Suns look to duplicate NHL's Canadiens' success
Last year's Stanley Cup winner and the favorite this season was bounced in the second round of the NHL playoffs Wednesday by the No. 8 seed Montreal Canadiens.
The talent-rich Penguins were stopped by the play of a hot goalie, but for the Suns to send home the equally talented Lakers, they know they will need an outstanding performance from more than one player.
Phoenix will rely on the depth that has carried it all season, look to win a few key matchups and enjoy the lack of pressure that comes with being a heavy underdog.
The Suns held a spirited practice Friday and anticipate being able to play loose once the series finally starts Monday.
``What do we have to lose? Nobody wants us to win anyway,'' Channing Frye said. ``According to everybody, we're playing on borrowed money anyway.''
Frye is part of the Suns' ``second five'' that is averaging 34.9 points in the postseason, best among the four remaining teams and nearly 12 points more than the Lakers' reserves (23.2).
Gentry said without the stellar supporting performance by his bench, there's no way Phoenix would have won 54 games in the regular season, or the past six straight in the playoffs - a franchise record.
``They've been important the whole year,'' he said.
``When I've given them a chance to shine and come in and given them the minutes ... they've found a way to get it done about eight out of every 10 times.''
The Suns will have one more body to turn to for this series in Robin Lopez.
Gentry said Lopez is pain free from the back injury that has sidelined him since March 28, and added he would be ``shocked'' if the center didn't play in Game 1.
After moving into the starting lineup midway through the season, Lopez's production shot up. He averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in the 24 games before his injury.
This will be Lopez's first postseason, and he's still working on his conditioning so the Suns aren't expecting the same type of production. But just having his 7-foot, 255-pound frame on the floor will be a benefit.
``His length in general will help with (Andrew) Bynum and (Pau) Gasol down there,'' Amare Stoudemire said, referring to the Lakers' two 7-footers.
Phoenix outrebounded Los Angeles 178-175 in four regular season meetings, but the Lakers' athletic backcourt gave the Suns' 3-point shooters fits.
The Suns shot 41.2 percent from 3-point range in the regular season but only 33.3 against the Lakers.
Phoenix will be aiming to up that percentage, but it has to be careful to ``not dwell on shooting just jump shots,'' Frye said. ``If we play our game, you know they're going to have to make a decision of whether to give up layups or allow us to just shoot jumpers.''
``Nobody's perfect and can play everything. They have to give up something, and it's our job to take advantage of that,'' he said.
The Suns will also have to figure out a way to at least contain Kobe Bryant.
``You can't stop a great player,'' Gentry said. ``You can limit what he does.''
Grant Hill, who has been praised for the job he did against Portland's Andre Miller and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili in the first two rounds, and Jason Richardson will draw the defensive assignment most often, but the Suns will throw several other looks at Bryant as well.
``The most important thing is that I do think we have to keep him off the foul line,'' Gentry said. ``When he's shooting 12, 14 foul shots, then I think he really gets you in trouble. Then you add 10, 12 field goals to that, all of a sudden you're in the high 30s or approaching 40.''