Five thoughts entering Tuesday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference finals between the Suns and Lakers:
1. The Suns’ victory Sunday was impressive for several reasons. Mostly, they just needed a win. They also were finally rewarded for playing the type of solid defense they did in the first two games — but the Lakers simply could not miss. Also, the Suns’ bench was deeper than the Lakers’ all season, and all it took was a return home to prove it.
2. Yes, the Lakers reserves outscored the Suns by an 18-15 count. But the Suns’ bench committed just three turnovers, compared to eight for L.A. Just imagine what can happen if Suns backup center Channing Frye rediscovers his shooting touch. Or if Goran Dragic has another of those 20-point quarters. Or if Robin Lopez continues to make eight of every 10 shots. Truth is, the Suns received a remarkable performance from Amare Stoudemire on Sunday, but everyone else pretty much did what has always been expected of them. In other words, it’s very possible that the Suns can play even better.
3. Stoudemire and the Suns seemed more determined than ever to attack the Lakers and their so-called advantage in length. Stoudemire went right at Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom all game, and that type of aggressiveness wasn’t lost on the Lakers. “They attacked the hoop,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson admitted. “We seemed to be staying home on the 3-point shooters, and Stoudemire and Lopez had a night for them.”
4. Isn’t it amazing how Steve Nash doesn’t seem to have lost a step? Seriously. It’s so easy to forget that he’s 36, especially when he not only played 38 minutes in Game 3, but was fairly dominant with 17 points and 15 assists. Nash also only committed one turnover and suffered just one facial injury. Hopefully, he’s gotten that out of the way for this series. But since he injured his eye against San Antonio and now his nose against the Lakers, he would probably be wise to wear a mouth guard should the Suns reach the Finals.
5. The Suns just needed something, anything to go their way to make this a series. More than anything, they just needed the Lakers to shoot the ball like they were human. Jason Richardson said after Game 2 that the Suns planned to take care of business at home, realizing that something might finally go their way on the road in a Game 5 or 7. As the saying goes, if you want to win a championship, you have to win on the road. But before that can happen, the Suns need to stay aggressive, attack the basket and get another one at home Tuesday night.