After shooting a season-low 38.2 percent against the Lakers in a 93-85 win in Phoenix 10 days ago, the Suns needed a 58-percent third quarter (15-for-26) just to get to 43 percent for the game on Sunday.
Still, the Suns managed to win Game 1 of their NBA playoff series with several of their offensive weapons misfiring.
Otherwise occupied chasing Kobe Bryant all over the court, Raja Bell took just six shots and missed all five of his 3-pointers. Boris Diaw missed five of seven shots, most as the Lakers packed the middle and dared him to shoot jumpers.
“We made shots we didn’t make in the first half — well, expect for me,” Diaw said with a grin. “I have to keep shooting those shots. If I don’t, they will keep backing off and I can’t make plays for my teammates. I have to make them respect that shot.
“The Lakers made some big shots early. But they can’t make those all night, and we know there’s going to be a point when we will start making ours.”
Bryant finished with 39 points and had 28 points in the first — scoring the last 11 in a barrage of 3-pointers just before halftime with defenders hanging on him — but Lakers forward Luke Walton said the Suns did a good job of taking away the Lakers’ most basic play: isolating Bryant on one of the sides.
“We can’t just leave him because Phoenix’s whole defense rotates there,” Walton said. “They rotate and flood the sides too well. We have to do a better job of coming up with scoring options.”
The Suns expect to be outrebounded by Los Angeles in this Western Conference playoff series, and that was the case Sunday with the Lakers owning a 46-40 edge.
But with Shawn Marion (16 rebounds) and Amaré Stoudemire (12) combining for 28 boards — throwing in a combined 39 points as well — the Suns were able to hold their own, holding the Lakers to just 10 second-chance points and hold on for a 95-87 win.
“We’re not a great defensive team, but we’re getting pretty good,” D’Antoni said. “Shawn and Amaré, especially, scooped up every rebound and limited them to one shot. That’s an edge I’m sure they feel they have to have, and our guys were really good today.”
During and after the game, the Lakers complained about the officiating crew of Bernie Fryer, Leon Wood and Ken Mauer. Coach Phil Jackson felt Kwame Brown was fouled on the first offensive sequence and spent much of the second half complaining that he was charged with a full timeout instead of a 20-second with 2:58 left in the first half.
“This refereeing crew, which was dubious at best today, missed that call and somehow I lost a timeout in the course of the second half,” Jackson said. “(Brown) thought he got fouled right off the bat … he had a goaltending play in which they didn’t call goaltending. (The Suns) took it off the backboard.”
LET’S GET SMALL
With the Lakers stressing inside play, Kurt Thomas was expected to see a lot of playing time in this series.
But with Bryant exploding in the first half and the Suns trailing, Thomas made just a three-minute cameo appearance in the first half and never returned.
The Suns had more success with their small lineup from that point forward, playing three guards at times (Bell, Leandro Barbosa and Steve Nash). James Jones (three points) played just 15 minutes.
The Lakers played 11 players to eight for the Suns, but Phoenix outscored the Los Angeles bench 31-8.
Lamar Odom took five stitches over his left eye when he was hit by Nash in the first quarter. …
Among those seen in the crowd Sunday: Duke and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski (sitting with Jerry Colangelo), diet guru and Suns investor Jenny Craig, and Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart. …
The Suns are 6-1 in the first game of a playoff series under D’Antoni. Their only loss was to San Antonio in the 2005 Western Conference finals. The Suns have won the first game of the first round six straight times, last losing to Portland in the 1999 playoffs. …
The winner of Game 1 of a playoff series wins the series 78.4 percent of the time. Since the 16-team playoff format was introduced in 1984, just four of the 46 No. 2 seeds have lost in the first round.