The Phoenix Suns have risen. At least their bench has.
It may have been Amare Stoudemire that lifted the Suns in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, but Tuesday it was the bench that lifted the Suns past the Los Angeles Lakers to even up the best-of-seven series.
Though the game stayed close, it was an 18-3 run during the fourth quarter that put the Suns ahead for good. Channing Frye finally snapped out of a horrible shooting slump where he had Frye had missed 18 in a row, dropping in the first of four three-pointers with his second shot of the game, on his way to 14 points. Leandro Barbosa had 14 points on 6-8 shooting. Jared Dudley dropped in three three-pointers on his way to 11 points and backup point guard Goran Dragic dished 8 assists and scored 8 points as well.
In a series in which many considered over after the Lakers easily handled the Suns for the first two games in Los Angeles, returning to the desert of Arizona and a shift to a zone defense has critics second guessing themselves. The same zone defense has the Phoenix Suns believing that they can beat the defending World Champions from Los Angeles.
For the Lakers, the zone defense seems to add some concern and play into the Suns game plan, but it doesn’t seem to stop Kobe Bryant at all. Bryant finished with 38 points and 10 assists and 7 rebounds. Kobe shot an astounding 15 of 22 from the field, including 6 for 9 from downtown. The one thing he didn’t do was get to the foul line like he normally does, making only 4 attempts from the free throw line.
The zone defense may be a large part of what has brought the Suns back into the series, but anyone who watched the game last night can tell you that the fans also set the tone. As the series moves back to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for game 5 Thursday night, the Suns will have to win without the cheers of their hometown crowd and prove they can shine outside of the Arizona desert.