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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Amare carries Suns to hard-earned win

Phoenix cuts Los Angeles' series lead to 2-1

PHOENIX (AP) Amare Stoudemire had been criticized for just about everything: his defense, his rebounding, even his desire.

News photo
Playoff intensity: Suns center Robin Lopez and Lakers forward Pau Gasol vie for a rebound in second-half action on Sunday in Phoenix during Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. Phoenix defeated Los Angeles 118-109. AP PHOTO

The Phoenix forward listened calmly all week, then responded with a monster game. Stoudemire attacked the Los Angeles Lakers relentlessly, matching his career playoff high with 42 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to power the Suns to a 118-109 victory Sunday night. The win sliced the Lakers' lead in the Western Conference finals to 2-1.

All that talk about a Boston-Los Angeles final has been put on hold. Phoenix can pull even in the series with a victory at home in Game 4 on Tuesday.

Stoudemire, with a bandage over a cut he received when his goggles slammed into his forehead on a drive to the basket, said he has worked through serious knee and eye injuries and kept his career at an All-Star level.

"You can never question my determination," he said, "my focus, my dedication. That's one of the reasons I've persevered through injuries and continue to try to improve every summer. My dedication to the game is at an all-time high."

Phoenix, dominated inside in the first two games, won with its big men and had a big advantage at the free-throw line.

Robin Lopez, whose 213-cm presence gave the Suns some much-needed toughness inside, scored 20 on 8-of-10 shooting in 31 minutes, by far his most playing time since returning from a back injury at the start of the series. Phoenix made 37 of 42 free throws, 14 of 18 by Stoudemire. The Lakers were 16-for-20 at the line.

Kobe Bryant had 36 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. Pau Gasol scored 23 points, but Los Angeles didn't get as much help from its supporting cast as it did in the first two games.

The Suns, the second-best 3-point shooting team in NBA history in the regular season, were just 5 of 20. But Jason Richardson was 4 of 7, including one with 26 seconds to go to put the lid on the triumph, snapping the Lakers' eight-game playoff winning streak.

"We certainly didn't come out to play the way I wanted," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said, "and we certainly didn't play the way I wanted at the end."

Richardson scored 19. Steve Nash had 17 points and 15 assists before banging his nose in a fourth-quarter collision with Derek Fisher. Nash said he didn't think it was broken but planned to see a specialist before practice on Monday.

Cavs fire Brown

CLEVELAND (AP) The Cleveland Cavaliers have fired coach Mike Brown after five seasons for failing to win an NBA title with LeBron James.

Brown's dismissal has been expected since the Cavs were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.

In five seasons, Brown, who had one year left on his contract, went 272-138 (.663) and was the league's coach of the year in 2009. But the Cavs fell short of winning their first title and now face an uncertain future with James, the league's two-time defending MVP, eligible for free agency.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert made the decision to fire Brown following an organizational review that began following the Cavs' stunning collapse. Cleveland, which had the best record in the NBA the past two seasons, had a 2-1 series lead over the Celtics before losing three straight, including the final two at home by a combined 50 points.

"After a long and deep analysis of all of the factors that led to the disappointing early ends to our playoff runs over the past two seasons, we concluded that it was time for the Cavaliers to move in a different direction," Gilbert said Monday in a statement released by the team. "The expectations of this organization are very high and, although change always carries an element of risk, there are times when that risk must be taken in an attempt to break through to new, higher levels of accomplishment."



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