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NBA Playoffs 2006, First round - Lakers vs. Suns

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NBA Playoffs 2006 First Round
Los Angeles Lakers 3 vs. Phoenix Suns 4

Game 1: Suns 107 - Lakers 102 at Pho. - Game recap & pictures
Game 2: Lakers 99 - Suns 93 at Pho. - Game recap & pictures
Game 3: Lakers 99, Suns 92 at L.A. - Game recap & pictures
Game 4: Lakers 99, Suns 98 OT at L.A. - Game recap & pictures
Game 5: Suns 114, Lakers 97 at Pho. - Game recap & pictures
Game 6: Suns 126, Lakers 118 OT at L.A. - Game recap & pictures
Game 7: Suns 120, Lakers 90 at PHO - Game recap & pictures

Back to Playoffs 2006

GAME 1:  Suns 107 - Lakers 102

It is not impossible.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 22: Bryant 14: Odom 5: Bryant
Phoenix 22: Thomas 15: Thomas 10: Nash
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 29 21 25 27 102
Pho 39 19 17 32 107
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Kobe Bryant)
click for pictures

US AIRWAYS CENTER - PHOENIX. Nothing went as predicted in the first playoff game for the Lakers in 2 years.

Kobe Bryant, the NBA leading scorer, scored only 22 points... The Suns couldn't find their usual flow in the offense but despite having set an NBA all-time record for few free-throws averages in the season, made 32 of 35 in this game... Tim Thomas was the surprise element for the Suns with 22 points and 15 rebounds...

But although the Suns suffered until the end, they escaped with a victory 107-102 at Phoenix. The Lakers strategy of feeding the interior big men, didn't do any good to Kobe Bryant. He tried all the game to involve his teammates but was imprecise himself with 22 points in 7-for21 shooting.

The Lakers trailed by as many as 14 in the second period, but they were down 58-50 at halftime and tied it at 75 at the end of the third quarter.

With 2:30 left and the score 98-95 for Phoenix, the Lakers had a chance to tie with Smush Parker who had an open look for a 3-pointer, but he missed and Nash answered making a 3-point shot that was the key play of the game with 1:07.

The good news is that despite not being helped by a couple of late calls (or non-calls) the Lakers realized that the Suns are vulnerable and, thought not easy, it is possible to come out victorious from this series.

The Quotes

Steve Nash (Pho): "I didn't hear him. I wasn't going to listen to him anyways... I was going to make it, and that's all there is to it." about his coach screaming to bring the ball outside to run out more clock before Nash 3-pointer."
Phil Jackson (LA): "The Phoenix Suns set a record for fewest free throws in the league, 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"

Highlights

L.A. Lakers Phoenix Suns
Kobe Bryant: 22 pts, 6 reb 5 ast
Lamar Odom: 21 pts, 14 reb
Luke Walton: 19 pts, 6 reb
Smush Parker: 15 pts, 6 reb
Kwame Brown: 14 pts, 6 reb
Tim Thomas: 22 pts, 15 reb
Steve Nash: 20 pts, 10 ast
Shawn Marion: 19 pts, 7 reb
Boris Diaw: 15 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast
Leandro Barbosa: 15 pts

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GAME 2:  Lakers 99 - Suns 93

One big step.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 29: Bryant 10: Bryant 5: Bryant
Phoenix 29: Nash 9: Marion 9: Nash
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 24 29 21 25 99
Pho 22 16 29 26 93
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash)
click for pictures

US AIRWAYS CENTER - PHOENIX. - The Lakers built an early lead and held on to it until the end to defeat the Suns at Phoenix 99-93 and even their best-of-seven series at 1.

Kobe Bryant made his shots this time and ended with 29 points on 12-for-24 shooting, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Lamar Odom also had a strong game with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

Steve Nash had 29 points and Raja Bell 23 for the Suns but the team shot 34 percent in the first half and the Lakers led by as many as 17 in the 2nd quarter and got a 53-38 halftime margin.

