Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 11/3

Game 1: Thursday, November 3rd
Game 2: Friday, January 20th
Game 3: Friday, April 7th
Game 4: Sunday, April 16th

Lakers 96

(40-37, 18-23 away)

Suns 107

(50-25, 29-10 home)

7:30 PM ET, April 7, 2006

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

1 2 3 4 T
LAL 27 25 27 1796
PHX 31 33 16 27107

Top Performers

Los Angeles: K. Bryant 51 Pts, 5 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Phoenix: S. Nash 25 Pts, 1 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl

Kobe's 51 not enough as Suns defeat Lakers

PHOENIX (AP) -- Kobe Bryant can score all the points he wants as far as the Phoenix Suns are concerned, as long as they come away with the victory.

Bryant's 51 points weren't enough to keep the Suns from beating the Los Angeles Lakers for the seventh time in a row, 107-96, on Friday night in a matchup of potential first-round playoff opponents.

Steve Nash had 25 points and eight assists but was on the bench when the Suns pulled away with an 18-4 run to start the fourth quarter after Los Angeles had closed to within one.

The Suns pulled six games ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division with seven to play. The Lakers, meanwhile, dropped into a tie with Sacramento for the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference.

Bryant, who made 19-of-33 shots, broke the U.S. Airways Center record of 50 held by Amare Stoudemire and Cliff Robinson. The former America West Arena opened in 1992.

"You feel like if he's taking all those shots, the other guys aren't really scoring," Nash said. "We don't feel like if he has a huge night, that we can't win, that's for sure."

Only two players have scored more against the Suns -- Wilt Chamberlain with 66 for the Lakers on Feb. 9, 1969, and Michael Jordan with 53 for Chicago on Jan. 21, 1989.

"Oh yeah?" Bryant said. "That's pretty good company -- excellent company."

Raja Bell, the Suns' best perimeter defender, is obviously no friend of Bryant. The two didn't shake hands before the game and never acknowledge each other, let alone speak.

"If I can keep him preoccupied with trying to beat me 1-on-1, then there are four other guys out there who aren't getting shots," Bell said. "That plays into our hands because we're going to get points. So if he gets 50 and the rest of the guys don't get enough to beat us, I did my job."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Bryant was motivated after a lackluster game against Bell the last time in Phoenix.

"At some level, it's remarkable," Jackson said of Bryant's 93 points on consecutive nights. "At another level, it limits us, it hackles us a little bit because other players don't get in the flow, and they didn't get in the flow tonight."

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said Bell "did a heck of a job" on Bryant, "but that's just how good Kobe is."

Bryant, though, refused to say anything about Bell.

"I've got bigger fish to fry than Raja Bell," he said. "Are you kidding?"

Bryant drew his 14th technical of the season in a run-in with Bell. Two more technicals and Bryant would have to serve a one-game suspension, although the Lakers may ask that this one be rescinded.

50-plus scorers this season
Player Pts Vs. Date
Kobe Bryant 81 Raptors 1/22/06
Kobe Bryant 62 Mavericks 12/20/05
Allen Iverson 53 Hawks 12/23/05
LeBron James 52 Bucks 12/10/05
Kobe Bryant 51 Suns 4/7/06
Dirk Nowitzki 51 Warriors 3/23/06
LeBron James 51 Jazz 1/21/06
Kobe Bryant 51 Kings (OT) 1/19/06
Vince Carter 51 Heat 12/23/05
Paul Pierce 50 Cavs (2OT) 2/15/06
Kobe Bryant 50 Clippers 1/7/06

"That was a ridiculous technical foul," Jackson said. "He didn't say anything. I don't understand the refereeing in this league if that's going to be a technical foul."

Shawn Marion scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 14 rebounds. Leandro Barbosa added 23 points as seven Phoenix players hit double figures.

Los Angeles didn't arrive in Phoenix until about 3 a.m. after losing to the Nuggets 110-108 in overtime in Denver on Thursday night. Bryant scored 42 in that one.

The Suns won for only the third time in seven games, and reached 50 victories for the season.

"I think we still weren't pleased with our performance," Nash said. "We had some breakdowns, and some letdowns, but you know it was obviously a lot better than recently."

Eddie House sank a pair of 3-pointers in the decisive fourth-quarter surge.

In his 30-point first half, Bryant was 12-for-20 shooting. The rest of the Lakers were 8-for-27. Two of Bryant's first-half field goals were 3-pointers from at least 28 feet.

Nash, meanwhile, had 17 points and seven assists in the first half, including a no-look, left-handed behind-the-back pass to Tim Thomas. Nash scored the Suns' final seven points to help them take a 64-52 lead at the break.

Barbosa scored eight -- including a 3-pointer and a three-point play -- in an 11-2 spurt that put Phoenix ahead 49-36 with 5:09 left in the half.

Three-pointers by Bryant started and finished a 10-0 Lakers' run that cut it to 67-64 with 7:35 left in the third. Phoenix stretched it to 77-70 on Nash's 17-footer, but Bryant's two free throws with 7.5 seconds left in the third cut the lead to 80-79 entering the fourth.

Odom added 17 points for the Lakers, who never led.

The Suns scored the first eight points of the fourth -- six with Bryant on the bench -- to go up 88-80. The first and last baskets were dunks by Shawn Marion on lobs from Boris Diaw.

Game notes

Not counting the strike-shortened 1998-99 campaign, Phoenix has won at least 50 games in 12 of the last 17 seasons. ... The Suns haven't lost to the Lakers since signing Nash. ... Marion took only one shot in the first half, and made it.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 96 107
FGM-FGA 37-82 (.451) 45-91 (.495)
3PM-3PA 9-24 (.375) 12-26 (.462)
FTM-FTA 13-18 (.722) 5-5 (1.000)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 8-43 8-39
Assists 16 23
Turnovers 13 11
Steals 7 5
Blocks 5 2
Fast Break Points 9 11
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 15 (2/0) 15 (0/0)
Largest Lead 0 15

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Kobe Bryant Bryant
Points: 51
Reb: 5
Ast: 3
Stl: 1
Blk: 0
Steve Nash Nash
Points: 25
Reb: 1
Ast: 8
Stl: 1
Blk: 0