Suns Look for Spark

Even on their worst day, the Phoenix Suns usually run like crazy and score a lot of points.

They did neither against the Los Angeles Lakers while losing Game 3 of their first-round playoff series 95-89. While the Suns were quick to give credit to their opponent, they're looking for a return to form Sunday in Game 4.

Oddsmakers have made Phoenix -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 206 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Phoenix -5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

``We've had two days to prepare. We feel confident about our strategy,'' Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire said after practice Saturday. ``We've got a few changes. We have to match their energy level. We've got to create some more fast-break points, up-tempo play.''

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said his team has to make a conscious effort to speed things up.

``We've got to make sure we're the team with the energy,'' he said. ``I don't know if we've ever won when we've scored 89 points. That's where we let down.

``It's tough to set up your defense when you're running 100 mph. Our offense has got to be better. Give them credit. (But) we're worried about us more than them. Collectively, we just didn't do our job later in the game.''

The Suns, who lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, averaged an NBA-leading 110.2 points during the regular season, scoring at least 100 in all but 14 of their 82 games. They scored under 90 only twice - in a 105-83 loss March 16 at Detroit and a 92-85 setback April 5 at San Antonio.

``They did a good job of slowing the game down,'' Suns guard Raja Bell said of the Lakers. ``We don't necessarily thrive in that type of game. We have to be intent in doing it - really push the ball after makes and misses.

``It happens every once in a while, there have been teams who have been successful in slowing us down. We've talked a lot about it.''

It appeared to be business as usual when the explosive Suns shot 13-of-16 for a 31-14 lead in Game 3, but most of those 13 baskets came on outside shots, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range.

The Suns scored only 58 points in the final three quarters. They scored 68 in the first half and 58 in the second half of Game 2, when they used their running game to perfection in a 126-98 victory.

``I think we were scoring so efficiently in the first quarter, we were happy with the pace of the game. It really wasn't our pace,'' two-time MVP Steve Nash said. ``There's a lot of things we can look to that we didn't do well.

``You have a bad game, you come back from it.''

The Lakers began trapping in the second quarter, and their 19 offensive rebounds made it difficult for the Suns to get their fast break rolling.

``We just wanted to be aggressive, get second-chance opportunities. We wound up controlling the pace and the tempo,'' said Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who scored 45 points in Game 3.

``When there's a second opportunity, it chances the tempo of the game,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ``Their guys can't get in their starting blocks and take off.''

Lamar Odom, who had 18 points and 16 rebounds and scored the go-ahead basket with 1:45 remaining, said the key to slowing the Suns down centered on Nash.

``Some of the things that we did, I wouldn't even talk about,'' Odom said. ``They've got a great quarterback. You have to give him different looks - sometimes go hard, sometimes back off.''

Jackson realizes the Lakers' chances will be extremely slim if they don't win Sunday.

``We've got to win tomorrow's game to make it a series,'' he said. ``We're in the series, but we haven't made it a series.''

Jackson said a day earlier he warned the Lakers about being ``full of themselves'' following Game 3.

``We won one game, you know what I mean? It doesn't make any sense for us to be full of ourselves,'' Bryant said. ``They did their thing at home. We've got to do the same thing. We've got (Sunday) to do it.''

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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