Suns run into angry young man


Thanks for coming, Phoenix Suns.

Oh, that was just Game 1?

In the good news for the Suns, the Western Conference finals are still best-of-seven, so this series didn’t end Monday night . . . appearances to the contrary in the Lakers’ 128-107 romp.

Or is that the bad news for the Suns?

As Steve Nash said afterward, “We’ll see . . . .

“They’re a lot bigger than us, and they’re probably going to continue to be taller than us as the series goes on.”

With all their other problems, the Suns ran into a ticked-off Kobe Bryant, upset either because Grant Hill was bumping him around . . . or because the Suns knocked the Lakers out in 2006 and 2007 . . . or seeking vindication for, quote, tanking Game 7 in ’06 . . . or, in a safe bet, up to here with being asked about the quote, tanking controversy.


Whatever it was, Bryant turned his full fury on the Suns, scoring 40 points. It could have been 50, but with the issue settled, he watched the last minutes from the bench.

Not that the Suns didn’t show that new defense they’re supposed to play, but after the athletic, swarming Thunder and the physical, rock-ribbed Jazz, the Lakers looked like those furry mascots who come running down the lane and dunk, jumping off a trampoline.

The Lakers shot 58%, and 47% on three-point shots, a pleasant development for Coach Phil Jackson.

“We’re not that high-powered of an offensive team,” Jackson said. “We [average] in the lowly 100s, not the 120s like the Phoenix Suns.”

Of course, if you really want to see a fireworks show, imagine the Suns’ offense against the Suns’ defense.

For the piece de resistance, Shannon Brown tried to tomahawk one, vaulting right over the head of 6-foot-5 Jason Richardson, and almost pulled it off.


With Richardson called for a blocking foul, Brown went to the line and made one of two free throws, although he didn’t try to dunk either.

As far as Bryant’s knee, which he recently had drained, if there was any problem, it wasn’t apparent Monday.

Said Bryant, with the usual bemused disdain in the postgame news conference:

“Feels a little lighter. I lost a couple pounds.”

For the Lakers, that knee -- which has swollen up after rest on four occasions since April 1 -- had better be good to go.

Instead of featuring Kobe and the 7-Foot Tandem, the combination that can make them great, it looks more like Kobe and Pau Gasol, with Andrew Bynum’s sore knee rendering him less and less of a factor.

Showing what they’re capable of in Games 1-2 against Utah, Gasol and Bynum combined to score 72 points with 51 rebounds.

Showing where he is now, Bynum played 19 minutes Monday with four points and four rebounds.


Guess who that leaves to save the day?

Before the game, Phoenix Coach Alvin Gentry, amused at the local press reviving its own speculation that Bryant tanked Game 7 of their series in 2006, asked, “Can you get him to do that the next four?”

Apparently not, at least yet.

Any notion Bryant was hurting ended when he came out firing.

Missing his first two shots, making his first at the 11-minute mark, Bryant then knocked down two more, including a three-pointer, and wound up with 11 points in the first quarter.

By then, Gentry could tell what was coming.

“I’ve never, since he walked into the league, I don’t think I’ve ever underestimated him,” Gentry said. “You knew at some point of the game he would try to take the game over . . .

“I think our attitude was fine. We ran into a guy who’s a great player. I’m pretty sure we’re not the first team he scored 40 against.”

Indeed, they’re not.

That was just one of the silver linings for the Suns.

In another one, things can’t go any worse.