PHOENIX, May 24 – Amare Stoudemire matched his career playoff high with 42 points and Steve Nash had 15 assists as Phoenix clawed their way back into the semi-finals series with a 118-109 win over Los Angeles.Stoudemire scored 29 of his points in the second half and finished with 11 rebounds as the Suns cut the Lakers series lead to two games to one.
"Tonight I wanted to get it going from everywhere," Stoudemire said.
"My dedication to game should never be questioned. So I came out with chip on my shoulder."
Stoudemire’s brilliant performance came on the heels of some stinging criticism about his play in the first two games of the series.
"Sometimes he just beasted his way down there and got to the rim," said Nash, who suffered a broken nose Sunday.
Nash broke his nose when he clashed heads with Laker guard Derek Fisher during a battle for the ball in the fourth.
Fisher appeared to butt Nash from the side causing Nash to grimace but the Canadian stayed on the floor, trying to twist the nose back into place.
"It is ugly to start the game it has remained ugly," Nash said of his nose. "Not much point crying about it. I was just trying to close game out. The nose is least of my concerns right now."
The Suns can equal the series in game four on Tuesday at home.
Nash said Stoudemire’s play and the Suns decision to switch to a zone defence were keys to the victory.
"We were better in a lot of ways," Nash said. "The key reason was the zone because we slowed them down.
"There are some matchup problems for us against them so we had to find a way."
Robin Lopez scored 20 on eight-of-10 shooting in 31 minutes of playing time.
Phoenix made 37-of-42 free throws, 14 of 18 by Stoudemire. The Lakers were 16 of 20 at the line.
Kobe Bryant finished with 36 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in the loss.
Pau Gasol scored 23 points, but the Lakers didn’t get as much help from their bench as they did in the opening two games.
Lamar Odom, who averaged 18 points and 15 rebounds in the first two games, had just 10 points before fouling out.
Bryant wasn’t surprised by Stoudemire’s rebound performance.
"He is a great player," Bryant said. "He had couple of tough games but we knew he wasn’t going to come out and roll over."