Suns torch Lakers' broom


PHOENIX - It must have been a bad smell that kept coach Phil Jackson out of the Lakers locker room at intermission last night. Probably the stench from his own team.

"He didn't come in at halftime, what more do you want to know?" Ron Harper said after Los Angeles mailed in an 117-98 loss to the Phoenix last night at America West Arena, allowing the Suns to stay alive in the conference semifinals. "Ask Phil why he didn't come in."

After suffering the second-worst playoff defeat of his career, Jackson refused to talk about his team's abominable first-half effort, or how it passed up an opportunity to record L.A.'s first sweep of a seven-game series since 1989. His post-game news conference might have lasted 10seconds, which is about how long the Lakers were competitive.

By halftime, the Suns were looking ahead to tomorrow night's Game 5 at Staples Center. They rang up 71points and led by 23. Before the worst display of Lakers basketball under Jackson was over, Phoenix had built a 29-point lead, the biggest deficit for Los Angeles this season.

"We got a royal whipping out there," said Jackson, whose worst postseason defeat in his 161 games was by 21 to Seattle in the 1996 Finals. "I have nothing to say and no questions to answer, except to say, 'Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there.'"

When it was over, the Suns had rung up the most points against L.A. this season and had handed the Lakers their second-worst defeat of the season."I ain't got nothing to say," said Shaquille O'Neal. "I'm off today."

Presented with a rare gimme, the Suns gifted their fans with their A game. Jason Kidd recorded his first playoff triple double (22points, 16assists and 10rebounds). Clifford Robinson, who didn't know at the morning shoot-around if he could play because of a sprained ankle, went off for a career playoff-high 32points.

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