Lakers star Kobe Bryant did everything in his power to stop the Phoenix Suns from tying the Western Conference finals series, 2-2. Unfortunately for Bryant, it was often like a game of one on 10 Tuesday night, May 25, in Arizona.

Not only were the Suns’ starters playing well, but their second unit was on fire, scoring 54 points off the bench to help Phoenix take Game 4, 115-106, winning its sixth consecutive home game this postseason.

The Suns’ reserves made their first impact on the game midway through the second quarter, when backup sharpshooter Channing Frye hit his first three-pointer of the night to give his team a seven point lead. Frye had struggled terribly in the first three games of the series, making only 1-of-20 shots heading into Tuesday night’s game. But he caught rhythm in game four, scoring 11 of his 14 total points in the first half.

“I told you I was going to continue to shoot,” Frye told reporters after the game, “and my teammates believed in me.”

But Frye wasn’t the only backup help for the Suns as reserve guards Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley also caught fire. Barbosa finished with 14 points, while Dudley contributed 11; all three players combined for 9-for-18 shooting from three-point range. Goran Dragic also added eight points off the bench.

Suns’ stars Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash played well, scoring a combined 36 points, but the second unit was playing so well that head coach Alvin Gentry decided to let them cut into much of the starters’ minutes late in the game.

“It’s really different than most NBA teams. We’re more like a college team.” Gentry said of the depth of talent on his team, which allows starters to trust the reserves when they’re out on the court. “They’re so unselfish .”

Bryant sensed the Suns attempting to run away with the game when their backups began to knock down several shots, so he went on his own scoring tantrum. Kobe made 3-of-4 shots from the arc, scoring 16 points in the third quarter alone before finished with a game-high 38 points with 10 assists. Yet it just wasn’t enough to match the depth of Phoenix.

But Bryant says he isn’t worried about his team’s ability to score with Phoenix; he’s more concerned with the defensive side of the ball.

“We didn’t lose the game because of ,” Bryant told reporters. “We lost the game because our defense sucked.”

He also mentioned how the Suns did a better job than his team of getting to the free throw line. The Suns converted 22-of-32 free throws, while L.A. made just 7-of-13.

“They beat us at the foul line both nights, and that was the margin,” Bryant said. “We have to do a better job in that activity.”

The Western Conference Finals will now return to Los Angeles for game five on Thursday night, May 27.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor