Originally created 04/27/01

Suns still confident despite blowout loss in Game 2



PHOENIX -- History and homecourt are still on the side of the Phoenix Suns, despite their blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.

After all, they point out, the best-of-five series is tied 1-1 as it shifts to Phoenix for Game 3 on Sunday.

"Now our job is to protect homecourt," Suns guard Jason Kidd said. "If we do that, we move on to the next round."

The Suns stole the homecourt advantage with an 86-83 victory in Game 1. Since the NBA went to its current playoff format in 1984, 86 percent of the teams that won Game 1 in the first round went on to win the series.

In addition, Phoenix won its last nine at home in the regular season.

All of which might mean nothing if the Suns don't rediscover their shooting touch after hitting 37 percent from the field in the first two games. The Suns shot just 33 percent Wednesday night, and were under 30 percent until the reserves made a few shots in a meaningless fourth quarter.

These Kings play better defense than Sacramento has in its recent past, but they are nowhere near one of the NBA's defensive powers.

"We're just missing. We had all open shots," Suns reserve forward Rodney Rogers said. "It wasn't their defense. We've been up and down like that all year."

That past inconsistency is preventing coach Scott Skiles from becoming overly concerned about his team's recent shooting woes.

"When we defend and shoot the ball well, we can be very close to being unbeatable," he said. "When you look at our shooting numbers, it's been a year when on a lot of occasions, we struggle to make some shots.

"I don't know. I tend to ignore those numbers and feel like we've got good shooters on our team and we're going to make shots on Sunday."

The Kings took the day off Thursday, but Skiles put the Suns through a full workout in the wake of their miserable performance in the 116-90 loss Wednesday night.

"The guys were a little ornery today, going at each other, snipping at each other. I'm glad." Mario Elie of the Suns said. "We need to show that on the court."

The Kings believe they showed their true selves in Game 2 after a plodding performance in the series opener, and they have no doubt they can win in Phoenix.

"If we can come out and do the same - push the ball up the court - it's going to be a tough game for them," Sacramento guard Bobby Jackson said. "We need to move the ball. If we move the ball and run up and down the court making shots, I feel like nobody can beat us."

Tempo is crucial to the Kings, the one NBA team that goes up and down the court like the freewheeling squads of an earlier era.

"It's important to run and have a flow to our game," coach Rick Adelman said.

The Suns know that to beat Sacramento, they must stay close and keep the Kings from playing the wide-open game they played Wednesday.

"We let them dictate to us what they wanted to do," Kidd said. "When they made some shots, they started getting loose, and when they are loose, they play their best."

While Sacramento has the NBA's most fanatical following, the Suns aren't even assured a sellout on Sunday, something they had always done in the playoffs.

Suns players will be at the America West Arena and three area shopping malls Friday to hand out T-shirts and help sell tickets.

Skiles doesn't particularly like the franchise's decision to use his players as salesmen.

"Let's just say it wouldn't be my choice," he said.

Elie was more candid.

"That's the first time that's ever happened in my career. I don't understand that," he said. "If they ain't going to come, they ain't going to come. It's not our fault. We've still got to play the game. That's what our job is to do is play basketball. I don't remember selling tickets being part of my contract."