LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Los Angeles Lakers held Steve Nash in check for the second straight game Wednesday night, and even a breakout offensive effort by Grant Hill couldn’t save the Phoenix Suns.
They lost 124-112 and trail 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals. It’s the first time Phoenix has lost consecutive games since Jan. 25-26.
“We just got to do a better job,” Hill said. “We got to try to figure it out.”
After getting blown out in Game 1, the Suns went to a smaller lineup and brought themselves back in the third quarter, when they tied the game at 90-all.
Then came the fourth.
“We started turning the ball over three straight times,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “They went down and got baskets. We never really got any control after that.”
Hill was a major catalyst in the third, hitting 6 of 7 shots from the field in a vintage performance that recalled his early years in the NBA. He finished with 23 points in the first conference finals of his career.
“I was fresh and just felt I had to attack,” he said. “You exert so much energy to get back into the game. You got to fight like that in the first quarter and the second quarter.”
Jason Richardson led Phoenix with 27 points. Nash, a Victoria native, had 11 points and 15 assists. Amare Stoudemire added 18 points, and he and Nash both had five of the Suns’ 17 turnovers.
For the second straight game, the Suns gave up more than 120 points.
“If we’re going to give up 120-something every game, then, yeah, I probably do have to score more points,” said Nash, who had 13 points and 13 assists in Game 1.
Stoudemire drew the ire of Lakers’ fans after calling Lamar Odom “lucky” for his 19-point, 19-rebound performance in Game 1. This time, Ron Artest’s 18-point outburst caught his attention.
“That’s something that we didn’t expect,” said Stoudemire, who was limited by foul trouble. “They deserved to win both games. We’ve got to do a better job out there on both ends.”
Despite tying it three times in the third, the Suns could never take the lead. They closed within two points early in the fourth before the Lakers pulled away for good.
“They’ve made a lot of shots and they’ve made it difficult for us no matter what scheme we’ve thrown at them defensively,” Nash said. “Maybe we have to take some chances.”
Hill’s offence benefited from a defensive switch in the third, when he went from guarding Kobe Bryant to Odom. The move opened up his offensive looks, with Hill scoring nine in a row before Nash hit the tying basket going into the fourth.
After an 11-0 run early in the second got them within three, the Suns couldn’t get defensive stops and found themselves merely trading baskets with the Lakers for a stretch. They trailed 65-56 at halftime.
“We shot the ball well, but we really didn’t do anything defensively,” said Robin Lopez, who had seven points and six rebounds in his second career playoff game after missing 20 games with an injured back.
Phoenix fell to 8-23 all-time in playoff games in Los Angeles. The Suns head home for Game 3 on Sunday knowing they had losing road records against first-round opponent Portland and second-round opponent San Antonio, but won both those series to advance to the conference finals.
“We are just having a hard time, we can’t slow them down,” Gentry said. “But we’ll keep plugging away. We’ll keep trying. We’re not going to give up.”