In the third quarter the Suns cut the deficit to 61-58 with a 20-6 run but the Lakers escaped scoring the next 6 points, 4 by Bryant. The Lakers superstar also made a bank shoot with the clock running down in the period to extend the lakers lead to 7 (74-67).

After Kobe Bryant gave the play of the night with an spectacular dunk over Nash, the the Suns had a final opportunity to tie the game with 1:13 left in the fourth and the score 92-89, but Raja Bell's missed his 3-point attempt and Odom assisted Smush Parker for a layup on the next possession and the Lakers won for the first time in the last 9 games with Steve Nash on the floor.

The Quotes

Mike D'Antoni (Pho Coach): "We looked like we were a little afraid to get going... We just need to get out there and run."
Phil Jackson (LA Coach): "There were some dramatic plays down the stretch, and I thought our composure was not what I like... I thought defensively it was our night, and that was the best thing about it"
Kobe Bryant (LA): "They're an experienced team. This loss right here probably doesn't even faze them. They're going to come back and they're going to come back with a vengeance. We have to make sure we're ready for that"

Highlights

L.A. Lakers Phoenix Suns
Kobe Bryant: 29 pts, 10 reb 5 ast
Lamar Odom: 21 pts, 7 reb 5 ast
Kwame Brown: 12 pts, 2 reb
Sasha Vujacic: 11 pts, 2 ast
Smush Parker: 8 pts, 4 reb
Steve Nash : 29 pts, 7 reb, 9ast
Raja Bell: 23 pts, 3 ast
Shawn Marion: 13 pts, 9 reb
Boris Diaw: 13 pts, 4 reb
Tim Thomas: 11 pts, 9reb

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GAME 3:  Lakers 99 - Suns 92

The plan is working.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 18: Parker 17: Odom 7: Bryant
Phoenix 20: Marion 7: Marion 11: Nash
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 31 18 28 22 99
Pho 27 17 30 18 92
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Lamar Odom)
click for pictures

STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. - The Lakers plan is really working. Knowing that the 42 points Kobe averaged in the season against Phoenix wasn't enough to win, Phil Jackson decided the best thing was to punish them inside where they are not good defending the big men, and slowing the game as much as possible to take them out of rhythm.

And it's working to perfection. The Lakers outscored the Suns 58-30 in the paint and outrebounded them 53-34. The Lakers frontcourt of Odom, Brown and Walton took 38 rebounds, 4 more that all Phoenix.

With Odom being posted more than in the regular season, Kobe Bryant is handling the ball almost all the time and he is doing a excellent job of keeping everybody involved and despite it is not helping him to be accurate (he had 17 points on 6-for-18 shooting), he is absolutely immerse in Jackson's strategy with a pass-first mode .The result is that all five Laker starters were in double figures in scoring and the offense had a great ball movement, slowing the rhythm of the game almost each possession to run the triangle offense.

It was always a close match but the Lakers always felt they could win it. After a Suns' style 31-27 first quarter the Lakers slowed it down and always had control of it despite being down a couple of times. In a key play, Raja Bell had the chance to tie it with the clock running out in the third but he hesitated and Kobe stole the ball, the Lakers went to the rest 77-74 and never trailed after that.

The Lakers made it a very physical game to the point that at least 3 times the referees found themselves in the middle of skirmishes but nothing serious happened.

The Lakers contained the Suns to 93 and 92 points in the last to games, well under their season average of 108.4. With this 99-92 victory the Lakers take a 2-1 lead in the series with game 4 in Los Angeles on Sunday.

