Tue, May 02, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Bryant becomes Mr. Clutch in LA


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 on Tuesday night in Phoenix. A sixth game, if necessary, would be played on 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.

Wizards 106, Cavaliers 96

At Washington, With LeBron James suddenly, stunningly, quiet after a tremendous first half, Gilbert Arenas scored 20 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Wizards' comeback and tie the first-round series at 2-2.

As dominant as James was early, setting franchise playoff records for points in a quarter (18) and half (25), he was nowhere to be found at times in the second half. He took only three shots in the third quarter, missed all, and wound up with 38 points.

And, in a perfect mirror image, Arenas made up for his 1-for-9, six-point first half in a big way down the stretch.

Antawn Jamison had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Caron Butler added 21 points -- 14 in the second half -- and some tough defense on James for Washington.

Bulls 93, Heat 87

At Chicago, Kirk Hinrich scored 21 points and hit a key 3-pointer with 1:09 left to lead the Bulls past Miami, evening the series 2-2.

With Shaquille O'Neal in foul trouble for much of the game, the Bulls built a 13-point lead in the third quarter, only to fall behind in the fourth before pulling the game out. Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday in Miami.

Andres Nocioni led the Bulls with 24 points, and Ben Gordon had 23.

Kings 102, Spurs 84

At Sacramento, California, Bonzi Wells had 25 points and 17 rebounds, Brad Miller added 19 points and the eighth-seeded Kings rolled through the second half of their second straight home victory.

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