Lakers 99, Suns 98

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LOS ANGELES – 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 their first-round playoff series.

The Lakers, who have won the last three games, can win the best-of-seven series Tuesday night in Phoenix.

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 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.

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.

Phoenix’s James Jones then failed to score after taking a lob pass near the Lakers’ basket as the fourth quarter ended.

AP-ES-04-30-06 1855EDT

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