1. Richardson, Suns Shoot Past Lakers
LOS ANGELES -- You know the old saying goes: Live by the 3-pointer -- absolutely flourish by the 3-pointer. Set a franchise record for shooting the 3-pointer. Beat the defending champions by the 3-pointer.
The 3-pointer was Phoenix's sole form of sustenance on Sunday and the Suns thrived on it. They made 22 3-pointers, one shy of the NBA record set by the Orlando Magic in January 2009, enabling Phoenix to hand the Lakers their second consecutive loss after opening the season 8-0.
Three-pointers accounted for more than half of the Suns' 43 field goals. Their long-ball accuracy was enough to overcome a 49-39 rebounding deficit and enough to overcome the Lakers' 68-28 advantage on points in the paint.
After center Robin Lopez went down with a sprained left knee in the first half (he said he will be day-to-day) the undersized Suns were like a cheap T-shirt in the dryer. They're already experimenting with Hedo Turkoglu at power forward, and they tried Josh Childress there Sunday as well. At one point in the fourth quarter their lineup consisted of Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, Channing Frye and Childress. Try to find the power there.
So they kept firing away from outside. They put up 11 3-pointers in the quarter, 40 for the game. Enough of them kept falling.
"You thought, numbers-wise it would even out when they hit 12 in the first half," Lakers forward Matt Barnes said.
It was a night for false presumptions, as the Suns kept waiting for adjustments that never came.
"How many do we have to make before you stop giving that person that shot?" Frye said.
Frye made four of his nine attempts, and Richardson did the most damage, hitting seven of 10 from 3-point range to give him a game-high 35 points. Still, there was something hollow about this victory. You could hear it in Nash's voice. This is not the blueprint for Western Conference domination. The Lakers will only get bigger when Andrew Bynum comes back, and the Suns can't count on 55 percent 3-point shooting every game.
"We've got to take it, it be happy with it and move on," Nash said. "I don't know who we're going to be or what we're going to be. We've just got to keep working, and hopefully with consistent work we'll find ourselves in a good place." They're in third place in the Pacific Division right now with a 5-4 record, and they're still sorting things out.
"Eventually we're going to be a good basketball team," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said, before quickly deciding to upgrade: "We're going to be a real good basketball team."
But they can't be taken seriously without an interior presence. Pau Gasol worked them for 28 points and 17 rebounds. Lamar Odom had 22 and 11, and that was playing with a sore right foot that will undergo an MRI exam Monday. Theo Ratliff was out with a sore left knee. Steve Blake was sick, altering Phil Jackson's rotation and leading to funky lineups such as Barnes, Odom, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton at the start of the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant was reluctant to attack the basket, dishing off 14 assists and stepping to the free throw line for only two shots.
In the future, "We've got to try not to make it a volleyball game on the glass, where Pau's playing on his Nerf hoop," Nash said.
But the Suns know they can't transform into the Celtics and become a power team. And they can't get Amare Stoudemire back from New York to give Nash an inside option off the pick-and-roll.
"We have to have the game in the open court in order for us to be successful," Gentry said.
Might as well go wide open. Throw up 40 3-pointers a night and hope enough of them go in. At times, particularly when Turkoglu, Frye and Richardson knocked down back-to-back-to-back 3s in a span of 42 seconds in the second quarter, it felt like the days when the Suns ran to the best record in the NBA.
"We used to make runs like that almost every night," Nash said. "But I think we've got a lot of improving to do. We do have decent balance. We don't have to rely on 3s."
They lived on them in this game. They can die another day.
2. West Set To Join Celtics Mix
Boston's second unit had just put together its finest combined effort of the season, helping the Celtics kick off a four-game road trip with a solid triumph over Oklahoma City, and Ray Allen, who often has pulled double duty as both starting and reserve shooting guard to start the season, wondered out loud if Delonte West's impending return might temporarily disrupt the chemistry being forged.
Don't misinterpret the comment. Allen knows the Celtics face a problem any team would like to have. It's not unlike a playoff-bound baseball squad having to juggle its rotation to accommodate a trade-deadline deal for a top-tier starting pitcher.
