Suns 114, Lakers 97

TNT’s John Thompson: Video Kobe-Nash grudge match?

PHOENIX (AP)—Boris Diaw got his most-improved trophy, then showed he deserved it. Kobe Bryant got tossed to the floor by Raja Bell, then got thrown out of the game.

The small Phoenix Suns turned physical, of all things, and rolled past the Los Angeles Lakers 114-97 Tuesday night to stay alive in their first-round playoff series.

“I think the playoffs bring the best out in everybody,” the Suns’ Steve Nash said. “All of us choirboys are living up to our reputations.”

Diaw—presented with the NBA’s most-improved player award before the game— had 25 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

The Lakers still lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Bryant, who scored 29 points, was thrown out after drawing his second technical foul with 3:11 to play. His nemesis in the series, Raja Bell, was tossed after throwing Bryant to the floor for his second technical with 7:33 left.

The two had been called for a double-technical in the second quarter.

“It’s been a pretty physical series, and at that point in time I had caught another elbow in the jaw and I lost my head and overreacted to it,” Bell said. “It could have cost my team and for that I’m sorry.”

As for that rough style, Bryant said bring it on.

“That’s how I grew up playing basketball in Philadelphia,” he said. “I love playing that style. It excites me more than anything.”

Kwame Brown scored 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting for the Lakers, but was plagued by foul trouble. He started hours after Los Angeles police said he was being investigated for a possible sexual assault. Before the game, Brown issued a statement through the team office saying he was “completely innocent of any wrongdoing.”

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Brown’s woes had his team off balance before the tip.

“I think the only thing it did was take our mind off the game,” Jackson said.

Nash scored 22 points and Shawn Marion 21 for the Suns in their highest-scoring game of the series. Tim Thomas added 13 and Leandro Barbosa 11.

Lamar Odom added 18 for the Lakers.

After Bell threw Bryant down, he pointed to the Lakers’ bench and yelled, “That’s your foul.”

“It’s a physical game,” Bryant said. “I’m not trying to go out there and elbow somebody, that’s not the way I play. If you get elbowed, you still have to keep your cool. I get elbowed all the time.”

Nash said Bell’s foul was no worse than some the Lakers committed earlier in the series, so he didn’t believe a suspension was warranted.

“They’re going to single one out because it’s on Kobe? To me that’s a shame,” Nash said.

“There were a couple of elbows thrown,” Diaw said. “I saw Raja on the floor twice before he got ejected. Raja got hit many times. It probably was frustration.”

After Bell left, Bryant made one of two free throws, then sank a 3-pointer to cut the Suns’ lead to 93-83 with 7:17 left. The teams traded baskets, then Barbosa and Marion sank 3-pointers to trigger a 12-0 run that sealed the victory. Diaw scored the last four to make it 107-85.

Bryant was tossed by referee Leon Wood after complaining that a hard foul against Brown should have been called flagrant.

“He didn’t like my toneage, if that’s a word.” Bryant said. “He’s the decider. Is that a word, decider?”

Whether Brown’s problems were a distraction for Los Angeles or not, the Suns finally got their fast-paced game in gear to blow open a 22-point third-quarter lead.

Diaw scored the Suns’ final 11 points of the first half—going 9-of-9 at the foul line—to lead Phoenix to a 56-47 at the break.

Ronny Turiaf, playing for the first time in the series, completed a three-point play to put Los Angeles up 39-37 with 5:09 left in the second quarter, then the Suns outscored the Lakers 19-8 the rest of the half.

In the third quarter, the Suns’ trademark high-flying style made its first appearance since the opening quarter of the series.

Marion and Bell sank 3-pointers in a 21-7 run that put Phoenix ahead 79-58 on Diaw’s emphatic fast-break dunk with 3:15 left in the quarter. Nash’s layup, followed by his free throw following a delay-of-game technical, put Phoenix ahead 84-62 with 1:22 to go in the third.

But Brian Cook and Bryant sank 3-pointers to cut it to 84-68 entering the fourth. Bryant’s inside basket to start the fourth sliced the lead to 84-70.


The Suns’ 29 points marked the first time in the series that they had topped 20 in the second quarter. … Of the seven teams to come back from a 3-1 series deficit, five won the NBA title. … Phoenix has not lost four straight playoff games since it was swept by the Lakers in the 1989 Western Conference finals.

Top Performers

 Top Performers
 LA Lakers
L. Odom L. Odom
7-14,  18 Pts
15 Rebs, 6 Assists
B. Diaw B. Diaw
7-12,  25 Pts
10 Rebs, 9 Assists

Team Stat Leaders