The Phoenix Suns’ plan for Game 2 tonight was to try to contain the Lakers’ supporting cast, allowing Kobe Bryant to run free. They didn’t want Lamar Odom or Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum or anyone else lighting them up again. By halftime, it looked like the plan was to check Bryant and let the others go wild. The Suns paid attention to Bryant, who had 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting plus a team-leading nine assists. He found open teammates whenever the Suns came to double-team him. The Suns forgot about Artest and paid the price. Artest scored 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 3 of 5 from behind the 3-point arc. Meanwhile, Channing Frye delivered another dud for Phoenix. He scored zero points, missing all three shots and picking up three fouls. He had 3 points on 1-for-8 shooting in Game 1.
Actually, there wasn’t much news beyond Amare Stoudemire’s statement that Lamar Odom had a “lucky game in Game 1,” when Odom scored 19 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the Lakers’ rout of the Phoenix Suns. Odom responded with a shrug, refusing to fire back despite numerous chances to do so.
Pau Gasol showed off a nice shiner under his right eye, the result of a collision with Grant Hill during a scramble for a loose ball in the third quarter of Game 1. Gasol said it didn’t hurt and didn’t think it made him look tougher than Steve Nash, who also has a black eye.
Coach Phil Jackson said the expected the Suns to make a significant adjustment for Game 2, double-teaming Kobe Bryant earlier in an attempt to get the ball out of his hands. Bryant dropped 40 points on the Suns on Monday night, including 21 in the third quarter.
Bryant has scored 30 points or more in six consecutive games, the longest streak in the NBA playoffs since former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal had seven straight games of 30 or more during a stretch of contests in 2002 and ’03.
Jackson and Gasol continued to answer questions about Arizona’s tough new immigration law. Yawn. Wait, that’s not my true response. I do have some serious feelings about the law, but I’ll keep them to myself since this is sports and not politics. I just wish come of my colleagues would give it a rest.
Oh, and Andrew Bynum (knee) did not practice. I guess that’s not exactly news, is it?
Kobe Bryant scored 40 points in Game 1 against Phoenix and said he “felt fine” after sitting out of practice the last six days because of a sore right knee. Andrew Bynum scored only four points and took four rebounds said he came through the game without any problems in his injured right knee. Lamar Odom suffered the most of all the Lakers in Game 1. He sported a pretty hefty knot on his noggin, the result of a blow from Phoenix’s Louis Amundson. “It was towards the end of the game,” Odom explained. “Amundson caught me a little bit and gave me a nice little goodbye knot, but it’ll be all right with a little ice.”
All the other stuff, the chatter about injuries and layoffs and hot opponents, was quickly forgotten in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals tonight at Staples Center. The bottom line was that the Phoenix Suns couldn’t stop Kobe Bryant. Grant Hill tried. Jason Richardson tried. Jared Dudley tried. Bryant still dropped 40 points on the Suns, making 13 of 23 shots and 11 of 12 free throws. By night’s end, it was easy for forget he did not practice once with his teammates during the Lakers’ six-day layoff. He sore right knee held up just fine and the Lakers won their seventh consecutive playoff game. Game 2 is Wednesday.
Concerns that the Lakers’ bench would be run off the end of the floor by their Phoenix Suns counterparts proved unfounded in the first half of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals tonight at Staples Center. Lamar Odom erupted for 15 points and eight rebounds and the Lakers’ backups outscored the Suns’ reserves, 22-13. Odom couldn’t be stopped on drives to the basket, making 7 of 9 shots. Jordan Farmar added five points and Josh Powell rebounded a Kobe Bryant miss just before halftime and dunked. The Lakers led most of the way after going on an 18-4 run to end the first quarter. Their biggest lead was 11 points.
Protests are scheduled tonight to draw attention to Arizona’s tough new immigration law and to comments made about the law by Lakers coach Phil Jackson several weeks ago. Anyway, Jackson issued the following statement today:
“I’ve been involved in a number of progressive political issues over the years and I support those who stand up for their beliefs. It is what makes this country great. I have respect for those who oppose the new Arizona immigration law, but I am wary of putting entire sports organizations in the middle of political controversies. This was the message of my statement. I know others feel differently. In this regard, it is my wish that this statement not be used by either side to rally activists.”
Neither guard Kobe Bryant nor center Andrew Bynum practiced with teammates this afternoon, the Lakers’ final workout before playing Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns on Monday at Staples Center. Nobody expects Bryant and Bynum to be anywhere but in the starting lineup when the ball is tossed into the air, however. Bryant and Bynum have been nursing sore knees. The rest of the Lakers are in fine form, according to Coach Phil Jackson. That’s probably not exactly true, but all 13 players on the roster are fit enough to play in Game 1. Twelve will be on the active roster.
Here are the top few lines from a story on ESPN.com: The Phoenix Suns have reacted with a collective smirk to Phil Jackson’s suggestion that Steve Nash travels with the basketball. Nash even had a subtle retort worthy of Jackson himself. “It’s news to me. I’m fortunate. I don’t know if I’ve been called for a carry yet,” he said after the Suns practiced today, then he added straight-faced: “I’ve never heard anyone accuse me of carrying it. I mean, the best coach in the league Gregg Popovich (of San Antonio) didn’t have a problem with it last week.”
Andrew Bynum went through a full workout today with his teammates. He has been resting his wonky knee most of the week, but he went at it pretty good today, according to Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “He was running with some limitations, but he still looks good,” Jackson said. “It was good to see him out there. We’re monitoring it (the torn meniscus in his knee). We want to get some activity close to the game and not make it too close, so there is some recovery time.” Game 1 of the Western Conference finals isn’t until Monday.
Not much to report from today’s practice. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum laid low, getting an extra day away from the court to rest and recover for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Monday against the Phoenix Suns. Sasha Vujacic said he’s ready to play Game 1 after sitting out 10 games in the playoffs because of a sprained ankle. Pau Gasol was back on the court after sitting out Wednesday because of sinus trouble.
When someone asked Lakers coach Phil Jackson about the difficulty of trying to prepare for playing against Suns point guard Steve Nash, Jackson said without hesitation, “Yeah, because you can’t carry the ball like he does in practice. You can’t pick up the ball and run with it.” Jackson has been a frequent critic of the tactic, which used to be called a discontinued dribble and now is called standard operating procedure.