Kobe, Lamar and Phil Jackson talked today, so you’ll be able to read that in its entirety below. Lamar Odom, who hyperextended his elbow in Game 3, and Luke Walton, who dislocated his right pinky finger in practice Saturday, seem ready to play Sunday but now there’s an issue with Brian Cook. Cook sprained his left thumb in Game 3 and is considered questionable for Game 4. If he can’t go, Vladimir Radmanovic will rejoin the active roster. The way Phil was talking, it seems like he might try to find a spot for Radmanovic regardless.
[How do you keep the pace slow and in your favor?]
The natural way to slow it down is through offensive rebounding. Because then, guys can’t get in their starter’s blocks and take off running until they get the ball. Usually a shot goes up and these guys are ready to take the ball and start running. That’s a big part of their game. When there’s a second opportunity it changes the tempo of the game, even though I don’t think we capitalized on it enough.
[How important is it to maintain that defensive intensity?]
Very important. The big key for us is, can we contest shots? Are they getting the ball inside to guys on the move? That’s what they can do that will make it a long afternoon for us.
[Has the schedule been a bit weird, with the off days?]
It’s good for us. We have a young team but we have guys who are recovering from injuries from the (regular) season. So it helps us.
[You talked about limiting their number of 30-point quarters. Is that still a focus?]
It’s very important. They’re usually going to have a bust-out quarter in a game. If you can keep it somewhat reasonable for them, which is in the low 30s, then you might be able to control the pace for the rest of the game. They’re still going to have a blitz at some point in the game and bury you, because that’s just the nature of their team. If you can shorten that from four minutes to two minutes, and lower it from a 35-point quarter to a 31-point quarter, that makes a difference.
[Denying them easy looks inside is still a focus, correct?]
One of the misnomers about this team is that they’re a 3-point shooting basketball team. They take a lot of shots, but they really score a ton of points in the paint. When they’ve got guys moving to the basket and shooting the ball, the percentages go up greatly.
[Are there things you still want Kobe to be doing differently, or better?]
I think it’s his teammates more than Kobe. We want his teammates to not stand around and watch and to continue to play within the offense and to make sure that they’re in position defensively, either in transition or on the ball.
[What made you decide to sit Kobe at the start of the second quarter?]
Well, I thought we were back in the ballgame. By the end of the quarter, we’d hit a 3 and some things had happened. We knew we wanted to get some energy in the game, and sometimes taking him off the court is a good situation against the other team, because they all of a sudden have to reconfigure their defense.
[Have you thought about the point-guard situation?]
I don’t know. I really don’t know how we’re going to use this team. I’d like to get Vlade dressed again. He looks like he’s shooting his shots again. I don’t know how we’re going to get this accomplished. Then there are players who are helping us play this game, and Shammond is one of them. He played a good role the other night as a defender. We’re just looking to play the guys who do the best with their ability. I told Ronny, `It’s a shame I didn’t get you in that game, with the energy you can give us,’ and he said, `Nah, don’t worry about that. I’ll be here if you need me.’ There are guys who can contribute to this effort who aren’t playing.
[Are you still trying to figure out the lineup?]
I’ve got it pretty well figured out, but we still have some medical things to deal with.
[Did you guys make a conscious effort to slow the pace?]
We just wanted to be aggressive and get second-chance opportunities and put the ball in the hole. We wound up controlling the pace and the tempo of the game, but it’s not like we just want to walk the ball up the court. We want to get after it a little bit.
[Phil talked about guys not getting full of themselves after one victory]
I don’t think we have to worry about guys being full of themselves. We won one game. You know what I mean? It doesn’t make sense for us to even think about being full of ourselves. We did a good job in the last game. Hopefully we can come back with the same type of energy and effort in the next one.
[How do you stop their fast starts?]
You try to make every shot contested. At the start of the last game, all their shots were uncontested looks. They’re too good of a basketball team, and have too many good players, and if you give them open looks they’re going to make them. That’s just the way it is.
[How valuable is the extra day off right now?]
It’s great. We get a chance to recuperate a little bit and rest and get your legs right and take care of the little injuries you may have and try to get your mind right.
[How does your interaction with Phil change from the regular season? More strategic?]
He trusts me to be his eyes out there on the floor. When there are certain sequences on the court, I can come back to him in the huddle and say, `This is what they’re doing now,’ and we try to counter it. I just try to feed him as much information as I can, so that way when he’s making the decisions he has all the information he can have.
[How are you feeling?]
I’m OK. Good enough to play. If you’re out there in the playoffs, to hell with whatever hurts.
[How do you keep put that last game behind you and stay focused?]
It’s like, `What have you done for me lately?’ That game is over. It’s history. It’s time for us to move on as a team. It feels great to win on your home court, but we have to do it again.
[Are you concerned by all the nagging injuries on the team?]
At this point of the year you just want to play hard. I’m sure those guys over there have their own nagging injuries but you just want to play hard and compete at a high level.
[How do you stop the Suns’ quick starts?]
That’s how they come out. That’s their style. They’re an up-tempo team, so that doesn’t surprise me. The best thing about that game is that we took their best punch.
[Do you feel like you erased some doubts with that victory?]
There were people who questioned whether we could win one game. We did that, so now it’s time to put a series of wins together so that we can possibly win this series.
[How do you control the pace?]
Some of the things that we did, I wouldn’t even want to talk about. They’ve got a great quarterback, and sometimes you have to go after the quarterback. He can make plays from anywhere on the court. He passes to everyone and gets everyone involved. We always have to have a spy on him and blitz him as much as possible and give him different looks. Sometimes it’s man to man, sometimes it’s zone. Whatever it takes.