Kobe contained long enough in 4th for Suns to win
Kobe Bryant’s slow start didn’t hurt the Los Angeles Lakers. A
quiet fourth quarter definitely did.
Bryant had 38 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds Tuesday
night, but the Phoenix Suns contained him long enough in the final
period to pull away for a 115-106 victory that evened the Western
Conference finals at two games apiece.
After a scoreless first quarter, Bryant had 15 points in the
second and 16 more in the third. But he managed only seven in the
final 12 minutes, none until 2:37 remained in the game. By then,
the Lakers were down 103-95 and heading home tied in a series they
were dominating through two games.
“He was carrying us offensively, and then in the second half
they started sending two guys on him even when they were in the
zone,” teammate Pau Gasol said.
The Lakers’ offense didn’t go through Bryant early in the fourth
– there were back-to-back possessions where he didn’t touch the
ball – and he attempted only four shots in the quarter.
But Bryant was adamant after the game that wasn’t the reason his
“We lost the game because our defense sucked,” said a clearly
upset and irritated Bryant.
The Lakers left the Suns open consistently in the second
quarter, and the league’s best 3-point shooting team hit seven 3s
in the period, six coming from bench players. Playing with all
reserves, Phoenix built a 10-point lead midway through the quarter
after ending the first period tied at 23.
Bryant didn’t score until 8:20 remained in the second, but still
had his third 30-point game of this series. He matched his career
playoff high with six 3-pointers while shooting over Phoenix’s zone
Three of his 3s came during the second, when Phoenix’s lead
reached 10. The Suns took a 64-55 advantage into halftime.
“I was more aggressive in the second quarter,” Bryant said.
“I felt the game slipping away. I kind of got going, made some
shots, kept going.
“But that has nothing to do with us getting to the next round.
Offensively we scored enough points. We need to do a better job
Bryant helped wipe out the nine-point deficit with his big third
quarter, tying it at 81 with 2:20 to play with his final 3.
Considered the best closer in the NBA, he seemed poised to push the
Suns to the brink of elimination.
Instead, the final quarter belonged to the Phoenix reserves, who
pushed the lead to as many as 13.
“That last run it was impossible for us to get back,” Gasol
Bryant had three buckets in the closing minutes, but they were
too late, as Los Angeles couldn’t get closer than six.