NBA Official Recap
Gasol, Kobe team up to power Lakers to 2-0 series lead
By Bryan Chu, for NBA.com
Posted Thursday May 20, 2010 2:09AM
LOS ANGELES (NBA.com exclusive) -- Knees packed with ice and slumped in his chair, Grant Hill could only scoff and shake his head when asked what the Suns would do with the upcoming four days off between games.
"I have no idea," he said. "Maybe [the time off is] a good thing. Maybe we need to go back to the drawing board. We had two games now to see what they're doing."
And for the second time, the outcome was a similar one.
After demolishing the Suns in the series opener, the Lakers took it to the Suns in the fourth quarter and ran away with a 124-112 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals Wednesday at Staples Center.
"I imagine it must be frustrating so far," said Pau Gasol of what the Suns might be going through after giving up an average of 126 points in the first two games.
Los Angeles has won eight straight games and holds a 2-0 series lead over Phoenix. When winning Game 1 and 2 of the a best-of-seven series, the Lakers are 41-1 all-time, and teams under Lakers coach Phil Jackson are 46-0.
Thus far, defending the Lakers has been an enigma for the Suns.
After shooting 58 percent in Game 1, the Lakers converted 57.7 percent from the field on Wednesday en route to another display of offensive power.
"That's the game they force you to play," said Odom of the high-scoring affair. "We can adapt to it. They know, they know. The strength to our team is our depth and the way we're able to matchup."
This much scoring even has the unlikeliest of sources talking about the other end of the court.
"We've just got to defend better," Steve Nash said.
In Game 1, the bulk of the scoring came from Bryant, who had 40 points. But in Game 2 it came from all areas thanks to Bryant, who switched from scorer to facilitator.
Bryant finished with 21 points and 13 assists, a playoff career-high. Bryant, who had just two turnovers, was the first Laker to have 13 assists in a playoff game since Magic Johnson did it in the first round of the 1996 playoffs.
Five Lakers especially benefitted from Bryant's passing. Gasol had a game-high 29 points, Odom (17 points, 11 rebounds), Ron Artest (18), Andrew Bynum (13) and Jordan Farmar (11).
"You have to make a decision," said Odom of who to guard.
Easier said than done.
"We have enough guys to score points...that was enough," said Hill, who had 23 points on 10-for-17 from the field. "We just have to get them under 105. Somehow, someway."
Added Suns coach Alvin Gentry: "We can't slow them down."
Having lost back-to-back games for the first time since Jan 25-26, the Suns now head back to Phoenix for Game 3 on Sunday.
Bryant anticipates it will be a different series in Phoenix.
"They run much, much better," he said. "It's a different kind of game on the road. We can't play with this kind of tempo in Phoenix."
After fighting to get back into the game, the Suns tied it at 90-90 heading into the final period.
But it was all Lakers the final 12 minutes.
Farmar was instrumental in the Lakers regaining the lead. To start the period, he drilled a 3-pointer and recorded a steal.
"That changed momentum of the game," Bryant said.
Then the Lakers blitzed the Suns with a combo of Bryant, Gasol and Odom.
On one play, with Hill hugging on his waist, Bryant faked as if he were going to drive, but wrapped the ball behind his back and knocked down a 14-foot fallaway from the left wing. That basket was part of an 11-2 run that gave the Lakers a 106-95 lead.
The Lakers never looked back after that basket as Los Angeles continued to punish Phoenix in the paint with Gasol, who had 14 points in the quarter.
The Suns recorded six turnovers to the Lakers' two and were outscored 34-22 in the final quarter.
"We exerted so much energy getting back into the game," Hill said. "We have to play better in the first half and do a better job in the first quarter."
In the loss, Jason Richardson finished with a team-high 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting. It's a rare feat to beat the Suns when Richardson scores 20 or more points. Their record coming into the game was 31-4.
Jared Dudley, who fouled out, chipped in with 15 points and hit five 3-pointers, just one shy of tying his career high.
Nash had 11 points and 15 assists and Amar'e Stoudemire, who was saddled with foul trouble, finished with 18 points and six rebounds.
After the game, the Lakers said they made a concerted effort to attack Stoudemire.
"You have to make sure you're aggressive and make him work on that end of the floor," Gasol said.
Hill and Richardson were huge for the Suns. Hill continued to find the soft spot in the belly of the Laker defense and exploited it. He sank five jumpers in the 15-foot range and ended up with 14 points in the third period. Richardson got his 12 points in the period spotting up from 3-point and slashing to the basket.
Artest is quietly forming into shape offensively.
The first quarter was indicative of that. Artest led all scorers with 10 points and sank a 3-pointer from the left corner at the buzzer to give Los Angeles a 36-24 advantage.
After the game, Artest was asked whether this could be the team's best back-to-back games this season.
"Could be, could be," he said. "We fell asleep in the middle of the season and now we woke up."