Phoenix 99, Los Angeles Lakers 94

PHOENIX, March 4 (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns usually sprint to victory. With their "mojo'' severely lacking Sunday, they staggered to one.

Steve Nash scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half - including two free throws with 5.4 seconds to play - and the Suns held on to beat the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers 99-94.

"We just didn't have a lot of mojo,'' Nash said. "We never really found a lot. We just kind of hung in there and made enough plays when it counted I guess.''

Leandro Barbosa added 20 points and Amare Stoudemire had 17 points and 11 rebounds, but the Suns barely held off a Lakers team without Lamar Odom, out indefinitely after tearing his left labrum on Friday.

Shawn Marion, who had missed the two previous games with a bruised right hand, had 13 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 22.8 seconds to play. Raja Bell scored 14, including two free throws that put Phoenix ahead 97-92 with 18.1 seconds to go.

Kobe Bryant scored 18 of his 30 points in the second half - but shot just 11-of-28 overall - in the first meeting of the teams since the season opener. The Lakers won that one in Los Angeles without Bryant, and they made it tough on Phoenix this time, too, even though they were without Odom as well as Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic.

"We're missing a whole bunch of guys,'' Bryant said. "That being said, I felt like we gave a valiant effort. We wanted to give ourselves a chance to win the game down the stretch. It never materialized but we were competitive throughout. If we play like this the remainder of the trip, we should be OK.''

Brian Cook had 22 points - including 4-of-6 3-pointers - and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles.

It was an often-sloppy contest that featured 35 turnovers - 19 by the Lakers and 16 by Phoenix.

Coach Phil Jackson's Lakers, who took favored Phoenix to seven games in the first round of last year's playoffs, were able to slow the frenetic pace favored by the Suns most of the afternoon.

"They did a pretty good job of using our sluggishness to get into their pace, and we kind of fell into it,'' Nash said. "We weren't very energetic, we were sloppy, and we really didn't force our tempo. It wasn't a typical performance from us, but we were tough enough to make it happen.''

The exception came in the third quarter, when the Suns spurted ahead.

"They got it more to their pace,'' Jackson said. "They had their breakout quarter, and that was what we were trying to prevent.''

The Suns, 7-1 since Nash returned from a shoulder injury after the All-star break, took the lead for good midway through the third but could build no more than a 10-point advantage after that.

"I don't think we played particularly well,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It seemed like a lack of a little juice. The Lakers do a good job of imposing their style and rhythm of the game, and it is easy to fall into that instead of figuring it out and amping it up.''

Nash, 2-for-11 shooting in the first half, made seven of his first eight in the second half before missing a pair late. He had 10 assists.

The Suns used a 9-0 run to go up 65-57 with 4:31 to play in the third quarter. James Jones and Bell both sank 3-pointers in the spurt.

A 3-pointer by Sasha Vujacic and a free throw by Bryant cut it to 66-63 with 1:32 to left in the third, but Bell made consecutive 3s, and Marion sank a 10-foot rebound basket at the buzzer in an 11-4 surge that put Phoenix ahead 74-67 entering the fourth.

Nash's 3-pointer gave the Suns an 86-76 lead with 6:47 to play, but the Lakers came back with an 8-2 spurt, cutting it to 92-88 on Cook's fourth 3-pointer of the day with 3:19 remaining.

Bryant scored inside to slice the lead to 93-90 with 2:46 to go. But he missed one of two from the line with less than two minutes remaining.

Cook's tip-in with 6.1 seconds to play cut it to 97-94 before Nash's free throws sealed the win.

Notes: Muhammad Ali, who lives in the Phoenix area, had a courtside seat and received a standing ovation when he was introduced to the crowd. He got another ovation when he left late in the third quarter. ... D'Antoni says Boris Diaw is feeling much better and could play Wednesday against Charlotte. Diaw, a Phoenix starter, has missed nine games with back spasms.


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