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Bell makes six 3-pointers as Suns defeat Lakers

Apr 9, 2007 - 12:46 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Raja Bell made himself better known to Kobe Bryant.

Bell made 6-of-6 3-pointers and scored 22 points while harassing Bryant and helping the Phoenix Suns defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, 115-107, to complete a successful road trip.

Steve Nash had 25 points and 11 assists and Leandro Barbosa scored 23 points off the bench for the Suns (58-19), who moved 2 1/2 games in front of San Antonio in the race for the second seed in the Western Conference.

That slot could create a matchup with the Lakers (40-37), who fell one-half game behind Denver into seventh place. If so, it would foster the feud between Bell and Bryant, who have been going at each other for six years.

The duo first tangled in the 2001 NBA Finals, when Bell was a rookie reserve on the Philadelphia 76ers who refused to back down to one of the league's biggest stars. It became more heated over the last two seasons since Bell joined the Suns.

"I like to fly and he likes to play physical. I enjoy going against him," Bryant said. "I'll put him up there (as one of the top defenders). He has a willingness to play defense. Guys put their tails between their legs and run. He wants to play hard against you."

"You have to be engaged in the game," Bell said. "There are games that you can go through it and kind of drift. You hate to say that you're not involved, but you can drift. When you're playing a guy like Kobe, there's no drifting. You have to be there every play, every game. It definitely keeps you engaged."

During the 2006 postseason, Bell was suspended one game for taking a shot at Bryant, who smirked, "I don't even know this kid."

The two were matched up again and spent a portion of the game jawing at each other. Bryant, who is closing in on his second straight scoring title, had 34 points and seven assists. But he got to know Bell a little better.

"Raja plays hard," Bryant said. "He's a good defensive player. He plays hard and tries to deny ball in certain areas."

"All you can hope to be is a distraction to him," Bell said. "He's not the best scorer in the league for no reason. The only thing I can hope to do is make it hard for him to score."

Bell also made Bryant work at the other end. He did not miss from the arc, draining a pair of 3-pointers in the final period, when the Suns erupted for 41 points.

It was a remarkable turnaround for Bell, who tied an NBA record by going 0-of-10 from the arc in Friday's win at New Orleans.

"I don't think there is analyzing 0-of-10," Bell said. "I know I'm better shooting than that. I just go out and shoot again. I've never been 0-of-10 and never been 6-for-6. I guess those are personal records."

Amare Stoudemire scored 19 points and Shawn Marion added 12 for the Suns, who went 3-1 on their road trip.

Bryant made 14-of-25 shots but just 1-of-5 from the arc. In his previous 16 games, he had outbursts of 40, 65, 50, 60, 50, 43, 53 and 46 points, the latter coming in Friday's win over Seattle.

"Kobe's unbelievable," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That guy is terrific, and Raja is probably one of the better defenders in the world and he did a heck of a job. I don't even know how many Kobe got, but whatever he did, he earned every one of them." Smush Parker scored 25 points, Ronny Turiaf added 19 and a career-high 15 rebounds and Lamar Odom 10 and 14 for the Lakers, who outshot and outrebounded the Suns but lost for the fifth time in seven games.

The Lakers pulled within 74-73 entering the fourth quarter but never got the lead. Bell made a great steal as the only defender on a fast break, leading to the first of two baskets by Barbosa.

A jumper by Bryant made it 87-83 with 6:47 left before Bell followed two free throws by Kurt Thomas with a 3-pointer and Nash flipped in a banker for a 94-83 bulge with 4:14 to go.

Bell's 3-pointer made it 99-87 with 3:09 remaining and sent some folks heading for the exits.

"I was excited to see them go in," Bell said. "I needed some to fall today. I was trying to press it last game and I just needed to let it go and shoot it."

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