NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns Game 2: Dazed and confused Suns try to figure out what's next

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Richardson_loss.jpgThe Suns played straight up man-to-man. They mixed in some zone. They tried to front Pau Gasol in the post. They played behind him. They tried to double team Kobe, both aggressively and once he picked up his dribble.

They tried every defensive gimmick in the book — and the Lakers scored 124 points on 57.7 percent shooting. From three they shot 56 percent. You win doing that. Game 2 was pretty much a repeat of Game 1 despite the Suns adjustments.

So what now?

“I really don’t know what the answer is,” Grant Hill said. “They had a lot of points in the paint (52). Our rotations aren’t great and we’ve just got to play better.”

The Suns seemed stunned and a little confused. They said the right things — to a man kept noting that all the Laker have done is exactly what they were supposed to in winning their two games at home. If the Suns can do the same, this series comes back to Los Angeles next Thursday tied up.

But that totally ignores how those two games looked. The Lakers were able to do what they wanted when they wanted on offense. And they wanted to go inside where the Suns are not as long. When pressed for things the Suns could do to slow the Lakers offense, the answers were execution and variety. And say a few prayers.

“We’ve got to be earlier, we’ve got to be earlier on our help rotations…” said Amare Stoudemire, a guy who looked particularly in a fog defensively at points. “That was the game plan, to stay in front of Gasol and have them throw it over the top and our help was going to be there and kind of trap him. But he threw it over the top and the help was a little late and he just finished. It was a little frustrating at points.”

The Suns had a period of success in this game — they tied the game in the third quarter, going with a small-ball lineup that had Jared Dudley at the power forward spot. It worked beautifully on the offensive end, stretching out the Lakers defense and getting Dudley and Hill open looks that they knocked down. But it didn’t solve the core problem of slowing the Lakers offense.

“It makes us very small defensively,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said of the small lineup, but adding he might go back to it. “And with Lamar (Odom) in the game at the four, we either have to have Jared or Grant Hill guarding him and, obviously, that is a big advantage for them.”

Dudley picked a lot of fouls in that stretch, and ended up fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Back at home, the Suns tend to play faster, something the Lakers got sucked into for a part of the second quarter and may well again. But defensively, Gentry emphasized just continually giving the Lakers different looks as the only real option.

“We’ve got to throw different looks, because we did front he post and then they went to what they call solo, which is posting up Pau, and there’s a lot of action on the weakside,” Gentry said. “And they were able to throw it over. We got a smaller guy trying to rotate in. So they had some success with that.

“We’ve just got to keep changing it up and hopefully they won’t shoot as well in our building as they do here.”

Gentry did have one new wrinkle to throw out.

“We just have to take a look at the tape tonight and maybe we’ll decide that we let Kobe get 80 and try to guard the other guys,” Gentry joked.

Well, we assume he was joking. On second thought, might as well do that. Not like anything else has been working.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.

Rudy Gay, Vlade Divac clear the air

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Rudy Gay expressed displeasure with how the Kings were handling trade rumors. Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac retorted that Gay had his phone number.

Apparently, Gay found it.

Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:

Following those comments, Gay told ABC10 on Thursday afternoon that he had since spoken with Divac.

“I have talked to Vlade,” Gay said from his Nike Skills Academy at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin. “I can’t say since Monday stuff has changed, but I just feel like we have a little bit of time to start changing things.”

Gay, who will be entering his 11th NBA season, has insisted he hasn’t demanded a trade and should he remain a member of the Kings by the time training camp opens in October, he says he’ll report and be ready to go.

“At this point in my career I just want to be happy,” said Gay. “I talked to Vlade and we’re trying to make that happen.”

Even if he hasn’t demanded a trade, it sure sounds like Gay would welcome one. I doubt the Kings would mind moving on, either.

But it takes another team to trade for Gay, and so far, one hasn’t emerged.

In the meantime, tensions appear to be eased. Open communication usually helps.

 

Jimmy Butler: I didn’t move Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah from Bulls

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 30:  Joakim Noah #13, Derrick Rose #1 and Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls react during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on January 30, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Bulls 99-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Jimmy Butler said of the Derrick Rose trade, “It had to be one of us.”

Butler also says not blame him for the Bulls losing Rose — or Joakim Noah, who’s also headed to the Knicks.

Jimmy Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“That has nothing to do with me, I don’t move guys,” Butler said. “People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. I don’t let it bother me. I know where I stand, I know who I am. It’s one more thing for people to talk about. I don’t pay too much attention to it.”

I can believe Butler didn’t directly urge Chicago to trade Rose, but Butler’s presence matters.

Rose and Butler clearly didn’t ideally mesh on the court, and there might have been off-court issues, too. If it weren’t for Butler, the Bulls might have kept Rose.

Noah is a little different, because it seems he, more than the team, was ready for a breakup. Still, that might have also had to do with Butler.

Butler is trying to grow into a leader, a natural progression for someone who became his team’s best player. But that was awkward with the Bulls’ previous leaders — Rose and Noah — still in the locker room. There’s no simple solution, though moving on without Rose and Noah will clear that cloud.

So — without other information — it’s too much to “blame” Butler for Rose’s and Noah’s departures. But Rose and Noah moving from Chicago to New York can still be ascribed to Butler.

It might not have been something asked for directly. It’s just the reality of the situation.

Dwyane Wade: “It’s Jimmy Butler’s team”

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Dwyane Wade is back in sweet home, Chicago.

Wade met with the media for the first time and talked about the pairing of himself and Rajon Rondo with the Bulls’ existing star in Jimmy Butler — Wade used the term “three alphas” more than once. But he also was clear about whose team this was going to be on the court.

“We’re not going to go through this all year. It’s Jimmy Butler’s team. Myself and Rondo are here to bring what we bring as athletes.”

Wade added that he would not be a Bull if Jimmy Butler had not personally called him and asked him to come.

Wade took that cue from Shaquille O’Neal when he joined Wade’s Heat team — which eventually led to the Heat’s first title in 2006. The Bulls would love for that kind of result here, although it’s much tougher to see this Chicago roster having anywhere near that kind of impact.