<
>

Suns run past Lakers, complete 3-1 series comeback

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns went from the brink to a
blowout, from the edge of elimination to one of the most impressive
turnarounds in NBA playoff history.

So much for the nail-biting suspense of a Game 7. The fast,
feisty Suns won in a 121-90 laugher over the listless Los Angeles
Lakers on Saturday night.

Leandro Barbosa led the layup parade with a career playoff-best
26 points on 10-of-12 shooting and the Suns became the eighth team
in NBA history to win a series after trailing 3-1.

"I am going to steal a line from Disney and say it's a small
world after all," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I guess
small guys can play. That's about as good as we could play. Every
one of our guys, I can't pick out one, all of them had an amazing
game."

That all-L.A. second-round series that looked so probable a few
days ago vanished in a blur of Suns' fast breaks and repeated
drives to the basket.

Instead, the Clippers will come to Phoenix for Game 1 of the
second-round series on Monday night.

"It's a shame we couldn't have given them a better game," said
the Lakers' Phil Jackson, who lost a first-round series for the
first time in his coaching career.

Kobe Bryant scored 24 points of 8-of-16 shooting, but the rest
of the Lakers starters were 17-for-50. Bryant scored only one point
and took just three shots in the second half.

"If we were going to get back in this type of game, we have to
have everybody contributing," Bryant explained.

He said his team played about as well as it could in taking its
3-1 series lead, then couldn't keep up when the Suns found their
footing.

"They just have a lot of talent over there," Bryant said, "a
lot of firepower. They stepped up to the challenge and kept coming
at us in waves. We just didn't have enough in the tank to hold
on."

The Brazilian Barbosa and Frenchman Boris Diaw led the way. Diaw
had 21 points and nine assists as seven Suns scored in double
figures. Phoenix's turnaround can be traced directly to the
improved play of Barbosa and Diaw.

"Tonight, Boris and Leandro were our best players," Steve Nash
said. "The two guys that people said were disappointing in the
beginning of the series, I think they are accustomed to the series
now and they lost their virginity, so to speak, in the seventh
game."

Nash, who had 13 points and nine assists, sprained his right
ankle late in the first half and was not as nimble as usual after
that.

"It is the same ankle I tweaked a couple of months ago and the
swelling went down finally just a week ago," he said. "It is
encouraging that I could move around on it the second half, and
with a day and a half of rest, I think it will be fine for
Monday."

Shawn Marion had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix.

Raja Bell returned to a hero's welcome from a one-game
suspension for throwing Bryant to the floor in Game 5. He scored 13
points and drew three offensive fouls against Bryant.

"We've got bigger fish to fry now," Bell quipped, a reference
to Bryant's derisive comments about him after a regular-season
game.

Jackson lost for the first time in 45 series where his team had
the lead.

The Lakers -- after losing 126-118 in overtime at home in Game 6
Thursday night -- barely offered resistance Saturday night, cutting
the lead to single digits only once after falling behind 28-13 in
front of a raucous packed house.

The Suns started the first quarter with a 16-6 run and ended it
with a 12-2 spurt. They made 14 of 20 shots for 70 percent, while
the Lakers were a bumbling 6-for-20.

With the Suns leading 20-13, Barbosa sank a 13-footer and a
layup, then dished off to Marion for a stuff in an 8-0 surge that
put Phoenix ahead 28-13 with 1:15 left in the first.

After Kwame Brown, who was 1-for-5 in the first quarter, made
two free throws, Bell made a 20-footer and Barbosa two free throws
to put Phoenix ahead 32-15 after one.

Barbosa's layup to start the second quarter made it 34-15.
Bryant cut the lead to single digits, 45-36, with a 3-pointer 6:21
before halftime. But Bell followed with a 3, then Bryant was called
for an offensive foul. Replays showed Bryant elbowed Bell to the
face, the kind of play the Suns' guard had complained about
throughout the series.

Tim Thomas' stuff with 5:32 remaining in the half put Phoenix
ahead 50-36.

Bryant's 21-footer as the shot clock expired cut the lead to
50-40, but the Suns scored the next six with Diaw's two free throws
making it 56-40 with 51 seconds to go.

Nash left the court with a slight limp after stepping on
Marion's foot on the play but returned in the second half.

Bryant made a 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining, then Diaw
sank a 20-footer with 1.1 seconds to play and Phoenix led 60-45 at
the break.

Game notes
The Clippers and Suns split their season series 2-2. ...
Barbosa scored 48 in the final two games of the series. ... Brown
finished 2-for-10 shooting. ... The Lakers' Smush Parker was
7-for-37 shooting the last three games.