Lakers outlast Suns in triple OT, 139-137

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By GREG BEACHAM
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 2:11 AM

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 42 points, Ron Artest got five of his 18 points in the final 2 minutes of the third overtime, and the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Phoenix Suns for a 139-137 victory Tuesday night.

Lamar Odom had a season-high 29 points and 16 rebounds in the Lakers' 13th win in 14 games since the All-Star break. Pau Gasol added 24 points, including two tying free throws with 2.5 seconds left in the second overtime of an enormously entertaining rematch of last season's Western Conference finals.

Channing Frye scored a career-high 32 points and hit three tying free throws with 1.1 seconds left to force double overtime for Phoenix, and Steve Nash had 19 points and 20 assists in the Suns' fifth loss in seven games.

Both teams traded improbable last-second heroics in what turned into just the fourth triple-overtime game for the Lakers since they moved to Los Angeles.

Phoenix rallied from a 21-point deficit in the second half and another nine-point hole in the final 3 minutes of regulation, forcing OT on Grant Hill's 3-pointer with 31 seconds left. Bryant and Vince Carter both missed last-second shots.

Frye then hit three free throws to even the first overtime, and he hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 52 seconds left in the second OT. Gasol coolly replied with two tying free throws for Los Angeles, and Bryant prevented Hill from taking a last-second shot.

Bryant then hit a 3-pointer with 2:10 left in the third overtime before Artest made a steal and dunked - a rarity for the ground-bound defensive specialist - to put the Lakers up 135-132. Artest then made a fallaway jumper, and Carter missed a jumper, allowing Bryant to finish it off with a floating 11-footer with 14 seconds left.

Odom was outstanding while filling in for suspended center Andrew Bynum in the Lakers' fifth straight victory. But Bryant and Artest came up with the big late baskets in the Lakers' third win over Phoenix in four meetings this season.

The stakes were higher for the 10th-place Suns, who are scrapping to return the playoffs. The Lakers, sitting in second place in the West, already clinched their woeful division Sunday, taking a 14-game lead over the Suns.

Two days after playing a deliberate game in an 84-80 win over Portland, the Lakers ratcheted up their tempo to the Suns' preferred speed.

The Lakers led 89-68 with 4:45 left in the third quarter, but the Suns' erratic shooting suddenly locked in. Aaron Brooks' 3-pointer cut the lead to 97-96 with 9:18 to play, completing a 28-8 run that began with three 3-pointers by Nash.

After Phoenix tied it on Mickael Pietrus' three free throws with 6:53 left, the Lakers scored the next nine points before Phoenix's 11-2 run to end regulation, capped by 3-pointers from Frye and Hill.

Bryant appeared to be moving fluidly on his sprained ankle after coach Phil Jackson confirmed it was "much better" than last week. Bryant had 26 points through three quarters, scoring easily against Phoenix's inconsistent defense.

The Lakers played their second straight game without Bynum, suspended for a flagrant foul on Minnesota's Michael Beasley last week. His shotblocking inside presence was minimally important against the Suns, who play almost entirely on the perimeter.

Bryant and Odom led a blistering 20-7 run after halftime, staking the Lakers to their 21-point lead on Bryant's 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. Instead of folding, the Suns roared back with Nash's 3-pointers, and Frye's first 3-pointer in seven tries trimmed the lead to 95-86 heading to the fourth.

Notes: The Lakers hadn't played a triple-overtime game at home since 1969. ... Brooks returned for the Suns after serving a one-game suspension Sunday for throwing a ball at an official. ... The Suns open a three-game homestand Wednesday against Toronto. ... Both teams wore their Spanish-language jerseys on Noche Latina. ... Fans included Leslie Mann, Chris O'Donnell, Mindy Kaling and directors Oliver Stone and Michael Bay.


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© 2011 The Associated Press

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