Phoenix 107, L.A. Lakers 102
PHOENIX, April 23 (Ticker) -- Tim Thomas
and Leandro Barbosa
spark. But when the Phoenix Suns needed a win, they turned to
Nash made a clutch 3-pointer and two important free throws in
the final 67 seconds as the Phoenix Suns hung on for a 107-102
victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game One of their Western
Conference first-round series.
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Nash had 20 points and 10 assists for the second-seeded Suns,
who blew a 14-point lead but recovered with instant offense from
Thomas and Barbosa and the leadership of Nash, their All-Star
The reigning MVP, Nash got off to a quick start but was quiet in
the second half as the Lakers climbed back into the game. The
Suns were clinging to a 98-95 lead when Raja Bell
missed a tough
However, Boris Diaw
grabbed the offensive rebound and shoveled
the ball to Nash, who launched a 3-pointer very early in the
shot clock that splashed through, doubling the lead with 1:07 to
"We really struggled through the game so when I saw that ball
coming from Boris, I knew I would get a great look and I wasn't
going to pass it up," Nash said. "I wasn't going to pass it up
and pull it out and see what we were going to get later. I was
going to take it. I know coach was yelling not to take it, but I
didn't hear him and wouldn't have listened to him anyway."
"He about gave me a heart attack," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni
said. "We were having a hard time getting shots and he was wide
open, plus he is one of the best 3-point shooters in the
league. That shot kind of put a dagger right in them."
After a 3-pointer by Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant
- who had an
uncharacteristically quiet game - made it 103-100 with 17
seconds remaining, Nash essentially sealed it with two free
The Suns had gotten a break moments earlier. They were holding
a 101-97 lead when Bryant drove to the basket and was swiped
across the face by Thomas. His lost his balance and missed the
shot, but no foul was called.
"No comment necessary," Bryant said. "Just look at the knot on
Signed by the Suns less than two months ago, Thomas had perhaps
the best playoff game of his life with 22 points and a
career-high 15 rebounds. He made his first eight shots,
including a 3-pointer with 9 1/2 minutes left that gave Phoenix
the lead for good at 82-80.
"That is what you work for," Thomas said. "The whole Chicago
situation was what it was - pretty much nothing. I spent that
time wisely working out and constantly shooting and getting
prepared for this situation right here."
Barbosa scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter,
breathing some life into the league's best offense which had
stagnated in the second half. His 3-pointer at the 3:44 mark
opened a 98-89 advantage.
"That is my job ... I go out there to pick up the pace and score
when I can," Barbosa said. That is the way I am supposed to
play and at the time it was needed. We trapped and then on
offense used the pick-and-roll that made it easier for me."
scored 19 points and Diaw added 15 for the Suns,
who shot spectacularly from the lines. They made 9-of-20
3-pointers and 32-of-35 free throws.
Often trapped and double-teamed, Bryant scored 22 points on just
7-of-21 shooting. During the season, he led the NBA at better
than 35 points per game and averaged more than 42 vs. Phoenix.
"We don't normally trap but Kobe is kind of special and he needs
special attention," D'Antoni said. "It worked this game, but
we will see if we do it next game. They missed some shots they
may make next time."
"I had to take a lot of bail-out shots tonight," Bryant said.
"I wasn't looking to attack or assert myself, it is just a
matter of finding that groove. All I need is one jumper, then I
know I'll get hot. We were keying on the other guys. Look at
the open opportunities our other guys had."
had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Luke Walton
19 points for the Lakers, who had all five starters in double
figures and held a 47-36 advantage on the glass.
"I know we can play a better ballgame then that," said Lakers
coach Phil Jackson
, who lost Game One of a first-round series for the first time in 15 tries. "Our inside game was relatively good,
but we are not pleased with the way we turn the ball over in key
situations. Our game plan was to exploit the middle and have
Kobe a force on the other side, but he never got in rhythm.
"We wanted to get everyone involved," said guard Smush Parker
who scored 15 points. "We all feel like we can beat this team.
The game plan was to slow the game down, slow the pace and play
inside. Kobe didn't force anything. I don't think he had an
off night; he just stuck to the game plan."
Phoenix, which won its fifth straight playoff opener, sped to a
39-29 lead after one period and opened a 50-36 advantage in the
second quarter. Los Angeles closed to 58-50 at halftime and
pulled into a 73-73 tie on a drive by Bryant with 1:32 left in
the third quarter.