Westphal Guarantees Suns Will Defeat Lakers -- Phoenix Trails 2-0 In Best-Of-5 Series
PHOENIX - Coach Paul Westphal tried to sound cool and analytical, as he seemed so many times during a season in which the Phoenix Suns made him the NBA's winningest rookie coach.
But his guarantee that Phoenix would win its best-of-five series against the Los Angeles Lakers sounded bizarre.
"So we're down 0-2, and I suppose the next question is: `Are the Suns dead?' " Westphal said yesterday after the Lakers stunned the Suns 86-81, their second straight win in an arena where Phoenix went 35-6 during its best-ever 62-20 season.
"No. We're going to win this series," Westphal said. "We'll win Tuesday night, and then we play again Thursday. We'll win that one and then come back here and win, and everyone will say what a great series it was."
A comeback wouldn't be out of the question considering the odds Los Angeles beat to get in the driver's seat, and the fact the Suns swept the Lakers 5-0 in the regular season.
The Lakers are the only losing team in the playoffs (39-43), and no eighth-seeded team had won an opening game against a No. 1 in eight previous postseasons.
But the Lakers won 107-103 last Friday, thanks to 35 points from Sedale Threatt, and they made the clutch plays in the second game, holding Phoenix to three free throws in the final 5:56.
In that span, Byron Scott and James Worthy made three-point shots, Worthy's creating an 80-80 tie with 2:31 to play as the Lakers overcame a six-point deficit.
"James hit that big three," Charles Barkeley, the Suns' All-Star forward who missed all seven of his shots in the fourth quarter. "You know, if he misses that and we score, we've got a five-point lead, but that ties it up."
Worthy also beat the shot clock, and Vlade Divac did likewise on a jump hook with 1:23 remaining. Divac, who had 19 points, drove the baseline for a dunk with 46 seconds to go, and Scott hit a late field goal to finish with 17 points.
Elden Campbell, a second-year forward seemingly mismatched against Barkley, helped hold him to eight baskets in 24 attempts. Barkley's 33 percent for the game was far below his .569 career average, second-best in NBA playoff history.
"My worst game of the year," said Barkley, who finished with 18 points and 21 rebounds.
Scott, a holdover from the Showtime era when the Lakers won five NBA titles in nine years, smiled at Westphal's comment.
"There are no guarantees in this league," Scott said.
Asked if he could envision the Suns winning twice at the Forum and once in Phoenix next week, Threatt also grinned.
"I think everybody counted us out," he said. "I think that was a mistake; you can't count any team out in the playoffs. I think that's what we're definitely seeing now."
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