The Quotes

Mike D'Antoni (Pho Coach): "They are playing the best they have all year... everyone is stepping up for them, Kobe is sticking with the game plan."
Phil Jackson (LA Coach): "There are times and moments, and there will be more probably in this playoffs before it's over, where Kobe's going to do the offensive work, he's going to be on fire and feeling the ability to go out there and shoot any time and any place. Right now, I think he's just moving the ball and doing the right thing for us and keeping everybody involved in the offense"
Kobe Bryant (LA): "It is a physical game, and especially in the playoffs, it steps up to another degree. It is fun to be a part of those types of games. It is nothing personal and no one is out there to hurt players. It is just a physical game"

Highlights

L.A. Lakers Phoenix Suns
Smush Parker: 18 pts
Kobe Bryant
: 17 pts, 5 reb, 7 ast, 4 st
Luke Walton: 17 pts, 10 reb
L. Odom: 15 pts, 17 reb, 4 ast, 3 bl
K. Brown: 13 pts, 11 reb, 5 ast, 4 bl
Shawn Marion: 20 pts, 7 reb
Tim Thomas: 18 pts, 6 reb, 4 st
Steve Nash: 17 pts, 7 reb, 11 ast
Boris Diaw: 14 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast
Raja Bell: 10 pts, 4 reb

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GAME 4:  Lakers 99 - Suns 98 OT

Nash can receive the MVP but Kobe is the best player.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 25: Odom 10: Brown 8: Bryant
Phoenix 22: Nash 12: Marion 11: Nash
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th TO Tot
LAL 25 16 23 26 9 99
Pho 26 15 26 23 8 98
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Kobe Bryant)
click for pictures

STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. - Kobe Bryant showed why he is the best player on the floor... and he did it twice. First, with the Lakers almost dead, Smush Parker stole the ball from Steve Nash and Kobe sent the game to overtime with a circus high-arcing layup.

Then in extra time, with the Lakers down by 3 with only 11 seconds to go he made a layup to cut the deficit to 1. Nash received the ball but was tied up and lost the tip with Walton who sent the ball to kobe with just 4 seconds left. He ran down the clock and shot from the top of the key to beat the buzzer and win the game 99-98.

The series returns to Phoenix for game 5 but the Lakers have never lost a playoff series with a 3-1 lead with a 26-0 overall record to this point

The Quotes

Smush Parker (LAL): "We all knew the ball was going to get to Nash because he's, what, a 90% free-throw shooter for the season. Coach said we want to foul but make a play for the ball. That's exactly what I did ."
Phil Jackson (LA Coach): "I have been involved in a lot of wild ones, and that one was right up there "
Kobe Bryant (LA): "I knew Luke was going to control the tip, I was just going through my calculations, looking at the clock, and just played the moment over in my head before I got the ball, thinking about how much time I would have to operate. Once I got the ball, I just took my time and got the look I wanted "

Highlights

L.A. Lakers Phoenix Suns
Smush Parker: 18 pts
Kobe Bryant
: 17 pts, 5 reb, 7 ast, 4 st
Luke Walton: 17 pts, 10 reb
L. Odom: 15 pts, 17 reb, 4 ast, 3 bl
K. Brown: 13 pts, 11 reb, 5 ast, 4 bl
Shawn Marion: 20 pts, 7 reb
Tim Thomas: 18 pts, 6 reb, 4 st
Steve Nash: 17 pts, 7 reb, 11 ast
Boris Diaw: 14 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast
Raja Bell: 10 pts, 4 reb

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GAME 5:  Suns 114 - Lakers 97

Suns survived at home.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 29: Bryant 15: Odom 6: Odom
Phoenix 25: Diaw 10: Diaw 9: Diaw
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 25 22 21 29 97
Pho 27 29 28 30 114
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Kobe Bryant fouled by Raja Bell)
click for pictures

US AIRWAYS CENTER - PHOENIX. - In a game that looked more like what everybody was expecting before the start of the series, the Lakers allowed the Suns to run and to score 100 points for the first time since game 1 and with a 114-97 win at home, Phoenix avoided being eliminated.

Boris Diaw, who was named the NBA Most Improved Player, had a a great game with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists and was one of 6 Suns with double digits in scoring.

Kobe Bryant had 29 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and was ejected after drawing his second technical foul with 3:11 to play. Raja Bell had been ejected 5 minutes earlier when he grabbed Kobe around the neck and threw him down to the floor when he was driving to the basket. It has been a physical series but Bell is expected to be suspended because of the excessive violence of the play.

