Tuesday , Apr , 24 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Lakers try to even first-round series with Suns

(Sports Network) – The second-seeded Phoenix Suns and the No. 7 Los Angeles
Lakers continue their first-round playoff series tonight at the US Airways
Center.

In the series opener, 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, on Sunday 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.

Reigning MVP Steve Nash had a solid all-around game with 20 points and 10
assists for Phoenix, while Shawn Marion contributed 16 points and 16 rebounds
in the victory.

Superstar Kobe Bryant poured in 39 points on 15-of-33 shooting from the field
for the Lakers. Bryant had a tremendous first half with 28 points. Lamar Odom
finished with 17 points and 16 boards for Los Angeles.

Game 3 of this best-of-seven series is scheduled to be played on Thursday at
the Staples Center.

Phoenix has dropped five straight Game 2s in the postseason, while the Lakers
have won two in a row.

There is a lot of playoff history between the Lakers and Suns, as these teams
have met 10 times in the postseason. The Lakers have won seven of the 10
series, while the clubs have split four meetings in first round.

The Lakers knocked out the Suns in the opening round of the playoffs in 1970
and 1985, while Phoenix eliminated LA in 1993 and 2006. The Lakers won
semifinal series over the Suns in 1980, 1982 and 2000 and conference final
sets in 1984 and 1989.

Besides their first round wins over LA in 1993 and 2006, the Suns also
picked up a playoff series win over the Lakers in the 1990 conference
semifinals.

Last season, the Lakers blew a 3-1 lead in the first round against Phoenix.
They fell in seven contests and were eliminated in the opening round for the
first time since 1996, when they lost in four games, 3-1, to the Houston
Rockets.

The Suns, who won their third straight Pacific Division title during the
regular season, have been eliminated in the Western Conference finals two
consecutive years. Phoenix lost in six games to the San Antonio Spurs in 2005,
and fell in six last year to the Dallas Mavericks.

The last time the Suns were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs was
in 2002-03, when they lost to San Antonio in six games, 4-2.

Bryant has made his second trip to the postseason without All-Star center
Shaquille O’Neal, who was traded to Miami in July 2004, by his side. A nine-
time All-Star, Bryant is still trying to prove that he can carry a team solo
in the postseason.

The 28-year-old Bryant won three championships with O’Neal and head
coach Phil Jackson (1999, 2000, 2001). Jackson has won nine championship rings
as a coach. He led the Lakers to three titles in his first four years in LA,
and guided the Chicago Bulls to six championships.

LAL PHO