Bryant Scores 51, But Lakers Fall to Suns
Phoenix 107, L.A. Lakers 96
PHOENIX, April 7 (Ticker) -- The Phoenix Suns let Kobe Bryant light up the scoreboard before chalking up another 50-win campaign.
Steve Nash scored all 25 of his points in the first three quarters and Leandro Barbosa added 23 off the bench to lead the Suns to their seventh consecutive victory over the Los Angeles Lakers with a 107-96 triumph.
"He gets 50 and we win the game," said Suns guard Raja Bell, who guarded Bryant for most of the contest. "At the end of the day, I am OK with that. Even though it (stinks) to have 50 dropped on you, if we win, I've done my job. I really don't give a (darn) if he respects me. If I can keep him preoccupied on beating me 1-on-1, then the four other guys aren't getting shots and that plays into our hands."
"I don't even think about Raja Bell," Bryant said. "I have bigger fish to fry then Raja Bell. You have got to be kidding."
With seven players in double figures, Phoenix reached 50 wins for the second straight season and the 16th time in franchise history. The Suns (50-25) are six games in front of the Los Angeles Clippers for first place in the Pacific Division with seven to play.
The Suns broke open the contest with an 18-4 run in the fourth quarter to take a 98-83 lead with 5:31 left. Eddie House scored eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Shawn Marion added six in the spurt.
"I was disappointed with our fourth-quarter beginning," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We put ourselves in good position, then didn't score for three minutes. We gave it away."
The reigning MVP, Nash bounced back from a nine-point effort in Wednesday's loss to the Clippers by hitting 10-of-17 shots, including the final three baskets of the third quarter for the Suns.
"I am still not pleased with our performance," Nash said. "We had some letdowns and breakdowns, but it is obviously a lot better than the way we have been playing recently."
Marion scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Boris Diaw added 12 and 12 for Phoenix, which made 12-of-26 shots from the arc.
"We limited them to one shot and made them take some tough outside shots and forced the tempo of the game and overall, we controlled the game for the most part," Marion said. "We got a win against a good team and we're working to climb that ladder."
Lamar Odom scored 17 points and Smush Parker had 14 for the Lakers (40-37), who are tied with Sacramento for seventh in the Western Conference, two games in front of the New Orleans Hornets
Phoenix continued its recent dominance against Los Angeles with eight wins in the last nine encounters, including seven in a row. If the Lakers finish seventh in the West, they likely would meet the Suns in the opening round of the playoffs.
"I don't think it is that big of deal," Bryant said. "It is the way they play. It is an unorthodox style they play. We have nights when we are off and on. That will help us prepare for the playoffs."
"We score a lot of points and Kobe is bound to miss a few," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He is human. Against them, we try to keep everyone else out of the game and we spread the floor."