PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; tied 3-3.
The Suns have responded with two wins, forcing a decisive Game 7 at US Airways Center against the Lakers.
Phoenix tied the series at three games apiece with Thursday’s 126-118 overtime Game 6 victory at Los Angeles despite a playoff career-high 50 points from Kobe Bryant.
“When your backs are against the wall, you can react two ways,” said Nash, who led the Suns with 32 points and 13 assists. “Obviously, we’ve reacted positively. There’s been some great games—a lot of drama as well, a lot of controversy.”
The Suns, who are 2-4 all-time in Game 7s, are on the verge of completing their first rally from a 3-1 series deficit after failing on four previous occasions. Only seven NBA teams have won a best-of-7 series when trailing 3-1, and five eventually won the NBA title.
“It’s going to be a great Game 7,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “The pressure is on both teams. We feel good, obviously, about ourselves. We took the wind out of ourselves a little bit but we’ll come back. They’ll be ready and we’ll be ready it should be a great game.”
For the Suns to win, they will need another high-scoring effort similar to Thursday in which they shot 56.8 percent (46-for-81). Phoenix, which averaged an NBA-high 108.4 points in the regular season, has averaged 115.7 points on 50.4 percent shooting in its three wins.
In their three losses, though, the Suns have scored just 94.3 points per game while shooting 43.3 percent.
The Suns will get a boost with the return of Raja Bell, who served his one-game suspension for clotheslining Bryant in Game 5. Phoenix struggled Thursday trying to cover Bryant—who made 20 of 35 shots from the field—with Leandro Barbosa and Shawn Marion, though Marion did partially block Bryant’s potential game-winning jumper as time expired in regulation.
“I can’t wait to hand Kobe back to Raja on Saturday,” said Barbosa, who had 22 points in 47 minutes.
While Bryant has shot 57.7 percent (30-for-52) from the field in the last two games and averaged 39.5 points, he has not received much help from his teammates outside of Lamar Odom. Odom was one assist shy of a triple-double in Game 6 and is averaging 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in the series.
“They controlled the rhythm, they pushed the ball up well,” Bryant said. “We’re going into a hostile environment. We look forward to it. Let’s get it on.”
The Lakers have never lost a series in franchise history when leading 3-1, advancing 27 times. They are 10-7 all-time in Game 7s, winning the last five since losing the 1984 NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics.
“There is a lot at stake,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, whose perfect 14-0 first-round record is on the line as well as a 44-0 record when leading a series. “For them it would be a terrific comeback. For us, it would be a monumental upset.”
Phoenix has won 16 of its last 19 at home, and home teams are 75-17 all-time in Game 7s.
“We feel like we’re better at home,” Nash said. “Our team feels good with the opportunity to play for the series.”
The winner of the series will face the Clippers, co-tenants of Staples Center with the Lakers. No two professional teams from Los Angeles have ever met in the playoffs.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lakers - 7th seed. Suns - 2nd seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Lakers - Bryant, 28.5 ppg and 5.8 apg; Odom, 12.0 rpg. Suns - Nash, 23.7 ppg and 9.7 apg; Marion, 9.3 rpg.