PHOENIX (AP) -- When the postseason starts, the Los Angeles
Lakers' season will be over.
They didn't go out in style either, falling victim to a
record-setting 3-point barrage by the Phoenix Suns.
Quentin Richardson scored 21 of his 25 points on 3-pointers, and
the Suns routed the Lakers 125-99 Tuesday night to knock the
defending Western Conference champions out of the playoffs for the
first time in 11 years.
"I think in their minds we were eliminated before tonight,"
said coach Frank Hamblen, who confessed to trying to play everyone
so that the front office can evaluate the team's talent to rebuild
in the post-Shaquille O'Neal era.
"There's some guys that aren't here who, the last five years we
were in the finals, so I'd say that's what the big difference is,"
The Lakers, who lost for the 12th time in 13 games, played this
one with Kobe Bryant resting his injured right leg.
Richardson had 25 points and 10 rebounds, and the Suns won their
Amare Stoudemire scored 23 points and Shawn Marion had 22 points
and 12 rebounds. Marion and Leandro Barbosa, who scored 14 points,
made four 3-pointers each as Phoenix set a franchise record with 17
from beyond the arc.
The Suns, leading the NBA in 3-point percentage coming in,
exceeded their average by making 17 of 39 (43.6 percent). The
number of attempts tied a franchise mark set Dec. 8 against the
"When you're shooting that well, it definitely feels good,"
said Richardson (7-of-14). "Every time you touch the ball you just
want to put it up."
Bryant's shin bruise forced him to miss a game for the first
time since he was activated from the injured list Feb. 13 after
sitting out 14 games with a sprained right ankle. He had
triple-doubles in the two previous games against Phoenix, forcing
the Suns to rally for both victories.
The Lakers couldn't afford another loss when Denver beat Memphis
94-91 earlier Tuesday night. The Suns completed the elimination and
sent Los Angeles into the draft lottery for the first time since
1993-94, and only the second time since the NBA adopted the lottery
system before the 1985 draft.
"It is definitely a different feeling knowing that I'll
probably be watching the playoffs this year from home," Devean
George said. "So I guess it could be new motivation -- you know,
try to get my body right, work hard over the summer."
The Lakers' only lead against the Suns came on a jumper by Caron
Butler in the opening seconds.
The score was tied four times after that before the Suns pulled
away to increasingly larger leads.
Butler had 30 points for the Lakers, with Chucky Atkins scoring
14 and George 12.
Richardson made five 3-pointers in the first 5:44 of the second
quarter, tying a franchise high with six in one half and sending
the Suns to a 54-40 lead.
The game got even more out of hand in the third when Richardson
capped a 9-3 spurt with his final 3-pointer. It boosted Phoenix to
a 79-62 lead with 10:01 to go.
Atkins had two layups and two free throws in 2 minutes to get
the Lakers within 90-80 with 2:57 left in the third, but that only
started a 12-5 surge by Phoenix that Barbosa capped with two
3-pointers in the final 1:02.
"We were hitting 3s and they were hitting 2s, and that'show we
were cushioning our lead," Marion said.
Reserves played much of the fourth quarter, preventing Phoenix
point guard Steve Nash from matching John Stockton for the longest
streak of double-digit assist games in the last decade. Nash had
eight points and nine assists in 24 minutes, ending his career-best
run of 14 straight games with at least 10 assists.
"The bench came in and gave us a lift," Suns coach Mike
D'Antoni said. "It was good to be able to give Steve Nash 24
minutes and keep our other guys' minutes down."
Stuntman Evel Knievel got a big hand between the first and
second quarters when he helped the Suns mascot put on a helmet for
a motorcycle jump -- over three mini-vehicles. ... Before the game,
Fox color commentator Dan Majerle won $100 from Suns owner Robert
Sarver by sinking a spur-of-the-moment 25-footer with no warmup.
... Lakers C Vlade Divac was activated from the injured list,
replacing C Chris Mihm (sprained ankle) on the roster, but George
started for Mihm. ... Los Angeles is 6-9 this season without
Bryant. ... The Lakers lost their ninth straight on the road.