Suns’ second unit forges a new direction in West finals against Lakers – LA Times
By Mark Heisler
Los Angeles Times
PHOENIX – On the bright side for the Lakers, no one hired Coach Phil Jackson away on this trip and they got Andrew Bynum some nice rest for that recently-projected showdown with the Celtics.
Aside from that, of course, it was a disaster.
The West finals returned to square one Tuesday night when the Suns, who came home trailing, 2-0, smote the mighty Lakers once more, 115-106, to tie the series.
As you may have heard, the playoffs are all about adjustments.
The Suns just adjusted themselves from dead to living.
In other words, we’re not doing subplots anymore. This series is back on.
In Game 3, Amare Stoudemire got away from the Lakers and went for 42.
In Game 4, Stoudemire was held to his standard 21 but the other Suns stepped up, or on the Lakers.
In the perfect touch, the Lakers weren’t beaten by the Suns you know and love, but by their second unit, the little-known group composed of Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic, Louis Amundson, Channing Frye and Leandro Barbosa.
Coach Alvin Gentry plays them together, which meant starting the fourth quarter with a scant 85-84 lead and no Stoudemire or Steve Nash with them to make sure things didn’t go wrong.
Meanwhile, Jackson wisely sent out what used to be called the Bench Mob but is currently without a nickname, with one ringer, Kobe Bryant.
While everyone was wondering how long Gentry could go like that, his scrubs blew the game open with a 14-5 run, raining threes on the Lakers as Frye hit one of his four in the game, Dudley hit one of his three and Barbosa hit one of his two.
With 6:47 left and Phoenix up, 98-89, Jackson sent his starters back in.
Gentry stayed with his reserves.
With four minutes left, Nash went to the scorer’s table as Dragic, who’s still a rumor as far as Jordan Farmar is concerned, spun past the Lakers’ reserve guard for a reverse layup.
Nash turned around and sat back down.
With 3:05 left, Nash finally came in, with the Suns, who had just been up by 13, leading, 103-94.
“We were going to go as long as we possibly can go,” Gentry said. “We like to get to the seven-minute mark but to tell you the truth we’ve done this before.”
To tell you the truth, if your reserves are kicking their starters’ backsides, why not sit back and enjoy the show?
As Nash said afterward, “That was a blast.”
In the Suns’ heyday from 2004 to 2008, Coach Mike D’Antoni used a tight seven-man rotation.
With recent acquisitions like the sharpshooting Frye (well, at least at home), the canny Dragic and the do-everything Dudley, Gentry developed his reserves into a unit with its own personality and an explosive three-point-shooting dimension.
Tuesday, it turned the West finals back around.
The night started with the standard denial of the latest report from ESPN, the World Wide Leader in Rumors