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Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Health, not practice, key to success

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle, like Kobe Bryant, knows that when it comes to practice time, a lot of times, less is more.

Especially for an aging athlete.

Majerle played 14 seasons in the NBA, retiring at age 36 after the 2001-02 season. He was on the Miami Heat from 1996 to 2001, joining the team when he was 31 -- the same age Bryant is now -- and rarely practicing in order to save his body from the wear and tear.

"When you've played as long as I have and as long as he has, it's more about just keeping yourself in shape," Majerle said. "Whether that's doing things like with the bike on the side, getting your extra shots up, that's what I did when I was in Miami."

After scoring 40 points in Game 1, Bryant credited the six days between the end of the conference semifinals and start of the conference finals as a chance to maintain his body through means other than traditional practices.

"I think my legs benefited a lot," Bryant said. "I was just able to take some time off and get stronger, get my upper body stronger. It's just kind of like a training camp all over again where I didn't do much on the court, but I was in the weight room doing what I needed to do."

Majerle described the regimen he used to stay ready for seasons that extended late into the playoffs when he was approaching his late 30s.

"I just made sure I rode the bike hard and made sure I got my shots up," Majerle said. "Offensively and defensively, he knows what he's doing, I know what I'm doing, so it's more so to just conserve yourself and just be ready to play in the games and not give it all in practice, especially in Miami because we practiced so hard."

The Suns' assistant coach, who recently interviewed for the head coaching vacancy in Philadelphia, said that the decision comes down to a trust between the player and coaching staff.

"[Pat] Riley decided to let me do that and to be honest, that was probably the only way I was able to last the years that I did in Miami because to be able to practice that hard and play that hard ... I wouldn't have been able to do it," Majerle said. "Everybody's got to be on the same page. The team has got to understand it. Everybody has got to be able to understand it. With a guy like Kobe, they want him in games. It shouldn't affect him that much."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson often will allow 35-year-old Derek Fisher to sit out a practice here and there as well, which is a tactic the Suns employ with 36-year-old Steve Nash.

"It's not a big deal at all," Majerle said. "Steve doesn't even practice with us that much at the end of the season, just because he plays so hard and banged up. You'd rather have him in games and they need the time off."

Threes still a threat

The Suns shot just 22.7 percent (5-for-22) from 3-point range in Game 1 while the Lakers were blistering, hitting 47.1 percent of their outside shots (8-for-17). Even though the Lakers had the league's top 3-point field-goal percentage defense in the regular season, it wasn't supposed to be that easy Monday.

"I think mostly they missed shots," Jackson said. "They had a good look. There were a couple of times we kept them off balance, some of their 3-point shooters, but for the most part I think they'll be back on beam come Wednesday night."

Bryant was well aware after the game that the Lakers had been only shooting 33.3 percent coming into the game, as opposed to 47.6 percent for Phoenix.

"We just shot the ball well tonight," Bryant said. "We don't normally shoot nowhere near as good as Phoenix does. I think the lead that we had makes it a little easier to take those shots, too. So it's a little misleading, but that's not something that we count on or rely on."

Lakers too long

"Size matters," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said in his pregame remarks. "I guess that's what everybody says, right?"

The Lakers' size ended up being the long of the short of it. Despite the Suns successfully welcoming back Robin Lopez (14 points, six rebounds) after missing seven weeks with a back injury and even with Andrew Bynum being limited to just four points and four rebounds in 19 minutes of play, the Lakers still were able to control the game using their bigger bodies.

Los Angeles controlled the boards 42-34 thanks in large part to Lamar Odom tying his playoff career high with 19 rebounds. L.A. also led 16-14 in second-chance points stemming from a 12-10 offensive rebounding edge. The most impressive facet of game for the Lakers was how they feasted in the paint, outscoring the Suns 56-36 in the key.

Odom also contributed 19 points and Pau Gasol was also dominant down low with 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting. But Gentry thought that the Lakers' guards were given too easy of a time getting to the rim.

"Gasol had a great game and had some good post-up moves, but for the most part it was them breaking down our perimeter defense and driving in the paint and creating situations that way," Gentry said. "I thought the middle drives by Kobe and by [Derek Fisher] and by Shannon Brown and even [Jordan] Farmar, I thought they got into the teeth of our defense much, much too often and too easy and that created situations where now we're kind of in rotation and that's where a lot of point in the paint came."

They said it

"I told him next time, don't stand there no more ... If I had looked at the rim a little bit earlier I could have finished it, but I just jumped." -- Lakers reserve guard Shannon Brown on his attempt to jump over Suns guard Jason Richardson for a fourth-quarter dunk try that electrified the Staples Center crowd even though the dunk missed and Brown had to settle for two free throws.

This and that

With nine turnovers Monday, the Lakers have recorded single-digit turnovers in three straight playoff games, making this is the only time since turnovers started being recorded (in 1977-78) that the Lakers have gone three straight playoff games with single-digit turnovers ... Odom had 19 points and 19 rebounds off the bench. The only other reserve in the past 20 seasons to reach or surpass those numbers in a playoff game was Paul Millsap this season against the Nuggets in the first round, when the Jazz forward had 22 points and 19 rebounds. The last player prior to Millsap to do so was Roy Tarpley in 1988 for the Mavericks (21 points, 20 rebounds.

ESPN Stats & Research contributed to this report.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.