Nash had a critical turnover in the final seconds of regulation
and another gaffe in the waning moments of overtime before
Bryant drained a jumper as time expired, giving the Los Angeles
Lakers a thrilling 99-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns and a
commanding 3-1 lead in their Western Conference first-round
With the Suns holding a 98-97 lead and with three timeouts at
their disposal, Nash was tied up along the sideline by
Luke Walton with 6.1 seconds remaining in overtime.
The 6-8 Walton won the tip from the 6-3 Nash at center court and
the Lakers got the ball to Bryant, who dribbled up court and
sank the winning shot from the right elbow over the outstretched
arms of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw, sending the crowd at Staples
Center into a frenzy.
"I have been in a lot of game situations where in that type of
scenario I have failed," Bryant said. "Trying to get to the
basket and do too much. So I called back on some of my experience
so that when I got the ball I tried not to rush it. I tried
to turn and see what was going on and I took it from there."
"It was amazing," Nash said of Bryant's heroics. "He had two
opportunities and he made two great shots. I guess it wasn't
meant to be for us."
Bryant pounded his chest at the crowd amid chants of "MVP, MVP"
as the seventh-seeded Lakers pushed the second-seeded Suns to
the brink of elimination. Teams holding a 3-1 series lead are
Nash, the reigning MVP who reportedly will win the award for a
second straight year, also had the major mistake in regulation
that allowed the Lakers to get to overtime.
With the Suns holding a 90-88 lead with just under eight seconds
remaining in the fourth quarter, Nash had the ball knocked away
by Smush Parker along the left sideline - nearly the same point
where he got tied up by Walton. Again, the Lakers got the ball
to Bryant, who hit a one-handed floating layup with
seven-tenths of a second left to tie the game.
Diaw, who had his best game of the series, split a pair of free
throws with 12.6 seconds left to give the Suns a seemingly safe
But Parker, who missed 10 of his first 11 shots, drilled a
3-pointer with 7.9 seconds left to pull the Lakers within 90-88.
"All that was going through my mind the whole game was to stay
in it," Parker said. "It was all about the defense and how I
guard Steve Nash. That was what kept me level headed. This was
one of the biggest games of my life. No game playing in New York
City when I was growing up could compare with this game today."
Giving more responsibility to his teammates throughout the
series, Bryant played the last five-plus minutes of the fourth
quarter and overtime with five fouls and finished with 24 points
on 9-of-14 shooting.
"It was a hard-fought game," Bryant said. "I am sure they will
be playing that shot over and over but people must understand is
that shot would not have even been possible if it was not for
Smush Parker's great play defensively."
"Kobe made some unbelievable plays toward the end of the game,"
Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It was a great shot in a great
game. We just have to know we can beat these guys and we
can do it now."
Lamar Odom had another strong game for the Lakers, collecting 25
points, eight rebounds and five assists. His three-point play
with 76 seconds left in overtime tied the game at 95-95.
"I was just trying to get the ball as close to the basket as
possible and attack from there," Odom said. " As the small
forward I have a size advantage usually over other small
forwards. If it's not weight it's height. I just try
to draw the defense to me and take my time and make plays."
Nash registered 22 points and 11 assists and Diaw 21 points,
eight rebounds and seven assists for Phoenix, which will try to
stay alive in the series at home in Game Five on Tuesday night.
"There were some costly plays down the stretch that didn't go
our way," said Nash, who made 2-of-11 shots after halftime.
"We did every thing we could do to win the game. Our backs
are totally against the wall. We don't have much to lose."
However, the Suns will head home clearly knowing that they let
this game get away from them.
"This one really hurt," Bell said. "I've never been involved in
a game that ended like that. It was a tough one. That's what
the playoffs are all about I guess."
A baseline jumper by Shawn Marion with 5:43 left in the fourth
quarter gave the Suns an 81-73 lead.
Bryant made two free throws and Odom scored five straight
points, pulling the Lakers within 81-80 with 2:37 to go.
Marion, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds, fouled out at the
"I think we had a chance to win this game," Marion said. "It was
disappointing. I thought it was over. But it's not over till
the buzzer sounds and when it sounded, we didn't win."
The Suns maintained the lead and moved ahead, 89-85, with 40
seconds left on a 3-pointer by Tim Thomas, who scored 12 points.
Thomas was replaced in the starting lineup by James Jones due to
a sprained left knee but ended up playing over 25 minutes.