PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; Lakers lead 2-1.
Using a game plan that has worked thus far, the Lakers look to go up 3-1 when they host the Phoenix Suns in their best-of-seven first round series.
Bryant averaged an NBA-high 35.4 points in the regular season, but hasn’t come close to that in three games this series. Instead, the Lakers have been moving the ball around.
Bryant is averaging 22.7 points in the playoffs and had only 17 points in Los Angeles’ 99-92 win in Game 3 on Friday night, but the other four starters all scored in double figures—the second game this series the Lakers have done that.
Los Angeles had only three games in the regular season in which all starters scored in double figures.
“From the start of the series, we have just been playing extremely well and are moving the ball around really well,” Bryant said. “We have just evolved into this from the start of the season. It has been a process.
“We are just playing so well together.”
Bryant’s 17 points tied for his second-lowest total of the season and was his lowest output since he had 11 against Toronto on Dec. 7. He added seven assists, his most since March 17, when he had 11 against New Jersey.
“There are times and moments and there will be one probably in these playoffs before they’re over where he is going to be doing the offensive work,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Right now, I think he is moving the ball and doing the right thing for us, getting everyone involved in the offense.”
Lamar Odom had 15 points and 17 rebounds and Luke Walton had 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Lakers dominated the smaller Suns on the boards. Los Angeles had a 16-3 edge on the offensive glass in Game 3 and outrebounded Phoenix 53-34 overall.
“They were trying to outrun us and we are trying to pound them inside, so that is the way it’s going to go,” Walton said. “So far, we have come out on top in two of three. They are not going to change their style and we are not going to change ours.”
The Suns don’t plan to change much for Game 4, instead trying to focus on areas where they can beat the bigger, taller Lakers.
“Our strength might be one thing, but it is not in the rebounding department,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We aren’t going to be any bigger on Sunday, we aren’t going to eat anything.
“They will probably outrebound us then. We just have to beat them in other areas.”
“I don’t think we are believing in ourselves, and we’re playing tentative,” Nash said. “We gave up offensive rebounds and missed easy layups.
“We don’t have the size inside to match up with them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t win the series.”
Phoenix has come back from a 2-1 deficit twice in team history, the last time coming in 1993, when the Suns rebounded to beat the Lakers 3-2 in a best-of-five first-round series.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Suns - 2nd seed. Lakers - 7th seed
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Suns - Nash, 22.0 ppg and 10.0 apg; Thomas, 10.0 rpg. Lakers - Bryant, 22.7 ppg and 5.7 apg; Odom, 12.7 rpg.