Gasol plays closer with monster finish

Updated: May 20, 2010, 10:32 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers led Wednesday by as many as 16 in the first half before the Suns came storming back to tie the game 90-90 heading into the fourth quarter.

Normally, this is where Los Angeles would call on the game's best closer, Kobe Bryant, to take over and impose his will with his impressive arsenal of moves on offense.

But late in Game 2, Bryant did the passing and let Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Lamar Odom and the Lakers' defense become the stars of the show.

The Lakers won the quarter 34-22, holding Phoenix to just 41.2 percent shooting (including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers) and forcing six turnovers.

Farmar broke the game open with six points on two 3-pointers and a steal in the first four and a half minutes of the fourth, building the Lakers' lead back to nine. He finished with 11 points and two steals after racking up 10 points and five assists in Game 1.

"That changed the momentum of the game," Bryant said. "Up until that point they had all the momentum. And he single-handedly was responsible for changing that at the start of the fourth quarter."

Pau Gasol
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesPau Gasol's 14 fourth-quarter points led the Lakers' charge to break a late-game tie with the Suns.

With the momentum on the Lakers' side, Gasol maintained it, scoring 10 of his 14 fourth-quarter points in the final six minutes of the quarter, never letting the Lakers' lead dip below eight.

"Once I was being effective and just finishing plays, obviously we just continue to go to it, because it was working pretty well for us," Gasol said after he played all 12 minutes of the fourth and finished with a game-high 29 points and nine rebounds.

Odom didn't sub out in the final quarter either and backed up his "lucky" 19 and 19 double-double in Game 1 with eight points and five rebounds in the last frame of Game 2, giving him 17 points and 11 boards for the game.

"Very fortunate to have him," quipped Bryant.

Said Lakers coach Phil Jackson: "We were successful, we got the ball in, but we made a concerted effort in the fourth quarter to get that ball back inside and our offense inside-out instead of from the outside."

Kobe's passing fancy

Bryant racked up four assists during the Lakers' dominant fourth quarter and finished with 13 helpers, setting a new playoff career high, passing his previous best of 11.

It was the most assists by a Laker in the playoffs since Magic Johnson had 13 in 1996.

After Bryant scored 40 points Monday, Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry elected to double the Lakers' dynamic guard, prompting Bryant to shift gears from a scorer to a facilitator. He finished with 21 points, stopping his streak of consecutive 30-point games at six.

"They wanted to double him, they said they was trying to double, but it wasn't strong doubles so he was able to actually make shots and he was able to slice through the defenders and he was able to pass and find open guys," Artest said. "He did a great job."

Bryant said he expected to see both double and single coverage in Game 3 in Phoenix on Sunday.

"I think they'll mix it up and try to keep us off balance," Bryant said. "Do a myriad of coverages so we don't get in rhythm.

"And then it's ... we're going to have the ball, kind of quarterback the situation and make the reads according to the situation."

Bynum's bounce-back game

After averaging just 3.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in his last three games, Andrew Bynum shook off his right knee injury to score 13 points (5-for-5 from the field) and grab seven rebounds in only 18 minutes of action, his lowest playing-time total of the playoffs.

"I thought he played a game for us tonight that we liked," Jackson said. "I mean, he did some things that were really good for us on offense, he got rebounds. When they went to their screen-roll offense, that's when we had to accelerate the pace a little bit and use more mobile players on the outside. I think that's a little tough for Drew to cover right now."

Bynum had 11 points and six rebounds in 14 minutes in the first half, and just two and one in four minutes in the second.

With the Lakers now just six wins away from winning a repeat championship (the white board in the Lakers' locker room said 6 mo' after the game), Bynum said he is "confident" his knee will be able to hold up for the rest of the run.

"I'm going to do it, no matter what," Bynum said.

They said it

"We got to play like we're back in Queens; you know what I mean, Craig? You already know." -- Ron Artest to TNT's Craig Sager during an on-court interview at halftime. Artest scored 15 of his 18 points in the first two quarters and finished the game 6-of-9 from the field and 3-of-6 on 3-pointers.

This and that

The Lakers' bench outscored the Suns' second unit 36-26 after edging them 44-35 in Game 1 ... The Suns lost consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 25 and 26 and the Lakers' eight-game winning streak is their longest since reeling off 11 straight from Nov. 17 through Dec. 11. ... Bryant was 4-of-4 in isolation opportunities against Grant Hill. Against all other Phoenix defenders he was 0-of-4 in isolation plays, but he did pick up four of his 13 assists out of one-on-one matchups.

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

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