LOS ANGELES, May 4 (Ticker) --Tim Thomas would not let the sun set on
the Phoenix Suns' season.
Thomas drained a game-tying 3-pointer in the waning seconds of
regulation and the Suns took control in overtime en route to a
126-118 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers that forced a
decisive seventh game in their Western Conference first-round
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Reigning MVP Steve Nash collected 32 points and 13 assists and
Thomas and Shawn Marion each registered double-doubles for the
second-seeded Suns, who received a host of big efforts to
overcome a huge performance by Kobe Bryant in their second
straight win of the series.
"I scored the ball," Thomas said. "The guy came right at me and
I pump-faked him, stepped to the side and shot it. That might
sound complicated but it's not. It just feels good."
"I got the rebound and could have shot it," Marion said of
Thomas' shot. "I thought I had an open shot but then I saw him
behind me. I got it to him and he knocked it down for us."
With defensive-pest Raja Bell suspended, Bryant tried to will
the Lakers to the conference semifinals as he scored 50 points.
His 3-pointer and improbable runner gave the Lakers a 105-102
lead with 29 seconds remaining in regulation.
After Nash missed on the other end, Marion ran down the rebound
and fed Thomas, who pump-faked and drilled a 3-pointer from the
top of the key with 6.2 seconds left to tie it and seemingly
deflate the crowd at Staples Center.
Bryant had a chance to win it but threw up an airball on a tough
jumper over Marion as time expired in regulation.
"I just forgot who was guarding me," Bryant said. "I forgot for
a second that Shawn was on me. There is a different strategy
that I have to use on him because he is so long and athletic. I
just hope to get that opportunity again."
The Suns then displayed their firepower in overtime, scoring on
seven of their first eight possessions to take control for good.
Nash set up Marion to give the Suns a 111-109 bulge with 3:01
left in overtime. Boris Diaw scored inside and Thomas sank a
3-pointer from the right corner with 1:41 to go for a 116-109
lead that all but sealed things.
"I didn't take over the overtime," Diaw said. "I had some great
looks from my teammates and they set me up. When you get good
looks, you try to take the shot and hope it goes down a lot of
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Nash said. "They were
going to have their moments, especially on their home floor and
we had to weather that. The sign of a good team is a team that
finds ways to get it done. We had guys step up at different
times. Everyone stepped up and you need that."
Thomas had 21 points and 10 rebounds, Marion 20 and 12 and Diaw
scored 19 points for the Suns, who had at least four players
reach 20. Phoenix shot 57 percent (46-of-81) and took advantage
of 20 turnovers by the Lakers.
"We knew we had to play a little better and play better
defense," Diaw said. "It really feels good to get to game seven
so that if we win game seven we will keep playing. If we lose we
are going on vacation."
Taking the place of Bell in the starting lineup, Leandro Barbosa
scored 15 of his 22 points in the first half that ended with
the Suns holding a 60-57 lead. He took four stitches to his
lower lip after he was elbowed in the first quarter.
"When I got the stitches, I wasn't thinking about my mouth,"
Barbosa said. "I was thinking about guarding Kobe and try and
help my team. But right now, I can feel the pain and it hurts."
Giving more responsibility to his teammates throughout the
series, Bryant - the league's leading scorer during the regular
season - had not reached 30 in the first five games of the
series. He made 20-of-35 shots, grabbed eight rebounds, handed
out five assists and also had seven turnovers.
Lamar Odom added 22 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists and
Kwame Brown had 17 points and nine boards for the Lakers, who
shot 55 percent (47-of-85) and squandered a major chance to end
the series on their home floor.
"It was a tough loss," Bryant added. "We felt it was a dogfight.
It was an uphill fight for us for most of the first 46 minutes.
We just were not able to secure that one rebound and Tim Thomas
hit a big three."