After his team scored a season-low 76 points and was outscored 28-10 in the fourth quarter, Mike D'Antoni said it just about every way you can say it: "I think we ran out of gas. … [The Suns] had more athleticism, more energy and more legs than we did. I think we were tired; we just kind of got stuck in mud." And yet, D'Antoni left four healthy players on his bench until garbage time Monday, subbing them in with less than three minutes remaining and the Lakers trailing by 17 in their eventual 99-76 loss to the Phoenix Suns. The coach, in essence, played just seven players for the second game in as many days and saw no problem in doing so. "It means I got seven guys that I'm really confident with and I'm not going to take out," D'Antoni said afterward. D'Antoni is actually confident in nine players, but Kobe Bryant (left ankle) and Pau Gasol (right foot) were both out. While Gasol has been sidelined for the past six weeks, D'Antoni had cut down his rotation to just eight players, with Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison coming off the bench to replace starters Steve Nash, Bryant, Dwight Howard, Earl Clark and Metta World Peace. The eight-man crew had obviously been working for L.A., as it had won 10 out of 13 games since the All-Star break coming into Monday. When Bryant couldn't play the last three quarters against the Indiana Pacers on Friday or at all on Sunday against the Sacramento Kings, D'Antoni simply played seven guys and won both games. The 113-102 win against the Kings might have seemed easy enough, but it required 27 points from the 36-year-old Jamison, and it was the first time L.A. had won a game using seven or fewer players since Jan. 24, 1992, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Mike D'Antoni defends short rotation
ESPN | Mar 19