The final game was more methodical than magnificent for the high-speed Suns on Wednesday night, a 119-110 victory that clinched the best-of-seven first-round series in five games.
The Suns advanced to a Western Conference semifinal matchup with the San Antonio Spurs, who eliminated Denver in five games earlier in the evening. Game 1 of the series is Sunday in Phoenix.
The Lakers never led Wednesday, trailing by 15 points in the second quarter and 16 with 5:52 to go. They kept coming back, but the Suns held them off.
"It was I guess, a fairly comfortable situation," Phoenix's Steve Nash said. "It never got real desperate. We didn't obviously blow them out, but I thought we did a good job. We weren't real sharp, but that's a tough situation. They had nothing to lose. Everyone expects them to be out."
The Lakers were eliminated in the first round for the second straight year and haven't won a playoff series since 2004, when Shaquille O'Neal left Los Angeles. Bryant let it be known after the game that changes must come.
"Do it and do it now," he said. "Personally for me, it's beyond frustration -- three years and still being at ground zero. This summer's a big summer. We have to see what direction we want to take as an organization and make those steps and make them now."
Odom, playing the whole series with a hyperextended elbow and torn shoulder cartilage, had a career playoff-high 33 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, but it was Bryant who put the final scare into the Suns.
The NBA scoring champion, after an uneven night, made consecutive 3-pointers to cut what had been a 16-point fourth-quarter lead to 111-106 with 2:53 to play. Marion made a floater, Stoudemire hit one of two free throws, and the Suns came up with two crucial offensive rebounds on a late possession to help put the game away.
"You have to give them credit," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They would not die. Kobe would not go down."
Bryant -- defended by new father Raja Bell -- scored 34 points but was just 13-of-33 from the field. Bell was playing on precious few hours of sleep after spending the night at a hospital, where his wife gave birth to their first child six hours before Wednesday's tipoff.
Nash also struggled, shooting 5-for-15 and committing seven turnovers. He scored 17 points and had 10 assists, four in the decisive fourth-quarter stretch. Stoudemire, 15-of-21 at the foul line, also had 16 rebounds. Marion had 10 boards.
Leandro Barbosa, winner of the NBA's Sixth Man Award, had eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter on two early 3-pointers and a breathless fastbreak layup on a halfcourt pass from Nash.
"It was a desperate game for them," Stoudemire said, "so you knew they would fight back in the second half."
Phoenix won the game at the free throw line, going 31-of-39 to the Lakers' 20-of-28.
"I don't know how you put Amare at the free throw line 21 times," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said, "but we did."
Barbosa's layup on the long pass from Nash put the Suns ahead 104-91, then Bryant was called for a technical foul. Nash's free throw made it 105-91.
"He felt he was getting fouled on four subsequent plays," Jackson said. "We told him to fight through that and keep moving the basketball, and we'd find a way to do it."
Marion's consecutive dunks on passes from Nash gave Phoenix its biggest lead, 109-93, with 5:52 to play.
The Lakers, down 64-52 at halftime, cut the lead to two in the third quarter.
Bryant's two free throws with 3:39 left punctuated an 11-2 run that cut Phoenix's lead to 80-75, then it was 85-83 after Kwame Brown's inside basket with 1:30 to go in the third. Brown, fouled on the play, missed the free throw that could have made it a one-point game.
In the final 49 seconds of the quarter, Stoudemire sank a 14-foot fadeaway jumper from the baseline, then Barbosa made an acrobatic driving bank shot and the Suns eked out a 91-85 lead entering the fourth.
It was the second straight year the Suns eliminated the Lakers in the first round. A year ago, Phoenix had to rally from a 3-1 deficit. With Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas back from injuries, this Suns team needed no such drama.
Bell, who said before the game he was on "a natural high," sandwiched a driving layup around two 3-pointers in the game's first two minutes.
Thomas came in after Stoudemire drew his second foul with 5:39 to play in the first. In the remainder of the quarter, Thomas was 4-of-5 shooting -- three from outside 15 feet -- for eight points, grabbed three rebounds, had two assists and blocked a shot.
Phoenix was 1-2 against the Spurs in the regular season. ... The Suns won their third consecutive first-round series, the first time that's happened since they won four straight from 1992-1995. ... Marion became the seventh player in franchise history to score 1,000 postseason points.
- Eddie F. Rush
- Scott Foster
- Greg Willard