NBA Playoffs Lakers Suns Game 3: Lakers will find Suns much hotter in Phoenix

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GHill_dunk.jpgThe Phoenix Suns are not going to get well against the Lakers. Not this series, the Lakers are going to win it. Phoenix is not going to be able to do the one thing it needs to counter the Lakers — grow three or four inches a man.

But like taking a cold medication, for a few hours — one game or two — the Suns can mask the symptoms. They can simply outscore the Lakers in a shootout.

Their medicine: Going home. US Airways Center.

The Suns cannot stop the Lakers offense. Look at the Lakers big men’s numbers through three games: Pau Gasol 65.6 percent shooting, Lamar Odom 64 percent, Andrew Bynum: 77.8 percent. After Game 2, Grant Hill and Suns coach Alvin Gentry said they basically were not sure how to slow the Lakers.

But the Suns are capable of scoring a lot more points.

That the Suns do at home, and do it well. The Suns play at a faster pace at home. Like most teams, the Suns stars do not get a lot better at home but their role players do — guys like Channing Frye (who Gentry said the Suns had to start getting something out of this series) and Jared Dudley and Dragic Dagic suddenly seem unable to miss. They seem quicker, too. They play with more confidence.

We have seen the Suns do this for a spurt — the third quarter of Game 2. The Lakers “only” scored 25 that quarter but the Suns scored 34. They got some turnovers and converted them to easy buckets in transition. They drained three pointers. Grant Hill looked 25 again. The vaunted Suns offense started to really click.

It didn’t last into the fourth quarter. And let’s be clear, the “we’ll just outscore them” mentality will not carry the series for Phoenix. But it can for one game. The Suns are not going to roll over.

“You know, no one just let us get to the Western Conference Finals,” Gentry said. “We earned the right to be here. And we’ll continue to plug away.”

To a man, the Lakers said they know this. They talked about expecting the Suns to play better at home and that they need to step up. That their defense will need to be sharper, that their offense will need to continue as it has.

In the end, the Lakers have the winning hand — they are taller, they are better. But the games Sunday in Tuesday in Phoenix will be tougher than the first two, the Suns will not go down easily. The Suns still think this is a series.

Watch Michael Jordan’s best highlight from each of his playoff runs (video)

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I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.