Sunday , Apr , 16 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Bryant leads Lakers to playoffs with win over Suns

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant poured in 43 points, eight
rebounds and five assists as the Lakers clinched a playoff spot by beating the
Phoenix Suns, 109-89, at the Staples Center.

Lamar Odom fell just short of a third consecutive triple-double with 14
points, 11 boards and seven assists for the Lakers, who have won four straight
and 10 of their last 13 games. Smush Parker netted 12 and also grabbed eight
rebounds in the victory.

Los Angeles has a three game lead with a contest in hand over the Sacramento
Kings, who play New Orleans/Oklahoma City, for the seventh spot in the
Western Conference. The Lakers are returning to the playoffs following a one
-year absence.

Shawn Marion totaled 29 points and seven boards while Boris Diaw recorded a
triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for the Suns, who
were playing without reigning MVP Steve Nash (right thigh contusion) and Raja
Bell (left thigh strain).

Leandro Barbosa added 16 points in the loss, Phoenix’s second in a row and
fifth in its last eight attempts.

The Lakers had the hot shooting hands early and hit seven of their first 10
shots and led 16-1. Bryant scored the first seven points and Los Angeles led
35-22 after 12 minutes of play and never looked back.

The Suns missed their first seven shots from the field and connected on just
6-of-20 in the second period. Diaw’s jumper was the first field goal at the
5:46 mark of the stanza and made the score 48-26.

Bryant drained 10-of-12 from the charity stripe and posted 27 points to lead
the Lakers to a commanding 62-41 margin at the half.

Parker’s slam dunk extended the lead to 71-46, but Phoenix responded with a
24-12 run, capped by a pair of Eddie House jumpers, to close the third quarter
within 13, 83-70. Barbosa’s trey began the rally and he continued with six of
the next eight Suns points to cut the deficit to 74-57.

Barbosa’s jumper a little more than a minute into the final frame cut the lead
to 11, 85-74, but that was as close as Phoenix would get. Los Angeles put the
game away with a 16-8 surge, including six points from Bryant, to push the
score to 101-82 with just under four minutes to play.

Game Notes

Phoenix will play New Orleans/Oklahoma City on Monday before closing out the
season at Portland on Wednesday. The Lakers host New Orleans/Oklahoma City on
Wednesday for its regular season finale…The Suns had won seven straight
meetings, including the last four at Los Angeles…Bryant has scored 40 or
more in 27 games this season.