Lakers Sag After Suns Series Win Blown 

Lakers Sag After Suns Series Win Blown

PHOENIX, May 6 (Ticker) -- After Leandro Barbosa helped the Phoenix Suns to a big lead, Kobe Bryant decided to do nothing about it.

Barbosa scored a playoff career-high 26 points as the balanced Suns completed their comeback with a 121-90 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers in the decisive seventh game of their Western Conference first-round series.

Boris Diaw added 21 points and Shawn Marion had 14 and 10 rebounds for the second-seeded Suns, who became just the eighth team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit.

Following a 114-97 win in Game 5 that prolonged the series, the Suns gained even more momentum in a 126-118 overtime triumph in Game 6. Tim Thomas hit a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left in regulation to send the sixth game into overtime.

Back in front of their home fans, the Suns overwhelmed the seventh-seeded Lakers in the decisive game, never trailing and leading by as many as 33 points.

"It was the heart and perseverance of our guys to overcome Game Four," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Thinking that we were slighted. We tried to do the right thing, we kept getting hit, and they had enough. Whether they turned it on or thought about it subconsciously I don't know but from that moment we played the way we played all year."

Barbosa, who scored 22 points while getting the start in place of the suspended Raja Bell in Game 6, again was a major factor in this one.

Coming off the bench, Barbosa scored 15 points in the first half as the Suns shot 60 percent (25-of-42) and opened a 60-45 advantage. They led by at least 14 points the entire second half.

Barbosa made 10-of-12 shots overall in 30 minutes.

"I think I figured out my game," Barbosa said. "At the beginning everybody knew they had to do more. Right now I have a lot of confidence. Maybe it is concentration and focus. I wasn't worried about points. I was trying to be aggressive. That is the way I like to play."

"It does help that he is one of the fastest guys on earth and one of the best shooters from three," D'Antoni said. "It was amazing what he and Boris Diaw did in the first half."

Bryant tried to keep the Lakers in it in the first half by scoring 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting. The league's leading scorer, Bryant netted 50 points in Game 6.

But in a puzzling disappearing act, Bryant deferred to his teammates in the second half Saturday, taking just three shots and scoring one point on a technical free throw.

"If we were going to get back in this type of game we had to have everybody contributing," Bryant said. "In the first half I started to pick it up offensively just to keep us in the hunt. If we were going to get back into the game in the second half everybody has to get into a rhythm and that didn't happen."

Through the first four games of the series, Bryant had been giving more responsibility to his teammates. The superstar attempted 35 shots in Game Six, but faded in the second half in his team's biggest game of the season.

"We wanted to get back in the game so we were running things through other guys," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Nash was a little bit banged up and we were trying to use out inside out game. Kobe just sat on that game plan and let the other things happen."

When Bryant decided to stop shooting, the Suns decided to run the Lakers off the court. A pair of free throws by Marion with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter gave Phoenix an 80-56 bulge. Phoenix held a 90-65 bulge entering the final period.

Steve Nash contributed 13 points and nine assists and Bell scored 13 for Phoenix, which will meet the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers in the conference semifinals. Game 1 is here Monday.

Bell had battled Bryant all series and was ejected during Game 5 when he clotheslined Bryant and then threw him to the ground.

"I can't really give you an answer why he didn't shoot in the second half," Bell said. "Whatever happened we've got bigger fish to fry now."

"I really don't think about him defensively," Bryant said. "It is not like when I go up against a Bruce Bowen or a Ron Artest. They make you think about what you do out there. It's not like that."

Possibly the only bad news for the Suns is that Nash - the reigning MVP who reportedly will win the award for a second straight season - appeared a bit slow after tweaking his ankle in the first half.

"It will be fine after the next day and a half," Nash said.

The Suns had seven players reach double figures and shot 61 percent (47-of-77), including 10-of-21 from 3-point range.

Jackson, who has won nine NBA titles, had been 44-0 when leading in a series.

"It is a shame we couldn't give them a better game today," Jackson said. "You could see early on that things were going to be a little strained for us. The first five minutes on it seemed like they were a step quicker and a step better offensively and we had jitters today."

Luke Walton scored 16 points and Lamar Odom 12 for the Lakers, who shot just 35 percent (32-of-91).

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