Suns Remain Calm, Cool and Collected
But Phoenix's coach wasn't reacting to questions about his team's crushing Game 5 loss to the Lakers Thursday.
He wasn't discussing why Jason Richardson didn't box out Ron Artest before his game-winning rebound and shot, nor was he responding to the queries about how and why his team fell behind by as many as 18 points in the first place. No, Gentry was setting the story of his own illness straight, correcting the latest media member to incorrectly report on the food poisoning that had him throwing up courtside during the Lakers' dramatic 103-101 win at Staples Center.
"It was not avocado, guys, it was artichoke (that made him sick)," Gentry said with a smile. "You can't deep fry avocado, OK? It was artichoke."
The always-affable Gentry was clearly feeling better. So, too, was his team.
The loosest bunch in the NBA isn't about to change its script at the end, with their coach setting the unconcerned tone despite having suffered the kind of defeat that could crush a team's confidence and psyche.
Not these Suns, though. They are not only an extension of the mild-mannered Gentry but also the easygoing Steve Nash. Both exude a steady confidence, stopping well short of cocky but bringing the sort of poise that they hope comes in handy in Game 6 Saturday at US Airways Center.
It's the right mood for the moment.
At the outset of the series, the Suns at times appeared to lack the necessary killer instinct to grab control. But their collective personality is perfect when it's time not to panic, tailor-made for their unofficial underdog mantra of "No one expected us to be here..."
The locker room scene immediately after Game 5 said everything about that trait.
"The first thing Steve said was, 'Hey guys, you know what? (The game) is over. We gave ourselves a chance to win. It didn't work out. And so now, let's go home and play,'" Gentry said.
"We've got high-character guys. We're a resilient team. Things go poorly for us, and we have a way of snapping back and letting it go, lining up and trying to play the next game. I think our guys know the sense of urgency in the game. But you know us, we're not going to put any extra pressure on ourselves. We'll compete and do the best job that we can."
Nash, who was in championship form with 29 points (12-of-20 shooting), 11 assists and just two turnovers, was as eager to move forward with the media as he was with his teammates.
"I'm really over it," he said of Game 5. "We lost, and we have to just get ready for Game 6. Forget about this one and get ready for Game 6. We had a lot of positives and we should feel real confident going out on our floor [Saturday] night at home.
"I know [the loss] was in dramatic fashion, but all it was was [the Lakers] holding serve, so we tip our hats and come out ready to play."
The immediate confidence is rooted in reality, as the Suns have now won 21 of their past 24 games at home. The lone home playoff loss came in their Game 1 loss to Portland on April 18, with six straight wins there since.
There is reason for promise, too, in the fact that the Suns have righted the many wrongs that led to their losses in the first two games. Their defense -- both zone and man -- continued to confound in Game 5, as the Lakers shot just 41.8 percent. It's quite a difference from the losses in Games 1 and 2, when the Lakers shot a combined 57.6 percent and averaged 126 points per game.
And while Gentry is demanding a one-game-at-a-time approach, center Robin Lopez said the self-assurance they've showed at home should now translate on the road if they force a Game 7 on Monday.
"We were right there, and the ball didn't bounce the right way, so I think we're pretty confident that we can go into LA and get a win," Lopez said. "I think we're really confident about (Game 6), and we're confident that we can force a Game 7 and then go into LA and win. ... We definitely think we can beat them in LA."
They must get there first, of course.
"I think we're very disappointed because we thought we probably let a golden opportunity slip away, but we have to take care of business at home and then we'll have another opportunity," Gentry said. "You've got to create another opportunity for yourself."