PHOENIX - Losing one game in Phoenix was tolerable for the Los Angeles Lakers. Two losses and things start to get uncomfortable for the reigning NBA champions.
It's safe to say that coach Phil Jackson was giving his team a refresher course on how to beat a zone defense when the Lakers worked out at US Airways Center on Monday after Phoenix employed the strategy to great success in its 118-109 victory Sunday night. The Suns can square the series at two games apiece with another home win in Game 4 on Tuesday.
Jackson said he had never seen a team use the zone so much in a playoff game since the NBA legalized the defense in the 2001-02 season. The Suns used the zone much of the second quarter and the entire second half.
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said that was more than he anticipated but he stuck with it because it worked when nothing else had against the Lakers, who averaged 126 points and shot 58 percent in the series' first two games.
There were inferences Monday that the zone is somehow an "unmanly" defense, that real teams play man-to-man.
"We have to try every way we can to find a situation where we can win," Gentry said. "Whatever that takes, that's what it is. If we have to play our 'girlie zone' as somebody said, we'll play our 'girlie zone.' "
Andrew Bynum's knee was a major topic of discussion Monday.
The Lakers center got in early foul trouble and had just two points and two rebounds in 71/2 minutes Sunday as the Phoenix duo of Amar'e Stoudemire and Robin Lopez dominated inside. After the game, Jackson talked about perhaps having the big center, who has a small meniscus tear in his right knee, sit out the next game.
That changed Monday.
"I talked to him this morning. He feels like he's OK," the Lakers coach said. "I was worried that he was impinging on his ability to play by concern about his health and status, and he says he's OK."
Jackson isn't about to rest Bynum just to get him more ready for a Finals matchup against Boston.