Suns squash Lakers

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PHOENIX (AP) – So much for the nail-biting suspense of a Game 7. The fast, feisty Phoenix Suns won in a 121-90 laugher over the listless Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.

Leandro Barbosa led the layup parade with a career playoff-best 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting and the Suns became the eighth team in NBA history to win a series after trailing 3-1. They are just the third team – and first in 36 years – to lose three games in a row in a series and come back to win it.

That all-L.A. second-round series that looked so probable a few days ago vanished in a blur of Suns’ fast breaks and repeated drives to the basket.

Instead, the Clippers will come to Phoenix for Game 1 of the second-round series on Monday night.

The Brazilian Barbosa and Frenchman Boris Diaw led the way. Diaw had 21 points and nine assists as seven Suns scored in double figures. Shawn Marion had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Steve Nash 13 points and nine assists. Kobe Bryant scored 24 points of 8-of-16 shooting, but the rest of the Lakers starters were 17-for-50.

Raja Bell returned to a hero’s welcome from a one-game suspension for throwing Bryant to the floor in Game 6. He scored 13 points and drew three offensive fouls against Bryant.

The Lakers barely offered resistance Saturday night, cutting the lead to single digits only once after falling behind 28-13 in front of a raucous packed house.

The Suns started the first quarter with a 16-6 run and ended it with a 12-2 spurt. They made 14 of 20 shots for 70 percent, while the Lakers were a bumbling 6-for-20.

With the Suns leading 20-13, Barbosa sank a 13-footer and a layup, then dished off to Marion for a stuff in an 8-0 surge that put Phoenix ahead 28-13 with 1:15 left in the first.

After Kwame Brown, who was 1-for-5 in the first quarter, made two free throws, Bell made a 20-footer and Barbosa two free throws to put Phoenix ahead 32-15 after one.

Barbosa’s layup to start the second quarter made it 34-15. Bryant cut the lead to single digits, 45-36, with a 3-pointer 6:21 before halftime. But Bell followed with a 3, then Bryant was called for an offensive foul. Replays showed Bryant elbowed Bell to the face, the kind of play the Suns’ guard had complained about throughout the series.

Thomas’ stuff with 5:32 remaining in the half put Phoenix ahead 50-36.

Bryant’s 21-footer as the shot clock expired cut the lead to 50-40, but the Suns scored the next six with Diaw’s two free throws making it 56-40 with 51 seconds to go.

Nash left the court with a slight limp after stepping on Marion’s foot on the play but returned in the second half.

Bryant made a 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining, then Diaw sank a 20-footer with 1.1 seconds to play and Phoenix led 60-45 at the break.

Notes: The other teams to lose three consecutive playoff games and win the series were the Lakers over the Suns in 1970 and Boston over Philadelphia in 1968. … The Clippers and Suns split their season series 2-2. … Barbosa scored 48 in the final two games of the series. … Brown finished 2-for-10 shooting. … The Lakers’ Smush Parker was 7-for-37 shooting the last three games.

AP-ES-05-06-06 2303EDT

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