Phoenix 115, L.A. Lakers 107

LOS ANGELES, April 8 (AP) -- Raja Bell has been playing long enough to know how rapidly things can change for an outside shooter.

That being said, he's never had back-to-back games like his last two.

Less than 48 hours after missing all 10 of his 3-point shots in a victory over the Hornets, Bell was a perfect 6-of-6 from beyond the arc and scored 22 points Sunday in a 115-107 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I've never been 0-for-10. I don't know if I've ever been 6-for-6. Two personal records for me,'' Bell said with a smile. "I felt good in the Oklahoma City game. They just wouldn't go in. I don't think there's any analyzing it. You just chalk it up.

"It was funny. The ball kept finding me (against the Hornets) at the end of the shot clock. I had to keep shooting `em. The ball kept finding me in really good positions today. I had some wide-open looks.''

Bell also had the chore of guarding Kobe Bryant, the NBA scoring leader who had 34 points and seven assists to lead the Lakers.

"I don't know what else I can ask him to do - he's been doing it all and that's why he's one of the better players in the league,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said.

Bell committed a flagrant foul against Bryant in Game 5 in the teams' first-round playoff series last spring, resulting in a one-game suspension. Any tension between the two appears to be in the past.

"He's not the best scorer in the league for no reason,'' Bell said. "The only thing I can hope to be is a thorn in his side. When I play him, I just try to play my tail off and make him play his tail off.''

Said Bryant: "Raja plays hard. I think he's a good defensive player. He tries to deny the ball in certain areas. I enjoy going against him. He has a willingness to play defense. A lot of guys put their tails between their legs and run.''

When told Bell had gone 6-of-6 from 3-point range, Bryant replied: "Their players over there, they practice shooting all the time. They come early and stay late. That's something we have to learn.''

Steve Nash had 25 points and 11 assists for his career-best 50th double-double, Leandro Barbosa scored 23 points and Amare Stoudemire had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Suns (58-19), who won for the fifth time in six games to move 2+ games ahead of San Antonio for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles guard Smush Parker, making his 159th consecutive start despite being benched during the fourth quarter of the previous two games, had 25 points and six assists.

Ronny Turiaf added all of his 19 points and 11 of his career-high 15 rebounds in the second half, while Lamar Odom had 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who lost despite outrebounding the Suns 51-40. But they committed 17 turnovers to only 10 for Phoenix.

"There were some players that I thought got disgruntled, and they let some little things distract them out there today,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "When you do that, you can't give a full effort. Those are things you have to play through.''

By losing for the fifth time in seven games, the Lakers (40-37) fell into seventh place in the West - a half-game behind the Denver Nuggets. The teams meet Monday night in Denver.

Lakers center Kwame Brown missed his third game since aggravating a sprained left ankle in a collision with Denver's Marcus Camby, and won't play against the Nuggets, either.

Two free throws by Kurt Thomas, a 3-pointer by Bell and a layup by Nash gave the Suns a 94-83 lead with 4:15 remaining. The Lakers didn't threaten after that.

The Lakers outscored Phoenix 11-4 to finish the third quarter, trimming the Suns' lead to one point. But that was as close as they would get in the second half.

Barbosa scored seven points during a 14-2 run that gave the Suns a 47-37 lead, and they were on top the rest of the way. It was 54-48 at halftime.

Notes: Brown didn't sound optimistic regarding a speedy return to action. "There's something different this time. It's just a different pain I'm feeling,'' he said. Brown missed two months after first spraining his ankle Dec. 31. ... The Suns have beaten the Lakers in nine of the last 11 regular-season games between the teams. ... The Lakers have to win all five remaining games to match last year's 45-37 record - the worst of any Jackson-coached team. ... Lakers F Vladimir Radmanovic, sidelined since separating his right shoulder during the All-Star break, hopes to return Thursday night against the Clippers. ... Nash was hit with a technical foul by official Pat Fraher late in the third quarter after protesting a non-call.


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