Improved defense the watchword for sinking Suns

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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Defense has become a dirty word for the Phoenix Suns whose porous efforts against the Los Angeles Lakers have left them facing an uphill task to recover from 2-0 down in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.

Outplayed and outsized by the NBA champions, the Suns have given up more than 120 points in each of the first two games and desperately need a tighter defense when the series shifts to Phoenix on Sunday.

The omens hardly favor them with the surging Lakers having lost only one best-of-seven playoff series out of 42 after taking a 2-0 lead.

"They held home court. We've got to now hold home court and we've also got to win on the road," Suns guard Steve Nash told reporters after his team lost 124-112 in Game Two at the Staples Center on Wednesday.

"We've definitely got our work cut out for us but we've got a great group of guys who really stick together and hopefully we'll get some good home cooking at home."

"It's a tough one, they're bigger," twice MVP Nash said. "At times we tried to front the post, at other times we tried to double (team). Thus far they've been making us pay.

"We're going to have to just try to mix it up, try to play extremely hard and maybe we have to take some chances."


Before Wednesday's game, a Winston Churchill quote had been scrawled on a whiteboard in the Suns' locker room: "We shall not fail or falter. We shall not weaken or tire. We have the tools and we will finish the job."

So far, that motivation has not succeeded with the Suns, who have been left bruised and bewildered by a Lakers team that is shooting better than 57 percent in the series.

"I don't really know what the answer is," Phoenix forward Grant Hill said. "They had a lot of points in the paint. Our rotations aren't great and we've just got to play better.

"We've given up 120-plus (points) these past two games. We've scored enough points but defensively, they're scoring at will. We've just got to figure it out."

Earlier, he addressed the difficult task facing the Suns for Game Three at the US Airways Center in Phoenix.

"We're just having a hard time, we can't slow them down," Gentry said. "We've just got to keep changing up and hopefully they won't shoot as well in our building as they shoot (in Los Angeles).

(Editing by Frank Pingue)