Sunday , Apr , 22 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Barbosa helps Suns rally past Lakers in Game 1

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – Leandro Barbosa came off the bench and erupted
for 26 points to match his career playoff high and lead the Suns past the
Lakers, 95-87, in the opener of the Western Conference quarterfinals at US
Airways Center.

Amare Stoudemire, who missed last year’s postseason due to injury, added 23
points and 12 rebounds for the Suns, who trailed by nine points at halftime
and outscored the Lakers 21-10 in the final quarter.

Steve Nash had a solid all-around game with 20 points and 10 assists for
Phoenix, which won its third straight Pacific Division crown during the
regular season.

“I felt really good out there,” said Barbosa, who scored 19 of his 26 points
in the second half. “We needed to have a big second half and we did. The
coaches have a lot of confidence in me to go out there and get things done and
that is all I try to do.”

Shawn Marion contributed 16 points and 16 rebounds in the victory.

Kobe Bryant poured in 39 points on 15-of-33 shooting from the field for
the Lakers, who will look to even the series on Tuesday in Game 2. Bryant had
a tremendous first half with 28 points, but struggled the remainder of the
contest netting just 11.

“It came down to a lack of execution,” said Bryant. “If we would have executed
like we did in the first half, we would have won the game. We did play well
though and we can take that into the next game.”

Lamar Odom had 17 points and 16 boards for Los Angeles, which blew a 3-1 lead
in the first round of the playoffs against Phoenix last season.

“We lost the ball game, but we do know that we can play against this
basketball team,” said Lakers’ head coach Phil Jackson.

Trailing nine points at the break, the Suns outscored the Lakers by six points
in the third quarter to trail 77-74 heading into the final frame.

Barbosa netted the first five points of the fourth quarter as Phoenix moved in
front 79-77.

The score remained close until the Suns scored five straight points, including
a three-point play from Marion, to make it 87-81 with just under 6 1/2 minutes
remaining.

Phoenix continued to run in front and went up 91-83 with 3 1/2 minutes to play
after Barbosa scooped in two points on a driving layup and Stoudemire slammed
home two after a nifty feed from Barbosa, who was falling to the floor on the
play.

The Lakers cut their deficit to 91-87 after Luke Walton and Bryant hit back-
to-back shots with 1:42 left to play.

Los Angeles was unable to pull any closer as Stoudemire hit a jumper with 1:29
to go, and after Bryant missed a three-pointer, Nash hit two from the charity
stripe to seal the victory for the Suns.

“It was a good performance for us defensively down the stretch,” said Nash.
“It is important for us to play with more intensity for the entire game
though.”

Behind 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field by Bryant, the Lakers led
23-18 after the opening quarter.

After scoring the first six points of the second stanza, Los Angeles went up
29-18.

The Suns battled back and evened the score at 37-37 with about three minutes
left in the first half after rattling off a 14-2 run. Marion scored five
straight points during the stretch and Nash capped the surge with a three-
pointer.

The Lakers moved back in front and went into the break with a 48-39 advantage
after ending the second quarter on an 11-2 run. Bryant, who had 28 points in
the first half, netted all 11 points during the run.

Marion paced the Suns with 10 points at halftime.

Game Notes

These teams have met 10 times in the postseason with the Lakers winning seven
of the 10 series, while the clubs have split four meetings in first
round…Phoenix scored 21 points off the fast break while Los Angeles had just
five…The Lakers are just 2-8 in their last 10 road playoff games.

LAL PHO