Thursday , Apr , 26 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Desperate Lakers host Suns in Game 3 at Staples Center

(Sports Network) – The seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers try to earn a victory
in their first-round playoff series with the No. 2 Phoenix Suns, as the clubs
square off this evening at the Staples Center.

Phoenix picked up victories in Games 1 and 2 at US Airways Center. In the
series opener, Leandro Barbosa came off the bench and erupted for 26 points to
lead the Suns past the Lakers, 95-87, at US Airways Center.

In Game 2, Barbosa poured in 26 points as the Suns embarrassed the Lakers,
126-98 to take a 2-0 advantage in the series. Barbosa, who was awarded his
Sixth Man of the Year Award prior to the game, shot 11-of-18 from the floor
and 4-of-8 from three-point range, while Amare Stoudemire had 20 points, nine
rebounds and four blocks for Phoenix.

Stoudemire is averaging 21.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the first two games
of the series, while reigning MVP Steve Nash has posted 18.0 points and 12.0
assists per game. Shawn Marion has registered 17.0 points and 13.0 boards in
Games 1 and 2.

Superstar Kobe Bryant, who poured in 39 points in the opener, is averaging
27.0 points per game against Phoenix, while Lamar Odom has collected 13.5
points and 13.0 boards in the series.

Game 4 of this best-of-seven series is scheduled to be played on Sunday at
the Staples Center.

Phoenix has dropped three of its last four Game 3s in the postseason, while
the Lakers have won three of their last four Game 3s.

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