Lakers Rally To Cut Suns' Lead to 2-1

Friday, April 27th 2007, 7:36 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Kobe Bryant said it was simply a matter of effort. The Phoenix Suns agreed. Bryant scored 15 of his 45 points in the fourth quarter, Kwame Brown added a career playoff-high 19 points, and the Lakers rallied to beat the Suns 95-89 Thursday night, cutting Phoenix's lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

``When you have that hustle, when you play really hard, particularly on the defensive end, you give yourself a chance to win,'' Bryant said.

``I thought they played harder than we did,'' Suns star Steve Nash said.

Game 4 will be played Sunday at Staples Center, with the fifth game Wednesday night in Phoenix, where the Suns embarrassed the Lakers 126-98 in Game 2.

The odds remain against the Lakers, since only 11 of 193 teams in NBA history have come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a seven-game series. But an NBA team has never won a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games, so this was a victory they had to have.

That didn't seem likely after the Suns took a 31-14 lead in the first quarter, but the Lakers made it a game in the second, and won by scoring the game's last six points.

``They were a desperate team,'' Phoenix's Raja Bell said. ``They played with a lot of desperation and we didn't treat it the same way. This was one team wanting to win more than the other one did.''

In other playoff action Thursday night, the Detroit Pistons beat Orlando 93-77 to take a 3-0 lead over the Magic in their first-round series, and the Utah Jazz topped Houston 81-67 to cut the Rockets' lead to 2-1.

Bryant's layup with 3 1/2 minutes remaining gave the Lakers an 89-84 lead, but two foul shots by Amare Stoudemire and a 3-pointer by Leandro Barbosa tied the game with 2:03 left. But the Suns wouldn't score again.

Lamer Odom's layup with 1:45 remaining put the Lakers ahead for good, and Bryant scored the game's final four points.

``This was the first time in a long time that we took the other team's best punch, and after we did that we were able to recover,'' said Odom, who had 18 points and 16 rebounds.

Stoudemire led the Suns with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Barbosa scored 20 points, Nash had 10 points and 13 assists and Shawn Marion also scored 10 for Phoenix.

``They probably can't play better, but we definitely have to in order to win,'' Stoudemire said. ``We definitely let one slip away. We had a chance to put them away. They shot the ball well, Kobe was on fire.

``Game 4 will be a different story _ we've got to be the aggressor.''

Bryant shot 1-of-10 in the fourth quarter of Game 1, when the Suns outscored the Lakers 21-10 for a 95-87 victory. He was much better in the final period of this game, shooting 5-of-11 and making all four free throws he attempted.

``You've got to give them credit,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. ``Things were so easy at the beginning. Human nature took over. Kobe down the stretch was too much to handle. They got 19 offensive rebounds _ that was the game.''

Brown, hampered by a sprained left ankle for nearly four months, scored eight more points than his combined total in the first two games.

``He played well from the beginning of the game,'' Bryant said. ``He didn't get discouraged when he didn't finish plays.''

Brown looked like he might be finished in this game when he rolled his right ankle with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. But not only did Brown stay in the game, he scored nine points during the remainder of the period.

``I was like 'Oh no, not again.' But it's OK,'' Brown said. ``It's swelling up a little bit, but I'll be OK.

The Lakers won the game at the foul line, shooting 22-of-28 to Phoenix's 8-of-12. Los Angeles outrebounded the Suns 44-35.

``We're just going to have to keep the intensity up and try to keep the ball out of Nash's hands,'' Brown said. ``You know he's their engine.''

Nash committed five of his team's 15 turnovers.

``We were a step slow,'' he said. ``We weren't in the right spots. They trapped the pick and roll. We didn't make them pay, for whatever reason.''

Pistons 93, Magic 77

Tayshaun Prince scored 23 points and Chauncey Billups added 21 to help visiting Detroit a 3-0 series lead. The victory ended a postseason trend for the Pistons _ they had lost their last six Game 3s when leading 2-0 _ and left them one victory from advancing to the second round.

Jameer Nelson scored 27 points and Dwight Howard had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic.

Jazz 81, Rockets 67

At Salt Lake City, Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Utah held Houston without a field goal for 10 minutes in the second half.

Matt Harpring scored 13 points and Deron Williams added 11 points and eight assists for the Jazz.

Yao Ming had 26 points and 14 rebounds and Tracy McGrady scored 24 points for the Rockets. Shane Battier, who scored 11, and Rafer Alston, who added six, were the only other players to score for Houston.