PHOENIX – The Phoenix bench finally delivered as advertised, and it could hardly have come at a better time.
Channing Frye broke out of a horrendous shooting slump by making four 3-pointers for 14 points, and the Suns pulled away in the fourth quarter for the second game in a row to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 115-106 on Tuesday night and tie the Western Conference finals at two games apiece.
A series that looked like a Lakers’ breeze a week ago is all even heading to Game 5 on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
The Suns reserves, considered an advantage entering the series but largely ineffective through three games, outscored their Laker counterparts 54-20. Leandro Barbosa scored 14 on 6-of-8 shooting and Jared Dudley added 11 points. Goran Dragic ran the show at point and had eight points and eight assists in 18 minutes.
“We work every day in practice on our 3-point shot,” Dudley said. “We knew we would come around in this series.”
Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 21 points. Steve Nash, playing with a broken nose, had 15 points and eight assists.
Bryant had 38 points and 10 assists as the reigning NBA champions fought back to lead briefly early in the fourth before the Suns backups stole the show.
“They have a great bench,” Bryant said.
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry kept all five reserves in the game for almost the first nine minutes of the final quarter, and they produced an 18-3 run, and the Lakers never recovered. When Nash re-entered with 3:05 to play, those subs – usually playing against the Los Angeles starters – had turned an 87-85 deficit into a 103-94 lead.
“We believe in those guys, and they really believe in themselves,” Gentry said. “Tonight they played as well as they could play. … I thought they were much better defensively than they were offensively, and I thought they were great offensively.”
Frye had made 1 of 21 shots in the series and missed 18 in a row when his second shot of the night, a 3-pointer, finally fell.
“I set my feet and just let it ride,” he said.
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