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Lakers beat Suns to set up rematch with Celtics

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tophe

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PHOENIX (AP)—[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] is again showing the world what postseason greatness
can be.
Bryant and his [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] are in the NBA finals for the third
straight season after he wrapped up a magnificent Western Conference finals with
a 37-point performance in a series-clinching 111-103 victory over the Phoenix
Suns
on Saturday night.


“Kobe’s so good, ” teammate [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] said, “he makes incredible normal
for us.”
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] added 25 points as the Lakers held off a late Phoenix rally to
win the series 4-2.
The Lakers and Celtics, the NBA’s premier teams for much of the league’s
history, will meet in the finals for the 12th time with Game 1 Thursday night in
Los Angeles. They are the NBA champions each of the last two years—Boston beat
the Lakers two years ago, and Los Angeles topped Orlando last season.
“We’ll see how much we matured,” Bryant said. “They challenged us
extremely well in the finals a couple years ago. Now is a chance to see how much
we’ve grown.”
Bryant scored nine points in the final 2 minutes, including what looked like
an impossible 23-footer with [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] in his face and 34 seconds to play. The
basket put Los Angeles up 107-100 and the scrappy Suns were finished.
“Those aren’t shooters shots, they’re scorers shots,” Phoenix’s [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
said. “Those are best-player-in-the-game type shots.”
Bryant will be in his seventh NBA finals in search of his fifth championship
— five more than regular season MVP [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], who can only sit and watch.
Amare Stoudemire, in what may have been his last game with the Suns, scored
27 points but struggled to a 7-of-20 shooting night. He can opt out of the final
year of his contract and has said chances are “50-50” that he will play
elsewhere next season.
“I’m not sure what the future holds right now,” he said, “so I’m just
going to take a couple of days, enjoy the family and enjoy the rest and start
figuring out the next move.”
Nash, who had promised his team would win Game 6 after its near-miss in Game
5, added 21 points and nine assists in his 118th playoff game, the most for
anyone who has never reached the finals. The 36-year-old point guard praised his
team, which at the season’s start was expected to be fortunate to even make the
playoffs.
“You might say we overachieved,” he said, “but we’re a good team.”
Bryant, with his 10th 30-point performance in his last 11 postseason games,
moved ahead of Jerry West and into a tie with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for
second-most 30-point playoff games at 75. He has a ways to go for the record of
109 held by Michael Jordan.
Bryant also extended his NBA record to eight straight 30-point closeout
games on the road.
“I always thought he was the best player in basketball,” Phoenix coach
Alvin Gentry said.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson will be in search of his 11th NBA championship,
fifth with the Lakers.
“Kobe was the man tonight,” he said.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Suns, who have reached
the finals only twice in their history and never have won a championship. Goran
Dragic
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] scored 10 of his 12 points in a fourth-quarter rally that got Phoenix
within three points.
The Lakers led by as many as 18 late in the second quarter and were up by 17
entering the fourth. But four Suns reserves plus Stoudemire got the Suns back
into it after Los Angeles took a 91-74 lead into the fourth quarter.
“With a 3-point shooting team like Phoenix,” Jackson said, “you know that
any lead is not impossible.”
With Bryant on the bench for a brief rest, Dragic scored the first eight
points of the fourth quarter to slice Los Angeles’ lead to 91-82 with 10:27
left.
The Lakers’ [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] drew a flagrant foul for an elbow to the face of
his fellow Slovenian with 11:18 to play. Dragic made both free throws, then blew
by Vujacic for a layup to cut it to 91-80 with 11:12 left. Dragic drove for
another layup the next time as Bryant made a hasty return to the court.
Gentry stayed with the lineup, and the run reached 16-4 on Stoudemire’s
layup after a slick pass from Dragic under the basket to cut it to 95-90 with
6:09.
Nash and [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] finally re-entered the game with 3:26 to play and
Los Angeles leading 99-92. Stoudemire made two free throws, then Nash cut it to
99-96 on a layup with 2:19 left.
Bryant sank a 21-footer, Odom stole Nash’s pass and Bryant made two free
throws to stretch it to 103-96 with 1:43 to go. Four straight points by
Stoudemire cut it to 100-95 with 53.1 seconds left, but Bryant responded with
his dagger over Hill and the surprising playoff run of the undersized,
overmatched Suns was over.
“I just got a little separation,” Bryant said, smiling.
Los Angeles outscored the Suns 23-10 over the last eight minutes of the
second half to lead 65-53 at the break. After Nash threw up an air ball in the
half’s waning seconds, Bryant sank a 3-pointer with 12.9 seconds left to give
the Lakers the 12-point lead, their largest of the half, to the cheers of the
surprisingly large and loud contingent of Los Angeles fans in the otherwise
all-orange crowd.
Phoenix cut the lead to single digits only once in the third quarter, 74-65
on Stoudemire’s two free throws with 5:38 left. The Lakers responded with an
11-2 run, Artest’s layup in traffic making it 85-67 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in
the quarter.
Los Angeles led 91-74 entering the fourth.
NOTES: Los Angeles snapped the Suns’ six-game home playoff winning streak.
… The Lakers have closed out a series in their first try eight of the last
nine times. … Stoudemire’s mother Carrie handed out orange bandages to fans to
match the one her son wore over the cut on his forehead.



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faith:)

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jetjet

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