Work in Sports
'Mad, upset, sad, sorry'
Lakers try to recover from Game 4 trouncing
Posted: Tuesday May 16, 2000 12:14 AM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Ron Harper says the Los Angeles Lakers aren't nearly as good as they think they are, have no killer instinct whatsoever, and the Chicago Bulls' championship teams of the 1990s would have beaten Phoenix "by 200 points."
Coach Phil Jackson, meanwhile, was more a voice of reason Monday, pointing out that despite his obvious annoyance during and after his team's 117-98 loss in Phoenix a day earlier, it's the Lakers, not the Suns, who are in command of the Western Conference semifinal series.
"We just went to the woodshed a little bit," Jackson said after the Lakers, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-1, watched film in preparation for Tuesday night's Game 5 at Staples Center. "Our only problem was we relaxed a little too much.
"I'm not that disappointed. We had to play a game between now and Saturday. It's important for us to learn lessons as a basketball team. Each lesson that is handed to us, we've got to accept willingly."
Jackson made it clear the Lakers went to Phoenix with the goal of splitting there. That's what they did to draw within one win of earning a conference finals berth against Portland or Utah. That series won't begin before Saturday, regardless of what happens Tuesday night.
Harper was the only Lakers player who spoke with the media Monday, and he pulled no punches.
"Mad, upset, sad, sorry we had to be here today, sorry we had to see this film today," the 36-year-old veteran said when asked the mood of the team. "But since the sun did rise up, we're all fine."
Harper, who played for three of the six championship teams in Chicago, all coached by Jackson, said he probably hadn't seen his coach so upset in a postseason setting.
"He had the right to be ticked off," Harper said. "I told the guys at halftime, 'We should all be embarrassed, 71 points.'"
The Suns held a 71-48 lead at halftime and were in command throughout the second half to force a fifth game.
Asked about possible fatigue, Harper scoffed.
"Fatigue this time of the year? This is the most exciting time of the year," he said.
About developing a killer instinct, Harper said, "I don't know, time will tell. I can't read half the guys here. We haven't, no way, got there yet, no killer instinct at all. I am seeing that if we want to be a championship basketball team, we are not even near there."
The 117 points scored by the Suns were a season-high for a Lakers' opponent, prompting a question about technical problems with the team's defense.
"We weren't playing none," Harper replied without skipping a beat. "We couldn't guard nobody; we couldn't guard you."
Harper said without hesitation that the Lakers are going to win Game 5, the same thing he said before his team beat Sacramento 113-86 to win the fifth and deciding game of their first-round series.
Should Phoenix score an upset -- the Lakers are 10-point favorites -- a sixth game will be in Phoenix on Thursday night. A seventh game, if needed, will be at Staples Center on Saturday.
Despite their impressive performance in Game 4, the Suns appear to face a near-impossible task.
For one thing, they're trying to become the first team in NBA history to rally successfully from a 3-0 deficit.
For another, they've won one of eight games against the Lakers this season.
For a third, the Lakers have won 22 of their past 23 games at home.
And finally, the Lakers' longest losing streak this season is two games.
Nevertheless, the Suns expressed confidence before flying to Los Angeles.
"Everybody's on a high," said Jason Kidd, who had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists in Game 4 for his first playoff career triple-double. "The past three games have been very close, so guys feel good about themselves."
The Lakers won handily in Game 1, but needed a last-gasp 15-footer by Kobe Bryant for a one-point win in Game 2 at Staples Center, and survived by six points in Game 3 in Phoenix.
Suns coach Scott Skiles said he believes the closeness of Game 2 gives his team confidence it can win at Staples Center.
"I hope so; I hope our guys feel that way," he said. "I think they do. But this is a different thing right now. Game 5 is totally different, because they probably don't want to come back [to Phoenix] and play. That makes it more of a sense of urgency for both teams. So I would imagine very early in the game, it's going to be very intense."