for this game

Nash carries Suns past slumping Lakers

Apr 14, 2007 - 7:32 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Two-time MVP Steve Nash helped keep the Los Angeles Lakers on their late-season spiral.

Nash collected 26 points and 14 assists as the Phoenix Suns posted a 93-85 victory over the struggling Lakers, who have lost six of their last seven games.

Raja Bell scored 18 points and Amare Stoudemire and fellow All-Star Shawn Marion each had double-doubles for the Suns (60-19), whose magic number to clinch the second seed in the Western Conference is just two.

This Suns squad became the third team in franchise history to record 60 wins in a single season.

"We have 60 but it is not enough, we need 62," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said.

With only two games remaining this season, the Lakers (40-40) are one-half game better than the Los Angeles Clippers (39-40) and Golden State Warriors for seventh place in the West.

"I think we have to win the rest of our games now," Los Angeles coach coach Phil Jackson said.

"I think that we've been a pretty good do-or-die team all year," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "When we're faced with a huge challenge and our backs are against the wall, we come out and play well. We don't have much of a choice now, we need to come out and play well."

After notching his ninth 50-point performance of the season Thursday against the Clippers, Bryant netted just 17 points on 7-of-26 shooting, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range.

"They did a great job of collapsing and closing down my lanes," Bryant said. "When that happens, we need to move the ball and hit the open man, to see if we can get something going to get the lanes back open later in the game."

"I don't know if I can take credit for it," Bell said. "I just stuck to my guns and when I play him (Bryant) I just try to make him work. Sometimes it works out other times he might have 50."

In the fourth quarter, Bryant nailed a floater, then fed Luke Walton for an easy layup with 3:41 remaining as Los Angeles closed within 82-79.

But Nash and Stoudemire responded with consecutive baskets to rebuild a seven-point advantage one minute later and never looked back thereafter.

"We weren't as sharp as usual offensively but we scrapped and fought," Nash said. "That was the type of game they would want us to play a game in the 80s and 90s but we were tough enough defensively. We got some loose ball to make a difference."

Walton had 19 points and eight rebounds and Lamar Odom chipped in 16 and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 39 percent (39-of-89) from the field and have lost three straight meetings vs. the Suns.

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