The Celtics figure to be a better team with West in the mix, there's no disputing that. Even after producing an 8-2 mark during West's 10-game suspension for offseason gun charges, Boston players gushed with excitement while pondering his integration into the bench rotation.
"It's great because he gives our second unit even more of a lift," Allen said Saturday night in Memphis after his late-game sharpshooting helped the Celtics top the Grizzlies, wrapping up a 3-1 trip.
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3. More Growing Pains For Knicks
ESPN New York
You knew there would be growing pains with this Knicks team.
But no one thought they'd be this painful this early in the season.
Two nights after blowing a 21-point lead against the lowly Timberwolves in Minnesota, the Knicks came home and simply didn't compete in an ugly loss to a Rockets team that came into the game with two wins -- and without Yao Ming.
The only positive to be taken from Sunday night's 104-96 loss at the Garden -- the fifth straight for the 3-7 Knicks -- is that they didn't blow a lead. But that's because they barely had one, trailing for all but 18 seconds of the game's final 32 minutes.
They trailed by nine going into the fourth quarter and simply did not compete in the final period, falling behind by as many as 18 in the fourth. They scored just 21 points and didn't convert a field goal until there was 4:37 to go in the game as they were showed with boos from the Garden crowd in the final period.
And it doesn't get any easier for Mike D'Antoni's crew. They hit the road for the first of two four-game trips, starting this one in Denver on Tuesday. Maybe the road will do this downtrodden team some good. The Houston loss left them with just one win in five games at home.
To read the entire Knicks blog, please click here.
4. Spurs Win Despite Duncan's Slow Night
Tim Duncan played 23 minutes, but scored only six points and pulled down four rebounds in the Spurs' win. It was only the second time in 14 NBA seasons that Duncan played more than 20 minutes but failed to reach double-digit points or grab five rebounds. The other time was in a win over the Clippers on Jan. 8, 2009 (eight points, four rebounds in 31 minutes).
5. Extreme Behavior
Jason Richardson, Suns: J-Rich got hot from deep and the rest of his teammates followed his lead. He finished with seven triples and the Suns connected on a team-record 22 3-pointers in a win against the Lakers.
Toney Douglas, Knicks: He played just 18 minutes, but that was enough time for him to squeeze off 11 shots, making just one, in a loss to the Rockets.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"With each consecutive shot, the hoop is just getting bigger and bigger. It was just one of those nights where I was just feeling it."
-- Spurs forward Matt Bonner after going 7-for-7 on 3-pointers against the Thunder
6. NBA Video Channel
7. Pistons Back On Track
8. Rose Versus Rondo? More Please
CHICAGO -- As Derrick Rose practiced his corner 3-pointer an hour and a half before Saturday's game against the Washington Wizards, he was unexpectedly crowded by a bunch of guys in sweaters and sport coats hanging around the visitors bench.
He looked over, a bit confused, and kept shooting.
Why was the media invading his space?
Not to see returning "icon" Kirk Hinrich, who later got a very nice ovation from the crowd and a video tribute. Hinrich said a few hellos, tied his shoes and jogged to the opposite end of the court.
Nope, Rose' s shooting space was where the Wizards wanted their rookie phenom John Wall to talk, maybe to keep the horde from invading the locker room, where Wall is just a rookie on a middling team.
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9. Jackson, Odom Question Foul
ESPN Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES -- In the Los Angeles Lakers' third game of the preseason, Lamar Odom served as a lab rat for the NBA's new technical foul rule, picking up what he described as one of the "weirdest technicals I've ever gotten" for keeping his arm raised for too long after being whistled for a foul against the Sacramento Kings.
That technical occurred in the second quarter of an exhibition game and cost him $2,000. The technical foul that Odom was called for late in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 121-116 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday might have cost his team the game.
Odom absorbed contact from Hedo Turkoglu as he made a layup with 53.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to cut Phoenix's lead to 111-109. Odom spun around and signaled to referee Ron Garretson that he should have been awarded an and-one call and a chance to bring the Lakers to within one at the foul line. Instead, Odom's reaction drew a technical foul from referee Tony Brown and Steve Nash made the shot to put the Suns up by three with the ball.
It was a two-point swing that Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said "changed the context of the ballgame."
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