Bryant had 29 points and 10 rebounds, Odom scored 21 and the Lakers held off a late rally to beat the cold-shooting Suns 99-93 Wednesday night and square the best-of-seven series 1-1.
Game 3 is Friday night in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles led by as many as 17 points late in the second quarter and early in the third after Phoenix went nearly 7 1/2 minutes without a point.
“We’ve really struggled to be ourselves regardless of how they play us,” Nash said. “We’ve got a little bit of I don’t know if it’s playoff anxiety or what. We really just need to get back to being ourselves.”
The Suns excel at high speeds, and they were tentative and out-of-kilter, clanking shot after shot off the rim in the first half.
“For whatever reason, it looks like it’s almost a weight on our shoulders or whatever,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We just need to get out there and run. We’ve got to bust through some barriers there for whatever reason.”
Bryant’s emphatic stuff with 3:13 left put the Lakers ahead 92-83. Nash was called for a foul on the play, but Bryant missed the free throw.
Bell scored six in a row, the last a 20-footer at the shot clock buzzer to cut the lead to 92-89 with 1:51 to play. But he missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it. Smush Parker scored inside and Luke Walton sank two free throws to put Los Angeles ahead 96-89 with 34.5 seconds to go.
“There were some dramatic plays down the stretch, and I thought our composure was not what I like,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “But we were able to sustain the effort and get a couple of terrific plays—one from Smush and one from Kobe. I thought defensively it was our night, and that was the best thing about it.”
Bryant finished 12-for-24 shooting after going 7-for-21 in Game 1.
“He stayed very well inside of what we’re trying to do,” Jackson said.
Odom shot 9-for-12, 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
“Lamar is a dangerous player,” Bryant said. “There are not too many like him in the league. As a matter of fact, he’s probably the only one in the league that size who can handle the ball, post you up and shoot the 3.”
Phoenix went 7:22 without scoring while the Lakers reeled off 19 points to open a 38-22 lead on Jim Jackson’s 20-footer with 6:17 left in the half.
The Suns went without a point from the 1:30 mark of the first quarter to 6:08 left in the second as they struggled from the perimeter.
While Nash was shooting 4-of-5 and scoring 15 points, the rest of the Suns were 2-for-20 before Bell rattled in a 20-footer cut the lead to 38-24.
With 3:02 left in the half, Bryant went to the bench with three fouls, two of them on offensive fouls drawn by Bell. The Suns cut it to 45-36 on Bell’s’ 3-pointer 2:16 before the break.
Bell’s steal and layup at the buzzer made it 53-38 at the half.
The Lakers shot 58 percent in the first half, including 5-of-6 by Odom.
After Bryant’s 20-footer to start the second half, Phoenix finally mounted a run, outscoring the Lakers 20-6 to cut it to 61-58 on Tim Thomas’ 3-pointer with 5:25 left in the third. But Los Angeles scored the next six, four by Bryant, to boost the lead to 67-58.
Phoenix scored six straight, including two free throws apiece by James Jones and Shawn Marion, to cut the lead to 72-67, then Bryant’s driving bank shot just before the buzzer put the Lakers up 74-67 entering the fourth.
Other than Nash and Bell, the Suns were 4-for-21 in the first half. The front line of Marion, Boris Diaw and Thomas was a combined 3-for-15. … The Suns never have held a 2-0 lead in a playoff series against the Lakers in 10 tries. … Los Angeles beat Phoenix for the first time in nine games when the Suns had Nash in the lineup. … The Lakers’ reserves outscored their Suns counterparts 21-4. … Phoenix was 18-for-18 at the foul line and is 50-for-53 in the series.