The Lakers kept the score close and were up 39-37 with 5:09 left in the second quarter, but then the Suns outscored them 19-8 the rest of the half and went to the break with a 56-47. With a 28-21 score in the third quarter (Marion and Nash each had nine points) Phoenix ended the Lakers chances in the game.

The Lakers still lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 Thursday night in Los Angeles.

The Quotes

Phil Jackson (LA Coach): "That's what happens when teams play with some desperation. They were active and aggressive and beat us with the nature of their play."
Raja Bell (Suns): "It's been a pretty physical series, and at that point in time I had caught another elbow in the jaw and I lost my head and overreacted to it. It could have cost my team and for that I'm sorry"
Kobe Bryant (LA): "It's something that belongs in the octagon... That's how I grew up playing basketball in Philadelphia, I love playing that style. It excites me more than anything... I'm not out there trying to elbow somebody. If you get elbowed, you've just got to keep your cool. I get elbowed all the time"
Steve Nash (Suns): "They're going to single one out because it's on Kobe? To me that's a shame", said about Bell's foul. We ask: Is Nash going crazy?

Highlights

L.A. Lakers Phoenix Suns
Kobe Bryant: 29 pts, 7 reb, 5 ast
Lamar Odom: 18 pts, 15 reb, 6 ast
Kwame Brown: 14 pts, 3 reb
Luke Walton: 9 pts, 6 reb
Brian Cook: 9 pts
Boris Diaw (Pho): 25 pts, 10 reb, 9 ast
Steve Nash (Pho): 22 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast
Shawn Marion (Pho): 21 pts, 9 reb
Tim Thomas 13 pts
Raja Bell: 11 pts

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GAME 6:  Suns 126 - Lakers 118 OT

Suns at full speed.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 50: Bryant 11: Odom 9: Odom
Phoenix 32: Nash 12: Marion 13: Nash
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Tot
LAL 37 20 28 20 13 118
Pho 30 30 28 17 21 126
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Kobe Bryant fouled by Raja Bell)
click for pictures

STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. - 5/4: Phoenix showed what they can do if you let them run. They seem to have finally found the style and the shooting touch they had lost in the first 4 games of this series.

Despite a terrific performance from Kobe Bryant the Suns won the game 126-118 in overtime to force a decisive game 7.

Kobe scored 50 points and put the Lakers in a winning situation with a 3-pointer and a layup that made the score 105-102 with just 29 seconds to go. Nash missed a 3-pointer but Marion got the rebound and Tim Thomas tied it with his own 3-pointer. Kobe had a final chance to win the game in regulation but Marion got to touch the ball and it fell short of the basket as time ran out. Then Phoenix was unstoppable and outscored the Lakers 21-13 in overtime. Kobe scored 12 of the Lakers 13 points in the extra time.

The Lakers tried to match Phoenix rhythm and even won the first quarter 37-30, but by now it is clear that's not the best strategy in this series because the best running-team in the NBA is Phoenix and the Lakers committed 20 turnovers trying to keep their pace.

Raja Bell, the defender assigned to Bryant was suspended for this game because of an awful foul he committed in game 5 but Steve Nash was at his best and led his team with 32 points and 13 assists. Odom almost had a triple double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists for the Lakers.

Now everything is like in the beginning but the series has been reduced to one game and the Suns have the home-court advantage.

