifinals series 3-0 entering Game 4 at Utah, the Lakers defeated the Jazz 111-96 to advance to their third consecutive Western Conference Finals. With the victory, the Lakers closed out their second opponent on the first try of the 2010 Playoffs, previously taking Game 6 of the First Round 95-94 at Oklahoma City to advance to the Conference Semifinals. With their sweep of the Jazz, the Lakers closed out an opponent on the FIRST attempt for the 8th time in their last NINE opportunities. Last postseason, the Lakers closed out the Jazz, Nuggets and the Magic on the FIRST opportunity but needed two attempts to eliminate the Rockets from the Western Conference Semifinals. The Lakers Game 6 loss at Houston was just the THIRD time since 2001 that they have failed to close out an opponent when first given the chance (5/14/09 @ HOU, 5/2/06 @ PHX, 5/29/04 @ MIN). The Lakers have closed out an opponent on the FIRST try 19 times in their last 22 opportunities dating back to 2001. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers have closed out their opponent on the first attempt 19 times in 26 overall opportunities.

Overall, under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 25-11 in close-out games. The Lakers have won 30 of their last 31 series when holding the opportunity to close- out at any point. Their last series loss when having a close-out game came in 2006 when the Lakers squandered a 3-1 series lead against the Phoenix Suns. Prior to that, the Lakers had not lost a series when having a close-out game since the 1993 First Round vs. Phoenix in which they led 2-0 before losing the next three.

BRYANT TIES JERRY WEST FOR MOST CAREER 30+ POINT PLAYOFF GAMES
With 30 points 5/27 vs. Phoenix, Kobe Bryant recorded his 74th career 30+ point playoff game, tying Jerry West (74) for the third most 30+ point playoff games in NBA history. Only Michael Jordan (109) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (75) have more 30+ point playoff games than Bryant. Elgin Baylor (60) and Shaquille O’Neal (55) round out the all-time list. Bryant, who recorded his first 30+ point playoff game in the 2000 NBA Playoffs, has posted 10 30+ point games this postseason alone. The most 30+ point games Bryant has ever recorded in a single postseason game last year when he posted 15 such games.


BRYANT CLUTCH ON THE ROAD IN CLOSE-OUT GAMES
With 32 points in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals 5/10 at Utah, Kobe Bryant recorded 30 or more points for the seventh consecutive time in a road game in which the Lakers have had the opportunity to close a series out. His string of seven straight such games is an NBA record, with Elgin Baylor (6), Michael Jordan (5) and Oscar Robertson (4) rounding out the list. Bryant’s streak began with 31 points (12-24 FG) 4/28/08 @ DEN and continued with 34 points (9-19 FG) 5/16/08 @ UTAH, 32 points (11-27 FG) 5/14/09 @ HOU, 35 points (12-20 FG) 5/29/09 @ DEN, 30 points (10-23 FG) 6/14/09 @ ORL and 32 points (12-25 FG) 4/30/10 @ OKC.*

BRYANT PASSES KARL MALONE FOR 4th ON NBA’S ALL-TIME PLAYOFF SCORING LIST With a three-point field goal at the 2:04 mark of the second quarter May 25 at Phoenix, Kobe Bryant passed Karl Malone (4,761) for 4th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Earlier this postseason, with a fade away jumper at the 8:58 mark of the third quarter April 22 at Oklahoma City, Bryant moved past Jerry West (4,457) for 1st on the Lakers all-time playoff scoring list and 5th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Last postseason, with 32 points 5/21 vs. Denver, Bryant (4,815) moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (4,070) for 2nd on the Lakers all-time playoff scoring list. Overall, in the 2009 Playoffs, Bryant moved past Larry Bird (3,897) for 6th, past John Havlicek (3,776) for 7th, past Hakeem Olajuwon (3,755) for 8th and past Earvin “Magic” Johnson (3,701) for 9th the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Next up on the all- time NBA list is Shaquille O’Neal (3rd/5,248). Among all players with 2,500+ postseason points, only Michael Jordan (33.4), Jerry West (29.1), Elgin Baylor (27.0), Hakeem Olajuwon (25.9) and Dirk Nowitzki (25.6) have a higher postseason scoring average than Bryant (25.3).

JACKSON-LED TEAMS A TOUGH OUT WHEN PLAYING FROM AHEAD

When Phil Jackson wins Game 1 of any playoff series, best-of-five or best-of-seven, his teams are 46-0, having gone 24-0 with Chicago and 22-0 with the Lakers. When Jackson-led teams open a series with a 2-0 lead, he is 35-0 all-time. And when holding a series lead of any kind, Jackson’s teams are 53-1 all-time.

A WINNING COMBINATION

With the Lakers victory vs. Phoenix on May 27th, Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant combined for their 109th playoff victory as a player/coach duo. In the history of the NBA, only Jackson and Scottie Pippen (110) have won more postseason games together. Rounding out the list, Michael Jordan and Jackson teamed up for 105 playoff victories with the Bulls while Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich have also won 105 playoff games together with the Spurs. Derek Fisher and Jackson are also moving up the list, having been together for 103 playoff victories. Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Pat Riley teamed up for 102 playoff victories as did Michael Cooper and Riley with the Lakers.

TRIPLE-DOUBLE NARROW MISSES
Twice in the Lakers Western Conference Finals series with the Phoenix Suns, Kobe Bryant has missed a triple-double by either a single assist or single rebound. In Game 3, Bryant finished with 36 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists while in Game 5, he finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Bryant, who has 16 career regular season triple-doubles, is still seeking his first in the postseason. The last Laker to post a triple-double in the playoffs was Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who recorded 19 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists 6/2/91 at Chicago.