PHOENIX — The Los Angeles Lakers were outnumbered and outplayed in the desert.
The Phoenix Suns got a decisive performance from their hustling bench to overcome Kobe Bryant’s 38-point, 10-assist performance and beat the Lakers 115-106 in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday night.
A series that looked like a Lakers breeze a week ago is even at 2 heading to Game 5 on Thursday in Los Angeles.
The Suns’ reserves, considered an advantage entering the series but largely ineffective through three games, outscored their Lakers counterparts 54-20.
Channing Frye broke out of a horrendous shooting slump to make four 3-pointers and scored 14 points. Leandro Barbosa also had 14, on 6-for-8 shooting, and Jared Dudley added 11 points. Goran Dragic ran the show at the point and had eight points and eight assists in 18 minutes.
“The bench played fantastic,” Suns starting point guard Steve Nash said. “They were by far easily the difference tonight.”
Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 21 points. Nash, playing with a broken nose, made just 3 of 11 shots but had 15 points and eight assists.
But it was the backups who stole the show, making 20 of 32 shots, including 9 of 20 3-pointers.
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry kept all five reserves in the game for almost the first nine minutes of the final quarter. They produced an 18-3 run, and the Lakers never recovered. When Nash re-entered with 3:05 to play, those subs — playing mostly against 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. “I thought they were much better defensively than they were offensively, and they were great offensively.”
Frye had shot 1-for-21 in the series and missed 18 in a row when his second shot of the night, a 3-pointer, finally fell to the roar of the home crowd.
Pau Gasol managed just 15 points after getting 29 and 23 in the previous two games. Lamar Odom also scored 15.
Jordan Farmar opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to give the Lakers an 87-85 lead. Barbosa responded with a 22-footer to tie the score, then Lou Amundson scored inside on a pass from Dudley before Frye sank a 3-pointer for a 92-87 advantage.
That was the first of three consecutive 3s for Phoenix to make the score 98-89. The biggest lead was 103-90 on Dragic’s driving layup with 4:02 to play.
“We thought we could come in here and get a game, and unfortunately, you know, we weren’t up to the task,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “But we outscored them from the field I think both games, shot better than they did, did a lot of things very good, and it still wasn’t enough to win the game. They beat us at the foul line both nights, and that’s the difference in the margin of the game.”PHOENIX 115
LOS ANGELES 106
KEY: The Suns’ reserves produced a decisive 18-3 run to start the fourth quarter.
NEXT: Game 5, Suns at Lakers, Staples Center, 6 p.m. Thursday