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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lakers scorch Suns, 124-112

 •  Pierce picks up offense

By Greg Beacham
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, and forward Pau Gasol celebrate their 124-112 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Gasol scored a game-high 29 points, and Bryant contributed 21 points and 13 assists to carry Los Angeles.

CHRIS CARLSON | Associated Press

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LOS ANGELES — Whenever the Suns sent two defenders at Kobe Bryant, he coolly passed to an open teammate. When Phoenix loaded up down low against Pau Gasol, the Lakers picked them apart from the perimeter.

Los Angeles' triangle offense has the Suns running in circles after two terrific performances in the Western Conference finals — and the defending champions' fans just couldn't help looking ahead to a possible grand finale against Boston.

Gasol scored 14 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, Bryant had 21 points and 13 assists, and the Lakers roared away in the final minutes for a 124-112 victory last night to claim a series lead that seems much more daunting than 2-0.

Although the Lakers took no bows after hitting better than 57 percent of their shots and scoring a jaw-dropping 252 points in the series' first two games, it's clear Bryant and Gasol are leading a clinic in offensive hoops against one of the NBA's highest-scoring teams.

"We're shooting the ball very well, moving the ball really, really well," Gasol said. "Our bench is playing at a high level, and we're all stepping up."

After Bryant scored 40 points in 35 minutes in the series opener, the Suns tried to double-team him more regularly in Game 2 — so last season's NBA finals MVP racked up the most assists by a Lakers player in a postseason game since Magic Johnson in 1996.

Bryant's streak of six straight 30-point games ended, yet he capped his night as a creator by setting up Gasol for two tough baskets in the final minutes, with Gasol scoring with a flourish and drawing a foul each time.

"It makes the game a lot easier to have (Gasol) inside to catch and complete plays," Bryant said. "We're extremely well-versed in playing against teams that double and zone, things like that."

Ron Artest scored 18 points for the Lakers, who won their eighth straight playoff game and moved within striking distance of a tantalizing NBA finals showdown with the Boston Celtics, who lead Orlando 2-0 in the East. For the second straight game, the chants rained down from the Staples Center crowd in the final minutes: "We want Boston!"

The Lakers remained unbeaten at home in the postseason despite a much-improved effort from the Suns, who lost the opener by 21 points. Phoenix tied it at 90-all heading to the final period last night, but Gasol and Bryant flawlessly led the Lakers to another high-scoring victory, handing third-seeded Phoenix its first back-to-back losses since late January.

"It's really tough because we have so many guys on this team that can hurt you offensively," said Laker Lamar Odom, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. "When we get four or five guys going offensively, it seems like our defense steps up. We do a great job of using our quickness, cutting guys off and making it hard for teams as well as putting that offensive pressure on them."

Game 3 is Sunday night in Phoenix. But unless the Suns figure out a way to stop Los Angeles' versatile, poised offense, Beantown and Hollywood could be just a few days away from another chapter in their storied rivalry.

"We can't slow them down," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. "I thought we played well offensively, but every time we tried to make an adjustment to slow them down offensively, they would go somewhere else. There's a good reason they're the world champs, but we'll keep plugging away, keep trying."

Jason Richardson scored 27 points, Grant Hill added 23 points, Steve Nash contributed 11 points and 15 assists, and Amare Stoudemire had 18 points and six rebounds for Phoenix.

Hill scored 14 points in the third quarter while the Suns erased a 14-point deficit, playing with more efficiency and aggression than in Game 1. But the Lakers went back ahead by 11 midway through the fourth with a 9-0 run, and the Suns couldn't stop Bryant and Gasol from executing their two-man game to perfection.

"I was being effective and just finishing plays," Gasol said. "We just continued to go to it because it was working pretty well for us."

PHOENIX 24 32 34 22—112

L.A. LAKERS 36 29 25 34—124

PHOENIX—Hill 10-17 3-3 23, Stoudemire 7-14 4-7 18, Lopez 2-4 3-3 7, Nash 4-8 2-2 11, Richardson 10-17 4-4 27, Frye 0-5 0-0 0, Dudley 5-6 0-0 15, Amundson 1-2 3-5 5, Barbosa 1-4 0-0 3, Dragic 1-6 1-2 3. Totals 41-83 20-26 112.

L.A. LAKERS—Artest 6-9 3-4 18, Gasol 11-19 7-10 29, Bynum 5-5 3-4 13, Fisher 2-8 2-4 7, Bryant 8-18 4-4 21, Odom 7-10 3-4 17, Farmar 4-5 0-0 11, Brown 2-4 3-4 8. Totals 45-78 25-34 124.

3-Point Goals—Phoenix 10-24 (Dudley 5-5, Richardson 3-7, Barbosa 1-2, Nash 1-3, Stoudemire 0-1, Dragic 0-2, Hill 0-2, Frye 0-2), L.A. Lakers 9-16 (Farmar 3-3, Artest 3-6, Brown 1-1, Bryant 1-3, Fisher 1-3). Fouled Out—Dudley. Rebounds—Phoenix 45 (Stoudemire, Lopez 6), L.A. Lakers 45 (Odom 11). Assists—Phoenix 29 (Nash 15), L.A. Lakers 32 (Bryant 13). Total Fouls—Phoenix 26, L.A. Lakers 23. Technicals—L.A. Lakers defensive three second. A—18,997 (18,997).


All times Hawai'i


Sunday, May 16

Boston 92, Orlando 88

Monday, May 17

L.A. Lakers 128, Phoenix 107

Tuesday, May 18

Boston 95, Orlando 92

Boston leads series 2-0


L.A. Lakers 124, Phoenix 112

L.A. Lakers lead series 2-0

Saturday, May 22

Orlando at Boston, 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 23

L.A. Lakers at Phoenix, 2:30 p.m.

Monday, May 24

Orlando at Boston, 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 25

L.A. Lakers at Phoenix, 3 p.m.

Wednesday, May 26

x-Boston at Orlando, 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 27

x-Phoenix at L.A. Lakers, 3 p.m.

Friday, May 28

x-Orlando at Boston, 2:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 29

x-L.A. Lakers at Phoenix, 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 30

x-Boston at Orlando, 2:30 p.m.

Monday, May 31

x-Phoenix at L.A. Lakers, 3 p.m.

x-if necessary