The Quotes

Phil Jackson (LA Coach): "For them, terrific comeback for them. For us, it's a monumental upset... That's their style, we're going to have to do a better job of our style on Saturday. They definitely got things going and they're playing with momentum."
Kobe Bryant (LA): "We were one rebound away from victory," Bryant said. "We just weren't able to secure that ball... We'll be fine. It's going to be a hostile environment. Looking forward to it. Let's get it on."
Steve Nash (Suns): "People had counted us out before the series, people had counted us out during the series. We were down pretty deep and we're back in it"

Highlights

L.A. Lakers Phoenix Suns
Kobe Bryant: 50 pts, 8 reb, 5 ast, 3 st
Lamar Odom: 22 pts, 11 reb, 9 ast
Kwame Brown: 17 pts, 9 reb
Devean George: 14 pts, 2 reb
Luke Walton: 10 pts, 5 reb
Steve Nash: 32 pts, 13 ast
Tim Thomas: 21 pts, 10 reb
L. Barbosa: 22 pts, 2st
S. Marion: 20 pts, 12 reb, 4 ast, 4 st
Boris Diaw: 19 pts, 7 ast

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GAME 7:  Suns 121 - Lakers 90

The old Suns and the old Lakers.

Leaders: points rebounds assists
Lakers 24: Bryant 6: Vujacic 4: Parker
Phoenix 26: Barbosa 10: Marion 9: Nash
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
LAL 15 30 20 25 90
Pho 32 28 30 31 121
click for Lakers Playoff pictures (LA Daily News), (Kobe Bryant)
click for pictures

STAPLES CENTER - LOS ANGELES. - 5/7: The Suns didn't give the Lakers a chance in game 7 and crushed them 121-90. Despite having taken control of the series with a 3-1 lead, Phil Jackson's team had no reaction to the Suns recovery and lost 3 games in a row to be eliminated in the first round of the 2006 Playoffs.

In this game 7, like in the previous 2 losses, the Lakers couldn't repeat the good things they have done in the first 4 games, like taking advantage of the size difference and slowing down the Suns rhythm, and went back to the old bad habits of playing awful defense and depending exclusively on what Kobe Bryant could do.

So lost were the Lakers that Kobe Bryant made 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting in the first half and it wasn't enough, his team went to the break with a 15-point deficit, 60-45. Then Kobe realized he wasn't going to outscore Phoenix by himself and trying to involve his teammates took only 3 shots in the second half, made none and ended with 1 point in that half. It didn't work either, his teammates didn't show up and the Lakers lost the second half with an almost identical score 61-45.

These numbers reflect the tone of the game: the Lakers shot 35.2%, the Suns 61%. The Lakers shot 29.6% behind the 3-point line, the Suns 47.6%.

Luke Walton had 16 points. The other starters: Lamar Odom? 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting. Kwame Brown? 8 on 2-for-10. Smush Parker? 9 on 4-for-13. The Suns had 7 players with double digits in scoring with Leandro Barbosa contributing 26 from the bench.

Despite the bad ending, the Lakers gave a big step ahead in their rebuilding plans. They weren't hoping to win a championship this year, their goals were to make the playoffs and in Phil Jackson's words "make some noise" there. And they did make noise by putting the Suns, one of the NBA top teams, on the verge of elimination. The Lakers idea is still on foot: to grow this core of players (Bryant, Odom, Brown, Bynum) and in two years add it a big name to make it a championship team again.

The Quotes

Phil Jackson (LA Coach): "It's a shame we couldn't have given them a better game... We have to make some large decisions about who stays and who we build our team around". And about Kobe Bryant: "Did he score in the second half? I couldn't remember him scoring. Obviously the other guys had to come alive. I'm sure Kobe could have [mustered] up a 50-point game, but that wasn't going to put us in the ballgame. I trust his judgment in that ballgame."
Kobe Bryant (LA): " If we were going to get back in this type of a game, we had to have everybody contributing... They just have a lot of talent over there, 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 ."
Mike D'Antoni (Suns Coach): " 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."

Highlights

L.A. Lakers Phoenix Suns
Kobe Bryant: 24 pts, 4 reb
Luke Walton: 16 pts, 5 reb
Lamar Odom: 12 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast
Sasha Vujacic: 11 pts, 6 reb
Leandro Barbosa : 26 pts
Boris Diaw: 21 pts, 6 reb, 9 ast
Shawn Marion: 14 pts, 10 reb
Steve Nash: 13 pts, 6 reb, 9 ast

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