Commentary

11 (or 12) seconds or less

The 'seven seconds or less' era might be gone, but the Suns are no less potent

Updated: May 26, 2010, 3:42 AM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

PHOENIX -- There are no time limits anymore, no command to shoot 3-pointers like there's a never-ending ball rack off to the side. And yes, there are such things as bad shots in Phoenix these days.

Mike D'Antoni took the "seven seconds or less" era with him when he left for New York two seasons ago.

But that's not to say that this calmer, gentler version, this "11 or 12 seconds or less" offense, doesn't look like the old days every so often.

When the 2010 Suns offense is flowing, as it did Tuesday night in Phoenix' 115-106 win over the Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, it can still burn hotter than any offense in the NBA.

[+] EnlargeLeandro Barbosa
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesLeandro Barbosa and the play of the bench helped keep the Suns' pace fast and the scoring high.

Defense leads to offense leads to defense and before you can find the "comma" key on your keyboard, the Suns are up by 12.

"We're not seven seconds or less anymore," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after Tuesday's victory. "But in our offense, if you're open and you don't shoot, it's really the same thing as shooting a bad shot. Our offense has a flow to it and that's the way we play."

That flow is hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. Points, shooting percentage and 3-pointers-made tell just part of the story.

When Phoenix is flowing, especially at home, the other team can hear it. The ringing in their ears, the pounding in their hearts as they race up and down the court, trying to stop water from running downhill.

One part of the game flows to the next, each part growing louder and more intense the longer it roars.

At it's running, gunning, 3-point-loving best, the Suns' offense is like watching Brazil samba its way around a slow, defensive-minded European team on the soccer field. The court is spread, defenders are forced to chase, and there is always and open man.

"That's when we're at our best, because we're swinging the ball and we're finding open guys," Gentry said. "I think what we do is start playing with a lot of confidence when we make a lot of threes. What it does also is helps our defense, because it energizes us at that end too."

This wasn't the first time the Suns have gotten their offense revved up in these playoffs. It's just that after the first two games in Los Angeles it didn't look like it would happen in this series.

The Lakers so thoroughly outplayed the Suns in Games 1 and 2, you wondered whether Phoenix could even muster a moral victory in Games 3 and 4 at home.

"I'm open to suggestions," Gentry famously lamented after the Lakers 124-112 win in Game 2.

It's not clear just who suggested the 2-3 zone Phoenix used to thwart the Lakers in Game 3, but it worked and it bought the Suns enough time to find their flow, finally, in Game 4.

"Yeah, everyone was saying after Game 3 and we were down 2-0 that (we) haven't even shot the ball well yet," said Suns point guard Steve Nash. "So it was nice to feel it kind of open up and the threes start going in.

"The second unit went on a nice run there (in the second quarter) and made a bunch of threes that was about as exciting a stretch as I've seen sitting on the sideline in my time here. It was fun to see the shots go."

It's hard to say just where that flow went in the first two games of the series.

The eight days off in between playoff rounds may have left Phoenix rusty or soggy. The Lakers considerable length may have left them discouraged and overwhelmed.

Or, maybe it just took a few games to figure out how to feel their flow against this Lakers team.

"You could tell right away tonight that they wanted to take away Amare (Stoudemire) early on," said reserve guard Jared Dudley, who scored 11 points, including three, 3-pointers on Tuesday night. "Once they did that, we just set up like target practice."

After the game, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant looked disgusted with his team's defensive effort.

"We lost the game because our defense sucked," Bryant said sharply. "Our attention needs to be on the defensive end, period."

The thing about the Suns, even these "12 Seconds or Less" Suns, is that once their offense gets rolling, it's not a simple thing to turn off.

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com

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