Reporting from Phoenix -- Amare Stoudemire eased his 6-foot-10, 249-pound frame into a chair, the look of style with a pair of black-rim eye glasses on and the look of a combatant wearing an adhesive bandage above the bridge of his nose, covering a cut.
Stoudemire had come under criticism because of his uneven play for the Phoenix Suns in the first two games of the Western Conference finals, because of his poor rebounding and because of his comments about Lamar Odom of the Lakers.
But Stoudemire claimed that wasn't his motivation for chopping down the Lakers in Game 3 on Sunday night at US Airways Center.
Stoudemire maintained he scored 42 points against the Lakers, which tied his playoff career high, and collected 11 rebounds because the Suns needed him to be dominant.
Because he was, the Suns defeated the Lakers, 118-109, cutting Phoenix's deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series that resumes here Tuesday night.
"I think the most motivation from tonight's game was the fact that we were down 0-2 and it was a must-win situation for us," Stoudemire said. "Even if I wouldn't have never gotten criticized, I would have had the same motivation and the same determination.
"Sometimes they are going to cheer you when you are up. Then when you are down, they are going to try to bury you. So I put that aside and keep the faith from the most high."
He entered the game averaging 4.5 rebounds. He had grabbed only nine rebounds. When Odom had 19 points and 19 rebounds in Game 1, Stoudemire said Odom was "lucky."
In the third game, Stoudemire let his play talk for him.
He was 14 for 22 from the field and 14 for 18 from the free-throw line, and blocked a shot in playing nearly 42 minutes.
"I just wanted to dominate, to be honest with you," Stoudemire said. "I wanted to come out and dominate and see if we could get it going."
The Suns saw a different Stoudemire in practice and in the game.
Center Robin Lopez followed Stoudemire's lead by scoring a playoff career-high 20 points.
Steve Nash, who suffered a broken nose in the fourth quarter after a collision with Derek Fisher, had 17 points and 15 assists.
The Lakers saw a different Stoudemire in the game, someone they were unable to contain.
"What did you think was going to happen?" Kobe Bryant said. "He's a great player. He had a couple of tough games."
"Everybody criticized him, but he took it as a personal challenge and he came out and attacked us," Andrew Bynum said. "And we weren't ready for it."
Stoudemire scored 13 points in the fourth quarter doing it the same way he did all game, driving to the baskets, drawing fouls, making jumpers, being a force the Lakers couldn't stop.
"It definitely felt great to take over a game, for sure," Stoudemire said. "The most important factor is that we won. It feels great to get a win. We're back in the series now."
Buy Lakers playoff tickets here
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.