LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – Kobe Bryant delivered a sensational performance to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a roller-coaster 139-137 triple-overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
Bryant scored 42 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and made nine assists as the Lakers, who squandered a 21-point lead during regulation time, showed their championship mettle with their fifth successive win.
The defending NBA champions have compiled a 13-1 record since the All-Star Game break last month. Providing a flurry in the third and final overtime, Bryant knocked in a go-ahead three-pointer and added a running two-point shot with 14 seconds remaining to send Los Angeles (51-20) to the triumph.“We eventually prevailed,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson told reporters before adding a joke. “I was hoping to get out of here (earlier)… it’s a little past my bed time.”
Channing Frye led Phoenix with a career-high 32 points and made three free throws with one second left in the first overtime to send the game into a second extra session, where Lakers’ forward Pau Gasol forced the third extra period with two free throws. The Suns (35-34) trailed by 21 in the third quarter but went on a furious run to stun the Lakers, with Grant Hill making a three-pointer late in the fourth to send the game into overtime after regulation ended 112-112.
Steve Nash recorded 19 points and a season-high 20 assists while reserve Marcin Gortat finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds for the visitors. Despite their valiant effort, Phoenix fell three games behind the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Lamar Odom had 29 points and 16 rebounds and Gasol added 24 and 13 rebounds for Los Angeles, who played without suspended center Andrew Bynum, serving the second of a two-game penalty for a flagrant foul committed on Friday. The win enabled Los Angeles to open a one-and-a-half game cushion over the third-place Dallas Mavericks in the West. “We’re playing with a sense of urgency and now it’s just a matter of keeping it going,” Bryant said.