Phoenix wins series 4-3 (Game 1 of 7)

Phoenix wins series 4-3

Game 1: Sunday, April 23rd
Game 2: Wednesday, April 26th
Game 3: Friday, April 28th
Game 4: Sunday, April 30th
Game 5: Tuesday, May 2nd
Game 6: Thursday, May 4th
Game 7: Saturday, May 6th

Lakers 102

(45-37, 18-23 away)

Suns 107

(54-28, 31-10 home)

12:30 PM ET, April 23, 2006

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

1 2 3 4 T
LAL 29 21 25 27102
PHX 39 19 17 32107

Top Performers

LAL: L. Odom 21 Pts, 14 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk

PHX: T. Thomas 22 Pts, 15 Reb, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Thomas equals Bryant in points (22) as Suns win

PHOENIX (AP) -- Kobe Bryant didn't score, and the Phoenix Suns couldn't run.

Nothing was quite as it was supposed to be Sunday when the Suns escaped with a 107-102 victory over Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

"We certainly didn't play very well," said Suns point guard Steve Nash. "We look at that as a positive. We didn't play well and we found a way to win, and we've got a lot of improvement to make."

Tim Thomas had 22 points and a career playoff-high 15 rebounds for the Suns, who nearly succumbed to coach Phil Jackson's game plan of taking the small Phoenix lineup inside, then turning to Bryant to finish it off.

Thomas was sent home by the Chicago Bulls for what they thought was a bad attitude for most of this season, then released and signed by Phoenix on March 3. He made his first eight shots and finished 8-for-10, 4-for-5 from 3-point range.

"I was just aggressive on both ends," Thomas said.

Nash had 20 points, including a crucial 3-pointer with 1:07 to play, and 10 assists.

The Suns made 32 of 35 free throws, 8 for 8 by Nash.

"The Phoenix Suns set a record for fewest free throws in the league," Jackson said, "and here they have 35 free throws. This is a team we told our guys not to foul, and we end up sending them to the line 35 times. That was one of the things we didn't expect to happen."

Shawn Marion added 19 points, Boris Diaw 15 and Leandro Barbosa 15, nine in the fourth quarter.

Bryant, the NBA scoring champion with 35.4 points per game, scored 22 points -- little more than half the 42.5 he averaged against Phoenix in the regular season -- on 7-for-21 shooting, 1 for 6 3s. But Lamar Odom had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Luke Walton matched his career best in any NBA game with 19 points.

"Our game plan was to exploit the middle and do the things we wanted to, but he [Bryant] was still supposed to be a force over on that side of the offense," Jackson said. "I just felt he never really got in rhythm until the end, and we said 'Just go after it.' "

Even for Bryant, Jackson said, it's tough to turn it on after spending most of the game working the ball to others.

"He was a little more passive than usual," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He missed some shots that he normally makes."

But Bryant said he felt good about the series.

"It's just a matter of finding that groove," Bryant said. "We can really attack this team inside, and so that's what we're going to do. All I need is one jumper to go, and I'm hot."

After a 39-point first quarter, the Suns rarely got their trademark high-speed game in gear.

Trailing by as many as 14 in the second quarter and down 58-50 at the break, the Lakers used an uncharacteristically balanced attack and took advantage of the Suns' poor shooting to tie it at 75 after three quarters.

Sasha Vujacic's 3-pointer from the top of the key gave the Lakers their first lead since early in the first quarter, 80-79, with 10:01 to play. Thomas returned to the game and sank the Suns' first 3-pointer since the opening quarter to put Phoenix back ahead 82-80 9:25 from the finish.

Bryant missed four shots over the next 2½ minutes and the Suns used free throws -- two by Nash and four by Barbosa -- to go up 88-82 with 6:21 left.

The Lakers scored six in a row to cut it to 98-95 with 2:12 remaining. Smush Parker, who had 15 points, missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer. Raja Bell missed a running 14-footer, but Diaw tipped the rebound to Nash, whose 3-pointer put Phoenix ahead 101-95 with 1:07 left.

Nash took the shot with his coach screaming to bring the ball outside to run out more clock.

"I didn't hear him. I wasn't going to listen to him anyways," Nash said. "We really kind of just struggled through the game, so when I saw that ball coming off to Boris I knew I was going to get a great look. I wasn't going to pass it up and pull it out and see what we got later. I was going to make it, and that's all there is to it."

Game notes

Jackson lost Game 1 of the playoffs for the first time in his career. ... Vujacic made a bank shot from beyond midcourt at the first-quarter buzzer, but it was waved off by officials and replays confirmed the call. ... The Lakers were without Chris Mihm because of a sprained right ankle that sidelined him 17 of the last 18 regular-season games. ... The Suns' Brian Grant had a bad stomach and played the final three seconds of the first half only.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 102 107
FGM-FGA 38-90 (.422) 33-73 (.452)
3PM-3PA 5-21 (.238) 9-20 (.450)
FTM-FTA 21-27 (.778) 32-35 (.914)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 15-47 5-36
Assists 13 19
Turnovers 11 10
Steals 4 6
Blocks 4 3
Fast Break Points 2 10
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 25 (0/0) 23 (0/0)
Largest Lead 2 14

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Lamar Odom Odom
Points: 21
Reb: 14
Ast: 3
Stl: 0
Blk: 1
Tim Thomas Thomas
Points: 22
Reb: 15
Ast: 0
Stl: 2
Blk: 1