Lakers stun Suns for 2nd time, 86-81 L.A. takes 2-0 lead on NBA's best team


PHOENIX -- They held onto each other and thrust their fists in the air, two specks of purple and gold bobbing in a sea of outraged orange. At the same time Byron Scott hugged Vlade Divac, Scott also embraced the Los Angeles Lakers' storied past and their improbably happy present.

"It felt like old times," Scott said yesterday, after the Lakers defeated the Phoenix Suns, 86-81, pushing the NBA's top team to the brink of playoff elimination before 19,023 at America West Arena.

"I told A. C. [Green] at the beginning of the game that with all the orange signs and the fans going crazy, it almost made me feel like we were No. 1 [in the conference] and they were No. 8. I told A. C. you've got to love this type of situation, coming into hostile territory after we'd won one game. I can't tell you how much fun it was."

They had so much fun playing a poised, intelligent game down the stretch in Friday's opener, they did it again yesterday to shock the Suns and take a 2-0 lead back to the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., for Game 3 tomorrow.

"I couldn't believe it," said Divac, who had 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. "Before this series, if somebody asked me if we were going to beat Phoenix twice, I would have said, 'No way.' I expected we would win once, but I didn't think we would win twice.

"But in the NBA playoffs, everything is different from the season."

After Tom Chambers' free throws put the Suns ahead, 80-77, with 2:57 to play, the Lakers outscored Phoenix, 9-1, much like their 9-0 run at the end of Friday's game. They held the Suns to 11 points in the fourth quarter, the fewest points by an opponent in a quarter this season and an all-time playoff low for Phoenix.

"I think it was a very bad time for me to have my worst game of the year," said the Suns' Charles Barkley, who scored one point in the last quarter and 18 overall on 8-for-24 shooting.

"I'm disappointed I played so badly. I think that was the difference in the game."

A three-pointer by James Worthy a split-second before the 24-second clock expired tied the score at 80 with 2:29 to play, and after Divac rebounded a miss by Kevin Johnson, Divac HTC made a hook shot before the buzzer to give the Lakers a lead they would not relinquish.

A dunk by Divac made it 84-80, and although Divac missed a free throw and Barkley made one, Scott applied the final flourish with a jumper from the right side with 16.1 seconds to play for the last of his 17 points.

Only three teams have won a best-of-five series after losing the first two games, but none did it after losing twice on their home floor: The New York Knicks rallied past the Boston Celtics in 1990; the Golden State Warriors defeated the Utah Jazz in 1987 and the 1956 Fort Wayne Pistons defeated the St. Louis Hawks in the Western Division finals.

The Suns have never won a playoff series of any length on the 10 occasions they trailed, 2-0. And no top-seeded team has lost a series to an eighth-seeded team.

"I still think we're going to win the series," said Suns coach Paul Westphal, who made the playoffs in nine of 12 seasons as a player, but is making his playoff coaching debut.

"We have to go to L.A. and win the next game, and the next game and then come back here and win the series and everybody will say what a great series it was.

"The Lakers played great, probably as good as they can play. We feel we can play better, and we have a lot of confidence."


If the Lakers, who finished the season with a .476 winning percentage, can win one more game against the Suns (a league-best .756), Los Angeles would pull one of the biggest upsets in an NBA first-round series. Some of the others, with regular-season winning percentages of the teams and results in best-of-three, -five and -seven series):

Yr. ... Winner ... (pct.) ... Loser ... (pct.) ... Rs.

'87 ... Sonics ... (.476) ... Mavs .... (.671) ... 3-1

'81 ... Rockets .. (.488) ... Lakers .. (.659) ... 2-1

'70 ... Hawks .... (.439) ... Bulls ... (.622) ... 4-1

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