L.A. Lakers 99, Phoenix 92
LOS ANGELES, April 28 (Ticker) --
The only thing more surprising than the
Los Angeles Lakers holding a 2-1 lead on the Phoenix Suns is the
manner with which they are doing it.
Playing unselfishly and under control, Kobe Bryant
points and the Lakers received strong performances from
, Lamar Odom
, Luke Walton
and Kwame Brown
en route to a
99-92 victory over the Suns in Game Three of their Western
Conference first-round series.
NBA TV highlights from |
Parker led a balanced attack with 18 points and Odom contributed
15 and 17 rebounds. Walton collected 17 points and 10 boards
and Brown 13 and 11 for seventh-seeded Los Angeles, which has
more than managed to slow down second-seeded Phoenix's
"We have been a lot better at controlling the tempo in these
games," Walton said. "In the regular season, we tried to play
their style. They kind of bait you. If you run out, you can
get some easier shots, but in the whole 48 minutes you are not
going to beat them playing that way."
The Lakers, who were led in scoring by somebody other than
Bryant for the first time in 37 games, have an opportunity to
take a stunning 3-1 series lead when they host Game Four on
"I think that from the start of this series we have just been
playing extremely well and we are moving the ball around really
well," said Bryant, who dished out seven assists to make up for
6-of-18 shooting. "We have just evolved into this from the
start of the season, it has been process. We are just playing
so well together."
Despite getting only seven points from Bryant on 3-of-10
shooting, the Lakers held a 77-74 lead entering the fourth
quarter. Bryant had missed all three of his 3-pointers to that
point and had attempted only two free throws, instead focusing
on getting his teammates involved in the action.
In fact, the NBA's leading scorer was sharing the ball so much
that he stunningly was the only one of the Lakers' starters not
in double figures after three quarters. Parker scored 16 points
and Odom, Brown and Walton had 13 apiece after 36 minutes.
"I don't think Kobe is having any trouble," Walton said of the
league's leading scorer. "They are just double-teaming him all
over the court and he is making the plays. He's making extra
passes and that is how we all get all these other points. If he
wanted to, he could go out and score 45 points. Kobe and
(coach Phil Jackson) talked and they decided this was the best
chance to win."
With 4:18 remaining in the fourth quarter, Bryant made 1-of-2
technical free throws to give Los Angeles a 92-86 lead after
Phoenix's Raja Bell
and Suns coach Mike D'Antoni
whistled for infractions.
However, reigning MVP Steve Nash
found Shawn Marion
breakaway dunk and Leandro Barbosa
for a layup on consecutive
possessions, drawing the Suns within two points.
But the Lakers regained control as Brown tipped a loose ball to
Walton for a layup and Walton zipped a backdoor pass to Parker
for a nifty reverse finger roll on back-to-back trips to build
the lead back to 96-90 with 2:22 to play.
"We knew that we had to go out there and be aggessive and pound
the ball inside because we are a bigger team than they are,"
Parker said. "But they came out and wanted to be aggressive.
They tried to play the role and we just played through it, kept
our composure and came away with the win."
Marion answered with a short jumper but, after the teams
exchanged misses, Bryant made a pair of free throws with 22
seconds left to seal the Lakers' 13th win in their last 17
"We've been a very focused team in trying to do what the coaches
have set up for us to do," Walton said.
After some bad blood surfaced between the teams in Game Two,
further antics ensued in this contest, with one incident in each
In the first quarter, Walton got tangled up with Suns forward
, who was eventually wrestled to the ground by Parker.
"It is a physical game," Bell said. "I am not going to say
anything about that right now for fear of being fined. I'll
just leave that all alone."
Things escalated in the third period when Brown elbowed
to the ground. Nash, who argued with Bryant during
Wednesday's altercation, came charging into the situation to
fuel a heated war of words between several players and coaches
before cooler heads prevailed.
"Of course there is more intensity," said Diaw, who scored 14
points. "And the refs get a little tight too. It is the
playoffs and nobody wants to lose a game and everybody is out
there trying to win."
Marion led Phoenix with 20 points but made just 8-of-19 shots
and committed three of the team's 14 turnovers. Thomas
contributed 18 points and Nash had 17 and 11 assists for the
Suns, who shot only 43 percent and were dominated on the glass,
"We lost the rebounding tonight and we need to block out
better," said Diaw, who grabbed only five rebounds in nearly 37
Bell, who was held to 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting, offered few
answers for the Suns' struggles in the series.
"I don't know," Bell said. "We'll have to go back to the
drawing board and see what we can get done for Sunday."