Bynum expected to play in Game 4, but will Lakers break Suns' zone?
Center Andrew Bynum will probably play in Game 4, but the Lakers had another dilemma: what to do with the Phoenix Suns' zone defense.
The Lakers said they had never seen so much zone in an NBA game, particularly in the playoffs. But now they say they'll try to find a way to beat it Tuesday by penetrating more often and, of course, shooting better from the outside in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
Pau Gasol had only one shot in the fourth quarter of Game 3 on Sunday as the Suns pulled away from the Lakers, 118-109, and pulled within a game of evening their best-of-seven series.
"The zone forced us to go away from the inside," said Gasol, who made 11 of 14 shots and had 23 points. "It limited touches in there."
Gasol sees plenty of zone defense when playing internationally on the Spanish national team, but the Suns' use of it from the second quarter onward was a novelty in an NBA game, Gasol said.
"That's the first time probably that I've ever seen it that long," he said.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said he had never seen that much zone defense "in a playoff game."
The Lakers set a franchise playoff record by shooting 32 times from three-point range and made only nine.
"Got to be more aggressive," Kobe Bryant said. "We're standing around the perimeter way too much."
Meanwhile, Jackson said he was no longer considering sitting Bynum in Game 4 after a string of punchless performances by the 22-year-old.
Slowed by torn cartilage in his right knee for almost four weeks, Bynum had two points and two rebounds in less than eight minutes Sunday.
"I think he's going to be fine," Jackson said Monday before the Lakers practiced. "I talked to him this morning. He feels like he's OK. I was worried that he was impinging his ability to play by being concerned about his health or his status. He said he's OK."
Jackson thought Bynum might not have been getting full extension on his knee because of the brace he was wearing, so the Lakers will look at adjusting or changing it.
Bynum declined to blame his injury for his recent struggles. Four of his last five games have been quiet at best, including Sunday's foul-plagued effort. He had four fouls and was never a factor.
"I'm not putting it on the knee," he said. "I've been able to play well with it. The pain has been the same. It hasn't increased."
Surgery had been out of the question, the Lakers reiterated, because Bynum's return this season would have been questionable when the injury happened April 30 against Oklahoma City.
"Everything he's done with therapy and procedures in the past have taken longer" than expected for his recovery, Jackson said. "Three or four weeks would have been six or eight."
The NBA Finals, if the Lakers get there, begin June 1 or 3.
In other injury news, Suns guard Steve Nash was diagnosed with a minimally displaced nasal fracture and also displaced cartilage in the nose, though he won't miss any time. He was injured in the fourth quarter of Game 3 after being fouled by Derek Fisher.
-- Mike Bresnahan, reporting from Phoenix
Photo: Forward Louis Amundson #17 of the Phoenix Suns reaches for the ball against Andrew Bynum of the Lakers in Game 3. Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.