Reporting from Phoenix
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers started out strong in the first quarter of Game 3, scoring at will, executing the offense, putting the Phoenix Suns on notice in the Western Conference finals.
Then things began to change in the second quarter, the Lakers not quite in sync, the Suns now taking control.
The Lakers lost their mojo and never got it back, losing 118-109, to the Suns on Sunday night at US Airways Center.
The Lakers still lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1. Game 4 is here Tuesday night.
"I thought we made a good run at the end of the first quarter, [but had a] poor second quarter," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "Really poor second quarter."
The Lakers led 32-29 after the first quarter.
They shot 57.7% from the field.
Bryant had 15 points on seven-for-nine shooting.
"If they let me, I would have went for 60 [points]," Bryant said. "Because I'm taking what they gave me. If they're playing me straight up, I got shots, I'm going to take them. If I have lanes, I'm going to take them. If they close it down, I'm going to make the right pass."
The Lakers were outscored 25-15 in the second quarter.
The Lakers outscored the Suns in the third, 37-32.
But the Lakers were outscored 32-25 in the fourth.
That's how back-and-forth the Lakers played in this game.
"[We] got back on track in the third quarter and got the lead back," Jackson said. "[We] just didn't finish the game the right way."
The Lakers didn't play very good defense in the fourth, allowing the Suns to make 55.6% of their shots.
Amare Stoudemire had 42 points, which tied his playoff career high. He had 13 points in the decisive fourth quarter.
Bryant finished with 36 points on 13-for-24 shooting.
He also had 11 assists and nine rebounds.
"Offensively, we adjusted OK," Bryant said. "Defense, we couldn't get stops when we needed to. They stepped up [and] made big plays. So you just have to tip your hats to them for that."
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