Work in Sports
PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Cliff Robinson and Jason Kidd shook off injuries and helped the Phoenix Suns shake up the Los Angeles Lakers.
Robinson scored 23 points in the first half, when the Suns pulled away for good, and Kidd posted his first career playoff triple-double as Phoenix avoided a sweep in their Western Conference semifinal series with a 117-98 victory over the Lakers.
Robinson, who was questionable for tonight's potential elimination game with a sprained right ankle, knocked down 9-of-13 shots, including 3-of-5 3-pointers, in the opening 24 minutes to give the Suns a commanding 71-48 halftime lead.
"The decision (to play) was made before I got here," Robinson said. "I was going to go whether (the ankle) was sore or not. This is the time of year where you don't want to be sitting on the sidelines and quite frankly, my team needs me to be on the floor. I was close to not playing, but I was going to play anyway."
He finished with a playoff career-high 32 points on 10-of-17 shooting and drew the ire of Lakers reserve forward Rick Fox in the fourth quarter, when frustration appeared to boil over for Los Angeles.
"It's my career high," Robinson said. "We got out early, we were aggressive on defense. We got everybody rolling early, but we still know what we have in the task at hand and we are aware that no one has (come back from a 3-0 series deficit) before."
Kidd has made a remarkable recovery from a broken ankle and continued to show his rapid improvement with 22 points, 10 rebounds and a playoff career-best 16 assists. The 6-4 point guard helped Phoenix avoid its first four-game sweep since losing to the Lakers in the 1989 conference finals.
"We've got another chance," Kidd said. "We felt confident playing against these guys and we got a win with our backs against the wall. They didn't have anything to lose. We had everything to lose. With that in mind, we came out and played with energy. Today, we finally got over the hump."
Shaquille O'Neal scored 24 points and fellow superstar Kobe Bryant added 23 for the Lakers, who allowed a season-high point total and suffered their second-worst loss of the campaign.
"I don't think there is a sense of panic," Bryant said. "It's aggravating. We didn't come out and perform like we're capable of performing. We don't like to kill teams, we don't like to see them bleed. We need to do that. We need to cut them and keep them bleeding."
"I ain't got nothing to say," O'Neal said.
Fox lashed out in the final period by attacking Robinson in the paint with a pair of hard fouls, earning an ejection. Coaches Phil Jackson of the Lakers and Scott Skiles of the Suns appeared to engage in a little oneupsmanship in the final minutes, calling unnecessary timeouts and watching their players commit meaningless fouls to prolong the contest.
"We really got a royal (butt) whipping out there," Jackson said. "I really have nothing to say, no questions to answer, except happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there."
Game Five is Tuesday in Los Angeles, where the Lakers are 5-0 in the postseason.
"Now they come to L.A.. It's going to be different in the City of Angels," Bryant said.
Rodney Rogers scored 17 points off the bench, Penny Hardaway had 16 and rookie Shawn Marion added 12 for the Suns, who shot 52 percent (45-of-86), held a 44-40 rebounding edge and scored 15 points off turnovers.
After a heartbreaking Game Two loss at the Staples Center on Bryant's jumper with less than three seconds remaining and a 105-99 Game Three setback on Friday, the Suns had little more than pride to play for tonight against the mighty Lakers.
But Robinson's 25-footer with 8:12 remaining in the opening quarter put them ahead to stay tonight. The 6-10 forward hit 9-of-12 free throws, grabbed nine rebounds and managed to laugh off Fox's antics in the fourth quarter.
"I have no idea what he was doing or what his problem was," Robinson said. "Maybe it was just the heat of the battle or him getting frustrated. You have to ask him."
Robinson and Kidd connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to stretch the margin to 38-24 entering the second period.
Robinson made a 25-footer and converted a three-point play to make it 57-38 with 4:32 remaining in the first half.
Glen Rice, who suffered through a dreadful 4-of-14 shooting performance, dunked to pull Los Angeles within 59-45 with 2:07 left. But Rogers hit two free throws, Robinson dunked twice and Kidd made two driving layups and two free throws to open a 23-point cushion at the break.
"They came out from the jump. They were aggressive on the offensive end and defensive end," Rice said. "That's what you've got to do. You've got to play the way they did. We just didn't meet their challenge and I think what lost the game for us is that we didn't play defense at all. We let them penetrate, hitting guys that were open and hitting shots. When you go out there and play the defense like we played, you're not going to give yourself a chance to win the ball game."
Corie Blount's layup, back-to-back slams from Hardaway and Marion and Kidd's 3-pointer made it 89-60 with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter. O'Neal's slam got Los Angeles within 101-85 with 6:50 to play, but Rogers made a jumper and dunked and Jackson responded by pulling his starters.
"Jason distributed it like the Jason of old and what we did, we were aggressive defensively and got running early," Hardaway said. "You can look at it that way, that with a break here or there we could be up 3-1 or 2-2. But we're not. We have confidence we can play with them. We've shown that. But we still have a tough road ahead."
Fox got the boot with 3:27 left when he went after Robinson for the second time in 30 seconds, bringing the capacity crowd at America West Arena to its feet as he trudged off the court in anger.