Another big comeback attempt by Suns falls short
Another furious rally fell short and now the Phoenix Suns are done.
Just as they did in Game 5, Kobe Bryant and Co. fended off the Suns - though without the last-second heroics this time - and eliminated Phoenix with a 111-103 victory in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.
The Suns trailed by 18 in the second half and 17 going into the final quarter. An offensive outburst by Goran Dragic and strong play by Amare Stoudemire in the fourth helped Phoenix pull to within three with just over two minutes to play, but unlike Thursday, the Suns unable to pull even.
``The key again was that we found ourselves in a big hole, too big a hole the last two games,'' Nash said.
Ron Artest's putback at the buzzer did in Phoenix in Game 5, but the Suns' play in the second and third quarters was mostly to blame for this loss.
After putting up 34 points in the first quarter, Phoenix scored only 40 in the next two combined.
The Suns shot 38.9 percent and scored a series-low 19 in the second as their deficit grew from three to 12.
Phoenix trailed by at least nine the entire third, the Lakers' lead ballooned to 18 on Artest's hook shot with 2:24 left in the quarter and Los Angeles looked like it finally solved the zone.
``Give them credit. They figured it out,'' Grant Hill said.
The Suns' bench, fueled by eight straight points from Dragic to start the fourth, and Stoudemire brought Phoenix back. Dragic hit a jumper to start the quarter then appeared to exchange a few words with fellow Slovenian Sasha Vujacic.
Dragic said afterward he was talking to himself, but Vujacic responded with a bicep to Dragic's chin. The play brought the Suns and their home crowd to life.
``The crowd was getting into it and helping us a lot,'' Dragic said. ``We play so emotional, ... and after that we just played our basketball. We defend and got the ball and just play run-and-gun basketball.''
The move also resulted in a flagrant foul and drew the ire of coach Phil Jackson and Vujacic's teammates.
Bryant said right after the game he was going to kill Vujacic. Later in the postgame press conference, Bryant added, ``He's still breathing.''
Dragic scored the next six points and Stoudemire, playing in perhaps his final game as a Sun, added 12 of his team-high 27 in the final eight minutes.
The Suns and their fans started to dream of a Game 7 when Nash blew by Derek Fisher with a crossover drive, cutting the lead to 99-96 with 2:19 to play.
``Everybody started to believe that we were going to win that game,'' Dragic said.
Bryant, though, squashed Phoenix's hopes by scoring nine points - including two tough jumpers with the defense in his face - down the stretch.
``Those are scorer's, best-player-in-the-game type shots,'' Nash.