Phoenix wins series 4-1 (Game 4 of 5)

Phoenix wins series 4-1

Game 1: Sunday, April 22nd
Game 2: Tuesday, April 24th
Game 3: Thursday, April 26th
Game 4: Sunday, April 29th
Game 5: Wednesday, May 2nd

Suns 113

(61-21, 28-13 away)

Lakers 100

(42-40, 25-16 home)

    Coverage: ABC

    12:30 PM ET, April 29, 2007

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    PHX 33 25 27 28113
    LAL 28 23 20 29100

    Top Performers

    PHX: S. Nash 17 Pts, 1 Reb, 23 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    LAL: K. Bryant 31 Pts, 7 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Nash dishes out 23 assists as Suns take 3-1 lead over Lakers

    Associated Press

    LOS ANGELES -- Steve Nash did what he usually does -- only better than he's ever done it.

    With that, the Phoenix Suns have a commanding 3-1 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in their first-round playoff series.

    Helping hands
    Steve Nash
    Suns guard Steve Nash joined some elite company on Sunday. Here are the best single-game assist games in NBA playoff history:
    24Magic JohnsonLakers vs. Suns, 5-15-84
    24John StocktonJazz vs. Lakers, 5-17-88
    23Steve NashSuns vs. Lakers, 4-29-07
    23John StocktonJazz vs. Blazers, 4-25-96
    23Magic JohnsonLakers vs. Blazers, 5-3-85
    22Doc RiversHawks vs. Celtics, 5-16-88

    Nash had a career-high 23 assists -- one shy of the NBA playoff record -- to go with 17 points, and the Suns raced to a 113-100 victory over the Lakers on Sunday to move within one win of advancing to the second round.

    Amare Stoudemire had 27 points and a career playoff-high 21 rebounds for the run-and-gun Suns, who vowed to speed things up after a lethargic performance in Game 3.

    "We just wanted to be in the right spots and just wanted to be a lot more aggressive," Nash said. "I just felt like I was going to be more aggressive, put the onus on myself to make plays."

    The Suns averaged an NBA-leading 110.2 points during the regular season, scoring at least 100 in all but 14 of their 82 games and less than 90 only twice. After losing Game 3 to the Lakers 95-89, coach Mike D'Antoni and his players knew they had to quicken the pace.

    Did they ever.

    Shawn Marion had 22 points and 11 rebounds, supersub Leandro Barbosa scored 16 points and James Jones added 11 for the Suns.

    "The speed of the game was ours," D'Antoni said. "They surprised us with their intensity in Game 3. Today wasn't a surprise. We have our system, and we ran it pretty good today. We had 34 assists on 41 baskets and that's because of our spacing. That's what we do -- we've done it all year."

    Elias Says
    Steve Nash assisted on 56.1 percent of the Suns' 41 field goals on Sunday, the fourth-highest percentage in NBA playoff history, behind John Stockton (60.5 percent and 57.1 percent in the previously mentioned performances) and Mark Jackson, who had assists on 17 of 30 (56.7 percent) field goals for the Pacers in a loss at Cleveland in 1998.

    • Read more Elias Says.

    D'Antoni said had the Suns shot the ball like they usually do, Nash might have had 30 assists.

    Teammate Raja Bell went his coach one better.

    "If we shot the ball well, he could have had 35," Bell said. "We run when he runs. He's the engine that can really rev us up and get us in transition."

    Nash left the game to a mixed reception with 1:02 remaining and the outcome long since decided. Magic Johnson and John Stockton share the single-game playoff assist record -- Johnson doing so for the Lakers against Phoenix in 1984, and Stockton accomplishing the feat against the Lakers for Utah four years later.

    "Probably the two best point guards to play the game," said Nash, who noticed Johnson in his courtside seat during the game. "Not a shabby collection to learn from. I grew up watching them and in many ways wanted to emulate them."

    The 33-year-old two-time NBA MVP entered the fourth quarter with 20 assists, but fell one short of the record.

    "It wasn't meant to be, and that's all right," he said. "There's two guys who had gotten more than me, and they deserve it."

    Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in Phoenix, where the Suns won the first two games. A sixth game, if necessary, would be Friday night at Staples Center.

    Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 31 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, but scored only three points in the fourth quarter. Lamar Odom added 19 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, and Maurice Evans and Smush Parker scored 11 points each for the Lakers, who committed 20 turnovers to 15 for Phoenix.

    "They just had too much firepower for us today," Bryant said. "You knew they were going to step up and respond to the challenge."

    Outrebounded 44-35 in Game 3, the Suns had a 44-39 advantage in this game.

    "We made a conscious effort to control the paint defensively," Stoudemire said. "It was very physical. I've got a few war wounds I've got to take with me, but you do whatever it takes to get wins in the playoffs."

    The Suns outscored the Lakers 10-4 to finish the third period for an 85-71 lead, and scored seven straight points to extend their advantage to 93-77.

    Two baskets by Boris Diaw and two free throws by Nash made it 105-85 before Odom scored five points during an 8-0 run that made it a 12-point game with 3:46 remaining. But the Lakers weren't able to get closer than 11 points after that.

    "They were a better team than we were today. They were a little quicker at everything," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We have to get ourselves geared up and we'll have another chance to bring this game back here to L.A. on Friday."

    Nash had 15 assists in the first half to match the NBA playoff record set by Johnson and equaled by Doc Rivers. The Suns led at halftime 58-51.

    Game notes

    Nash's previous career playoff high in assists was 17, and his regular-season high is 22 -- three shy of Kevin Johnson's franchise record. ... Nash has had at least 10 assists in 37 playoff games -- seventh on the NBA's career list. He had been tied with Oscar Robertson. ... Jackson-coached teams have trailed a series 2-0 six times including this year, and have come back to win twice. Entering these playoffs, only 11 of 193 teams rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of seven series. ... In Game 4 of the teams' first-round series last year, also played on a Sunday at Staples Center, Bryant scored at the end of regulation and overtime to give the Lakers a 99-98 victory and a 3-1 lead. The Suns won the next three games including a 121-90 blowout in Game 7.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 113 100
    FGM-FGA 41-86 (.477) 39-88 (.443)
    3PM-3PA 7-23 (.304) 9-27 (.333)
    FTM-FTA 24-31 (.774) 13-17 (.765)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-44 10-39
    Assists 34 21
    Turnovers 15 20
    Steals 12 6
    Blocks 4 6
    Fast Break Points 12 3
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 25 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 20 3

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Steve Nash Nash
    Points: 17
    Reb: 1
    Ast: 23
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1
    Kobe Bryant Bryant
    Points: 31
    Reb: 7
    Ast: 9
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1