Originally created 05/01/06

Kobe's buzzer beater lifts Lakers

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers may no longer be a one-man team, but they know where to go with the ball when the game is on the line.

Kobe Bryant's 17-foot jumper as time expired in overtime gave the Lakers an improbable 99-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday and a 3-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.

The Lakers, who have won the last three games, can win the best-of-seven series Tuesday night in Phoenix. A sixth game, if necessary, would be played Thursday night at Staples Center.

The Suns appeared to have the game won late in the fourth quarter and again in overtime, but the Lakers took advantage of two critical mistakes by Phoenix star Steve Nash.

Nash made a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left in overtime to give the Suns a 98-95 lead. Bryant's layup with 11.7 seconds to go drew the Lakers within one point, and Luke Walton tied Nash up with 6.1 seconds remaining.

Walton won the tip, with Bryant chasing the ball down near the scorer's table and then dribbling to the right corner of the key, where his ninth field goal in 14 tries swished through cleanly.

The Lakers then mobbed their superstar, who has become more of a facilitator than a scorer during this series, with his output dropping more than 12 points from his 35.4-point average during the regular season.

Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Bryant had 24 points and eight assists, Kwame Brown added 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Devean George scored 11.

Nash led the Suns with 22 points and 11 assists, but scored only six after halftime. Boris Diaw had 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Shawn Marion had 20 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 2:37 left in the fourth quarter, and Tim Thomas scored 12 points.

The Lakers forced overtime on Bryant's fast-break basket with 0.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, tying the game at 90. The play was made possible when Smush Parker poked the ball away from Nash.

Phoenix's James Jones then failed to score after taking a lob pass near the Lakers' basket as the fourth period ended.

The Suns took what appeared to be a safe 90-85 lead on Diaw's foul shot with 12.6 seconds remaining, but Parker made a 3-pointer with 7.9 seconds left to draw the Lakers within two. He was 1-of-10 from the field before that.

Phoenix then called a timeout, and Parker made his big steal from Nash shortly after the Suns inbounded the ball in their frontcourt.

Two free throws by Diaw and baskets by Jones and Marion put Phoenix ahead 81-73 with 5:43 remaining. With an eight-point lead and Bryant playing with five fouls, the Suns appeared to be in good shape.

Things looked even better after Thomas' 3-pointer with 41 seconds to play and Diaw's foul shot. But the Suns couldn't hold on in the fourth period and again in overtime.

Marion scored 10 points during a 12-2 run to finish the third quarter and begin the fourth, giving the Suns a 71-64 lead with 10½ minutes left. The Lakers didn't take the lead after that until Bryant's game-winning shot.

Bryant played only 9½ minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, but Phoenix failed to take advantage. The game was tied 41-all at halftime, with Nash shooting 7-of-11 and scoring 16 points while his teammates were just 9-of-30.

Bryant shot 4-of-4 for eight points in the opening 7½ minutes before picking up his second foul. He got his third just 52 seconds into the second period.

Notes: The Lakers have won 12 of their last 13 home games.... Suns coach Mike D'Antoni realizes that without Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas, his team is at a distinct size disadvantage. "Our two best rebounders are in street clothes," he said. "We're not going to get any better on the boards. If we play to our strength, we'll win." The Lakers outrebounded the Suns 42-41 in Game 4 after outrebounding them 53-34 in Game 3.... No team coached by the Lakers' Phil Jackson has ever lost a series when leading 2-1, going 22-0 in such situations.... Marion got his first double-double of the series. He was third in the NBA with 60 during the regular season... Lakers C Chris Mihm was on the inactive list because of his sprained right ankle. He missed 17 of the final 18 games of the regular season and hasn't played in this series.


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