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Cloudy skies

Phoenix in fog after Sun sets in Game 2

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Posted: Thursday May 11, 2000 09:24 PM

  Penny Hardaway Penny Hardaway and the Suns believe their fourth-quarter performance in Game 2 should provide some momentum. Donald Miralle/Allsport

PHOENIX (AP) -- A no-call against Shaquille O'Neal and a lousy last-second play still haunted the Phoenix Suns on Thursday as they tried to turn their attention to Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers are up 2-0 as the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinals switches to Phoenix for games Friday night and Sunday.

Penny Hardaway was still shaking his head that no foul was called against O'Neal on the Suns' next-to-last possession in Wednesday night's 97-96 loss in Game 2.

"I've gone over in my mind a million times what would have happened if they'd call that foul or if I'd taken the baseline when I had it," Hardaway said.

The Suns were leading 96-95 when Hardaway drove to the basket and O'Neal, his old teammate in Orlando, got in his way. Hardaway said O'Neal hit him in the shoulder, causing him to lose control of the ball as he shot.

"That's the MVP. He just had received the trophy before the game," Hardaway said. "There was a lot of pressure on the refs not to make that call even though it was a foul. Hopefully we'll get that call when we're here at home."

The foul wasn't flagrant enough for the officials to make it in front of the pro-Laker crowd at that point in the game, Hardaway said.

"In the first quarter, that call would be made, easy," Hardaway said. But late in the game, "you'd have to get your head taken off or knocked to the floor or something so the fans won't react to it if they call it," he said.

Suns coach Scott Skiles said videotape showed it was obviously a foul.

"It's frustrating, but all year long we've had a hard time getting to the foul line for whatever reason," Skiles said. "Maybe that reputation is hurting us or something. That's clearly a foul, but it's just one of those things.

"The Lakers can point to plays that clearly are fouls on us. It's not like there's a conspiracy or anything. It was just, in my opinion, a call that should have been called and was missed."

Kobe Bryant won the game with a 15-footer under tight defense with 2.6 seconds to go. After a timeout, the Suns failed to get a good shot and settled for Hardaway's desperation attempt at the buzzer.

Skiles said he was up most of the night thinking about what might have been.

"I feel like we deserved to win the game," Skiles said. "I feel really bad for the guys. I also felt bad, most of the night actually, about the last play with 2.6 seconds left. We could have got something better than that, and that's my responsibility. So I felt I had a hand in the outcome."

In Los Angeles, the Lakers worked out Thursday before heading for Phoenix. They blamed themselves for almost losing Game 2.

"It probably gave them a lot of confidence," O'Neal said. "But like I keep saying, it wasn't what they did. It was what we didn't do."

Bryant said the Lakers should have learned something from their poor fourth quarter Wednesday.

"It was a pretty horrible game," he said. "At certain stretches, we played well, then we dropped off and let them get back in the game. Hopefully it shook us up."

The Suns came to life with a pressing defense, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson said many of his team's mistakes were self-inflicted.

"Three of the turnovers we had were completely unforced," Jackson said. "Yes, their pressure defense activated them, got them motivated. Can they do it for 48 minutes?"

No they can't, Skiles said, "We have to pick our spots."

The Lakers are looking for their first playoff road victory after losing twice at Sacramento in the first round.

"As long as we can get one of these games, we'll be happy," O'Neal said. "If we can get two of the games, it will be great."

Phoenix guard Jason Kidd, who played 43 minutes with no ill effects on his surgically repaired left ankle, said he felt fine, but a little tired, on Thursday.

"I'm moving today, so instead of lifting weights, I'm lifting boxes," he said.

Skiles said the strong fourth quarter should provide some momentum for his team.

"Clearly we were right there, and if a phenomenal player wouldn't have made a great play, we would have won the game," Skiles said. "Kobe made a great, great shot. Hopefully our guys take something out of that.

"NBA basketball is not a place where you take away moral victories. You win or you lose. It's as simple as that. We lost and yet the guys have a real positive feeling this morning. I think the guys in that locker room believe and feel that they're going to win the series."


 
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