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Marion returns as Suns edge Lakers

Mar 5, 2007 - 2:08 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Returning after a two-game absence, Shawn Marion had very little time to ease his way back into the flow.

The injured Marion had 13 points and 12 rebounds while drawing late defensive duty on Kobe Bryant as the Phoenix Suns held off the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers, 99-94, for their seventh victory in eight games.

Steve Nash had 23 points and 10 assists and Leandro Barbosa scored 20 points off the bench for the Suns, who used a third-quarter surge to take control and survived a late push by the Lakers, who have lost two in a row and eight of 11.

An All-Star forward, Marion missed Wednesday's loss at Philadelphia and Friday's win over Indiana with injuries to his hand and quadriceps. He was back in the starting lineup Sunday and played a team-high 42-plus minutes.

"It is good to get Shawn back," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He wasn't particularly sharp, but 13 and 12 is not bad."

Marion sank 6-of-15 shots and added two blocks and a steal. He appeared to be still feeling pain in his hand, although he made a pair of key shots down the stretch.

"My hand is still hurting, but I fought through it," Marion said. "Every time I touched the ball, I hurt. I tried not to think about it, but occasionally you do get hit. I was trying not to think about it, but I would get a little stinger here and there. I am hoping the next 2 1/2 days of rest will help."

After Marion's basket gave the Suns an 88-78 lead with 6:22 to go, the Lakers closed to 90-85 on a tough shot by Bryant, who scored 31 points on 11-of-28 shooting. Marion answered by spinning off the baseline for a short banker with 4:13 left - Phoenix's last basket of the game.

A 3-pointer by Shammond Williams made it a four-point game and Bryant's bucket cut the deficit to 93-90 with 2:46 remaining. But the Lakers got no closer.

"I got some really good looks, but the ball was falling a little short for me," Bryant said.

"Anytime you make him work so hard to get shots up and make him miss a lot of them, then you did a good job on him," said Marion, who split the duties with Raja Bell. "He hit some shots, but he was taking fades and we were contesting all his shots."

Marion appeared to cleanly block a shot by Bryant but drew a foul with 1:37 to play. Bryant split the free throws to make it 95-91.

"(Kobe) is a load in the low post," D'Antoni said. "You either have to double him and then he finds shooters out there, but Shawn did a good job on him down there. It is good to have him back, and without him we would have been in trouble."

With 22 seconds left, Marion fouled out as he ran into Williams, who also split the free throws to make it a three-point game. But Bell and Nash each made two foul shots to seal the win.

Amare Stoudemire had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Bell scored 14 points for the Suns, who lead the NBA in offense but were held under 100 points for the second time in three games.

We are just not real good at changing ends right now," D'Antoni said. "We are just hip-hopping. I told them you don't have to play well, just play fast. If we play fast, we will play well most of the time, almost all the time."

Brian Cook had 22 points and 14 rebounds but was the only other scorer in double figures for the Lakers, who are battling numerous injuries.

Already without forwards Vladimir Radmanovic (shoulder) and Luke Walton (ankle), the Lakers lost versatile forward Lamar Odom indefinitely Friday with a torn labrum in his shoulder.

"We are actually playing without Lamar, Luke, Radmanovic," Bryant said. "We are missing a bunch of guys. That being said, I felt like we gave ourselves a chance to win the game down the stretch. It never materialized, but we were competitive throughout."

Cook scored 13 points and Bryant 12 in the first half, offsetting 17 by Barbosa and giving the Lakers a 46-46 tie. However, the Suns used a 9-0 burst in the third period to erase a 57-56 deficit and take the lead for good.

"They sped it up in the third quarter and got it to more of their pace," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They had their break out quarter against us, which is what we were trying to prevent."

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