Defense, believe it or not, helps Phoenix to 3-1 series lead Print
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Monday, 30 April 2007 13:10
NBA Headline News

 PHOENIX (AP) -Contrary to popular belief, the Phoenix Suns do play defense. No one will confuse them with the Pistons or Spurs, but they are getting better.
Co. at home on Wednesday night.
As proof that at least some members of the NBA's highest-scoring team can play at the other end of the court, the Suns' Raja Bell was voted to the NBA's all-defensive first team on Monday. Shawn Marion just missed the top two teams, finishing 12th in the balloting, with five first-team votes.
``I think it says that we actually do play defense,'' Bell said after the Suns practiced on Monday. ``I've been saying all year our style just kind of lends itself to scoring points on us because we want to score, but we've got a lot of guys on this team that can play defense.''
Bell was stunned by being named to the team, though.
``Of the things I thought I could hear this morning when I came to practice, that I was voted to the all-defense team was not even on the list,'' he said. ``When they told me the coaches voted, it was even more of a surprise.''
Bell figured his highly publicized matchups with Bryant had something to do with the honor. Though he added, ``He scores 40 on me every night, so I don't know how that could really have won me any award.''
Marion, so versatile that he can guard centers, power forwards and even point guards, had often mentioned his desire to make the first or second team, but he was voted fifth among forwards. The top four make the two teams.
``We've got a lot of great forwards in this league,'' said Marion, who finished behind Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett.
``It's definitely more motivation,'' Marion said, ``but at the same time it's not unnoticed what I go out there and do.''
While the attention went to the superb performances, either on offense or on the boards, of Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Marion in Sunday's 113-100 victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles, Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said the team played strong defense.
``You don't win 60-some games without playing defense, at least pretty good,'' D'Antoni said. ``I didn't say we're the best, but we have very good defensive players on this team, and we're getting better.''
Even Steve Nash, certainly not known as a great defender, can cause problems by drawing offensive fouls.
``We can't be a poor defensive team and still win a championship,'' Nash said. ``That's for sure.''
While the Suns practiced, Lakers coach Phil Jackson had his team watch some videotape, then sent them home.
Jackson said he might make a change at point guard, where rookie Jordan Farmar struggled, to say the least, while Nash dished out 23 assists on Sunday, one shy of the NBA playoff record. That could mean a return of Smush Parker to the starting lineup.
``We were outhustled,'' Jackson said. ``They imposed their will on the game and we never recovered. They (the Lakers) know what they have to do to play. A major part of playing is renewed energy and dedication. Our big guys didn't give us the energy.''
The Suns were down to the Lakers 3-1 in a first-round series a year ago, but came back to win it in seven games. This Los Angeles team, though, staggered into the playoffs, and has several players nursing injuries.
Lamar Odom has a hyperextended elbow, torn shoulder cartilage and a healing cut above his left eye. Still, he's playing.
Phoenix's players talked about taking nothing for granted, wanting to avoid a return to Los Angeles for a Game 6. Bell has a special reason. His wife is due to deliver their baby any minute.
``If we close this out, we could have my son induced on Friday,'' he said. ``That's my motivation.''
AP Sports Writer John Nadel in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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