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Grant Hill scored 14 of his 23 points in the third quarter while Phoenix erased a 14-point deficit, playing with more efficiency and aggression than in Game 1. But the Lakers went back ahead by 11 midway through the fourth with a 9-0 run, and the Suns couldn't stop Bryant and Gasol from executing their two-man game to perfection.
"I was being effective and just finishing plays," Gasol said. "We just continued to go to it because it was working pretty well for us."
Although Bryant's streak of six straight 30-point games ended, last season's NBA finals MVP set up Gasol for two tough baskets in the final minutes, with Gasol scoring with a flourish and drawing a foul each time. After scoring 40 points in 35 minutes in the series opener, Bryant embraced being a creator, repeatedly finding his teammates out of double teams while setting a career high for assists in a playoff game.
Jason Richardson scored 27 points for Phoenix, and Jared Dudley hit five 3-pointers before fouling out.
Los Angeles led 65-56 at halftime, hitting better than 57 percent of its shots after making 58 percent in Game 1. Bryant had 11 points and nine assists, repeatedly making the Suns pay for double teams.
But the Suns roared back in the third, hitting 14 of 22 shots with Hill's 14 points and 12 from Richardson, who thrived against Artest's defense.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum appeared to be moving more fluidly, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first half -- more than he managed in the previous three games combined, when his injured right knee began hindering him.
NOTES: Suns reserve Leandro Barbosa had blood on the back of his head after falling into the first row of cameras when his shot was blocked early in the fourth quarter. ... The Suns had more 3-pointers in the first half (6) than they managed in all of Game 1 (5). ... Before the game, Jackson said he had discussed taking a pay cut to return to the Lakers next season. Jackson is making about $12 million this season, and the 10-time champion coach hasn't said whether he'll return in the fall. ... Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Danny DeVito, Hilary Swank, David Spade, Anthony Anderson, Rob McElhenney, Eliza Dushku and former Lakers star Rick Fox were among the celebrities at the game.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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