The Phoenix Suns put up a tremendous effort in triple overtime against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers last night -- except for the final moments of the game, when it mattered most.
Planet Orange kept it close in regulation, losing 66-60 at the half. The Lakers opened up the third quarter by going on a 13-4 run, but the Suns got hot and outscored the Purple and Gold 26-17 in the fourth, taking them to overtime. The two teams traded leads through three overtimes before a series of elementary brainfarts doomed the Suns to defeat.
Worse than the agony of losing 137-135 is that the Suns needed a victory to stay in the playoff hunt. The loss pushes them further behind the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets in the desperate and pathetic race for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Channing Frye was the team's hero for much of the game. Down three with moments to go in the first overtime, the Suns gave the ball to Frye beyond the arc. He put up a three, which missed, but drew a foul from Lamar Odom, who could be heard on television expressing incredulous disbelief to the referees.
Frye sank three free-throws to knot it up. Odom missed a catch-and-shoot that would have ended the game for the Lakers as time expired.
Frye was at the center of a beautiful play to tie the game once more with 40 seconds to go in the second overtime. Steve Nash was being double-teamed by Lakers but managed to dish it to Marcin Gortat while falling out of bounds. Gortat charged the paint then dished it out to Frye, who sank a gorgeous three. With just a few seconds to play the Lakers turned to Pau Gasol, who took an inside shot that was rejected by the Suns. The referees called a foul, however, and Gasol made two free throws to tie it once more.
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The tight, intelligent defense sort of fell apart for the Suns in the third overtime, however, after a series of plays that a high school coach would have gone crazy over.
Kobe sank 3 with 2:05 to go, giving the Lakers a 133-132 lead. Ron Artest stripped the ball from a careless Nash and slammed down a ferocious dunk for a 135-132 lead. Then Frye got stripped by Kobe, and Artest put down a beautiful two from the free throw line. Frye redeemed himself by hitting another perfect three. Kobe missed for the Lakers and the Suns got the ball back. They decided to go to Vince Carter for a three, which he missed. The Lakers rebounded and gave the ball to Kobe Bryant.
With about 20 to go, Bryant held the ball as every Suns fan at home joined the commentators in urging the Suns to foul Number 24. The Suns had a better idea: watch him run into the paint and shoot an easy two, killing time and increasing the lead. Making matters worse, the Suns needed quick points on their next possession but Gortat held onto the ball too long, and although the Suns scored, the ballgame was ended by their inability to manage the clock.
The Suns come home tonight for a 7PM game against the Toronto Raptors, which you can catch on FSAZ. The Raptors suck. The Suns have a bad habit of playing at the level of their opponent, so tomorrow might be ugly. But if the team doesn't come out and dominate the Raptors tomorrow, they might as well give up the season.