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NBA PLAYOFFS|LAKERS 99, PHOENIX 92

A New Team Song

Despite only 17 points from Bryant, the Lakers take a 2-1 series advantage when the rest of the starters chip in against the Suns.

April 29, 2006|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

It was a victory for Luke Walton.

And Kwame Brown.

And Smush Parker, who apparently knew what he was saying when he predicted last week who would take this series.

The Lakers showed they can win without a great game from Kobe Bryant, the supporting cast rising above the Phoenix Suns, 99-92, to take Game 3 on Friday at Staples Center.

The Lakers lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday at Staples.

Bryant had only 17 points on six-for-18 shooting, but Walton was there with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Brown was again a handful in the post with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Parker, looking slightly more omniscient with the Lakers holding a one-game lead, had a team-high 18 points.

The Lakers curbed the Suns' small ball with brawl ball, pushing and shoving their way to victory. They stood strong through skirmishes, refusing to flinch, and clearly outmuscled the Suns with a 53-34 rebound advantage.

"I think they just wanted to make a stand," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said. "And make a statement."

So did "The Others," those on the Lakers beyond Bryant and Lamar Odom (15 points, 17 rebounds).

Bryant, his outside shot not falling, became a distributor, handing out seven assists and keeping the offense in flow.

It was close to the end, a Leandro Barbosa layup bringing the Suns within 92-90 with 3:28 to play.

But Walton took the rebound off an Odom miss and scored on a layup. On the next Laker possession, Parker made a reverse layup off a Walton feed for a 96-90 lead with 2:21 to play.

Walton to Parker for a late key basket. Who knew?

"Kobe and Lamar keep drawing all these double teams, and they make it easy and fun for the rest of us," Walton said. "We all had a great time out there."

The Suns stalled again, falling well under their season average of 108.4 points despite pleas from their coach to "get back to Phoenix Suns basketball."

Steve Nash had 17 points and 11 assists, and Shawn Marion had 20 points, although he missed 11 of 19 shots.

The Lakers held the Suns to 78 shots, nine below their regular-season average and 16 fewer than the Lakers took Friday.

"They are playing the best they have all year," Sun Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "The last month, they have been a different team. Everyone is stepping up for them. Kobe is sticking with the game plan and getting everyone else involved."

The night wasn't a scoring bonanza for Bryant, who had only eight points through three quarters. It disturbed neither him nor Jackson.

"There are times and moments, and there will be more probably in this playoffs before it's over, where he's going to do the offensive work," Jackson said. "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."

Said Bryant: "We're just playing so well together."

The game was physical and unrefined, a style the Lakers had not subscribed to throughout the season. It took all of 53 seconds for the tension of the series to show itself.

Walton was called for a flagrant foul after belting Tim Thomas, who glowered at a fallen Walton under the basket. Sun center Boris Diaw then headed toward Walton and shoved Parker, earning a technical foul.

The pushes, shoves and eight points from Walton helped move the Lakers to a 31-27 lead after the first quarter.

Later, Brown and Diaw tangled during a loose ball, with Diaw getting knocked over and Brown standing over him. Bryant and Nash had words for the second time in as many games after Nash tried to push Bryant away from a group of players.

"It is a physical game, and especially in the playoffs, it steps up to another degree," Bryant said. "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."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Balance ball

All five Laker starters were in double figures in scoring:

*--* Player FG-A Pts Smush Parker 9-16 18 Kobe Bryant 6-18 17 Luke Walton 8-19 17 Lamar Odom 5-14 15 Kwame Brown 5-8 13

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