PHOENIX -- The second game was a problem for the Phoenix
Suns in the first round.
The way their offense has kicked in gear lately, their
confidence is a whole lot higher going into this Game 2.
The Suns, averaging 122 points during their current four-game
playoff winning streak, try to go up 2-0 on the Los Angeles
Clippers on Wednesday night in the Western Conference semifinals.
"I'm sure we've strung together some high-scoring games this
season," the Suns' Raja Bell said, "but the timeliness of these
is pretty impressive. When we play like that, we're tough to beat,
and we'll give ourselves a chance against anybody."
Phoenix lost at home to the Lakers 99-93 in Game 2 of the first
round en route to falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
The Suns rebounded to win the next three, then withstood a 40-point
effort by Elton Brand to beat the Clippers 130-123 in their
second-round series opener Monday night.
The memory of that home loss to the Lakers remains fresh,
"We've got to learn from what happened to us in the first
round," the Suns' Boris Diaw said. "We know that Game 2 is
really, really important."
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said his team's biggest problems
didn't come from the 12 3-pointers by Phoenix's band of
sharpshooters, but from driving layups.
"They weren't acceptable," he said. "It's hard to be so
disciplined against this team, because that's their strength. They
make you pay the price. If you told me coming into the game that we
were going to shoot 60 percent and score 123 points, I would have
thought they'd score less. Getting the ball inside was a good thing
for us, the problem was we didn't take care of the defensive end."
Two-time MVP Steve Nash creates the problems with his uncanny
knack of driving through traffic, then either finding the open man
outside or scoring. Compounding the situation is Diaw's
ever-improving ability to do the same, except with a 6-foot-8
Suns coach Mike D'Antoni has gone with essentially a seven-man
rotation, and all of them played well on Monday.
"That's the beauty of it," Nash said. "You need to move the
ball, you need to move bodies, you need to be intelligent,
creative, make shots, be skillful. We're playing at a high level
offensively the last few games."
Diaw and speedy Leandro Barbosa, both just 23 years old, have
played the best of their young careers in the last few games.
"Spreading the floor, a lot of that has to do with Boris and
L.B.," D'Antoni said. "When they can penetrate and cut and we
keep our spacing, then we're good."
D'Antoni said the team's offensive high-speed precision Monday
night was "as good as I've been associated with."
"Just ball movement, not hesitating, going to the basket,
finding the open guy," he said, "having patience, knowing when to
come, when not to come."
While the Clippers failed to slow the Suns, Phoenix couldn't
handle Brand, either. He made 18 of 22 shots, and most of them
weren't easy ones.
"I'm not looking to score 40 again," he said, "but if it
happens, it happens. I'm looking to win the ball game. If they come
with two or three guys this time, other guys are going to have to
step up. But our defense is the main thing. Even myself, I'm
disappointed in my defensive effort and the situations we were put
in, and our rotations."
The Clippers, winners of a playoff series for the first time in
30 years, know they have the offense to beat the Suns. It's the
defensive matchups that cause them fits.
"It's a difficult matchup for us," Clippers center Chris Kaman
said. "We've got some guys who play pretty good defense, and then
some guys who aren't fast enough to keep up, including myself."
Phoenix is 5-0 when scoring at least 100 points in this
"Keeping them under 100 points is how the Lakers won," Brand
said. "I don't know if it's possible for us, but we definitely
need to keep it under 120."