NBA: Home Rules the West

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Phoenix took advantage of its home court Sunday night and has a chance to even its NBA Western Conference Finals series against the Lakers on Tuesday night. So far, the hosts have won all three games of the set. expects that trend to be broken for Game 4 however, as Los Angeles is listed as a 1.5 point road favorites after opening as a 1.5 point dog. Is this movement public sentiment weighing in, or are the Lakers just too good to lose two straight?

The Phoenix Suns had gone from a terrible defensive team to one that was competent after the All-Star break this season. The more games Phoenix won and their players and coaches talked about improved defense being the difference, the more the media and public bought into it.

After holding Portland and San Antonio to 95.9 points per game in their first two series triumphs, the mantra was viewed as the new and improved Phoenix Suns.

The Los Angeles Lakers being more talented, with better offensive weapons, quickly put Alan Gentry's team more into proper perspective, averaging 126 points in the first two games against the Suns.

Gentry is an affable coach, quick to give praise to his team and at least publicly, measures his disappointment when he sees a lack of effort or execution. For Game 3, Gentry knew a couple of areas that needed immediate improvement.

He started with realizing his club was no match to play the Lakers straight-up defensively and that doubling different L.A. players was failing as badly as British Petroleum's attempt to solve the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gentry knew his team was still below average defensively, but was capable of making SOME stops, which might just be enough to knock off the Lakers if the offense continued to be productive.

The head coach and assistant coaches went to a zone defense, which took Kobe Bryant and his teammates out of the triangle offense. Gentry and his staff hoped Los Angeles might become content to fire away from long range and kept his fingers crossed they wouldn't bury too many. Though the Lakers made nine three-point baskets, it took them 32 attempts to reach that level, lowering their record to 7-3 ATS as road underdogs.

Offensively, Phoenix got aggressive taking the ball to the basket. The Suns went at their "giant" foes with abandon and ended up shooting 42 free throws (37 made) to their counterpart's smallish total of 20. The 118-109 victory brought Phoenix back into the series and gave them hope for the next contest where they are 37-10 and 29-16-2 ATS.

Two main players on the floor changed the direction of the series. Amare Stoudemire was virtually unstoppable with 42 points and 11 rebounds and Lamar Odom returned to the planet earth, with 10 points on 4-14 shooting and had as many fouls as rebounds (6).

Though it probably won't show in Game 4, Los Angeles has had ample rest, however another loss in the desert could make the series a far greater challenge, forced to play every other day, where they are 4-12 ATS with one day off.

The money at is mostly riding on the Lakers, now a 1.5 point favorite after being a 1.5-point underdog to open, with the ‘total' higher yet again at 221 after three straight Over's.

Kobe and company are 18-7 ATS in road games after scoring 105 points or more in three consecutive contests and 23-12 OVER having won two of their last three games this season. Phoenix will try and square up the series and is 22-8 ATS after a tilt where both teams scored 105 points or more. The team with shaggy-haired point guard and fractured nose is 41-22 OVER when both teams score 98 or more points in a game this season.

TNT will again provide this West Finals conflict starting at 9:00 Eastern with coaching adjustments very important. The home team is on 8-1 ATS run between these Pacific Division competitors.

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