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Kobe leads L.A. into NBA Finals

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 03:01 AM
PHOENIX -

Get ready, Boston. Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers want a rematch.

Bryant wrapped up a magnificent series with 37 points, Ron Artest added 25 and the Lakers held off the Phoenix Suns 111-103 on Saturday night to win the Western Conference finals 4-2.

The Lakers and Celtics, the NBA's premier teams for much of the league's history, will meet in the finals for the 11th time with Game 1 Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Bryant scored nine points in the final 2 minutes, including what looked like an impossible 23-footer with Grant Hill in his face and 34 seconds to play. The basket put Los Angeles up 107-100 and the scrappy Suns were finished.

Amare Stoudemire, in what may have been his last game with the Suns, scored 27 points but struggled to a seven of 20 shooting night. Steve Nash had 21 points and nine assists in his 118th playoff game, the most for anyone who has never reached the Finals.

Just as they did in Game 5, Bryant and Co. fended off the Suns - though without the last second heroics this time.

The Suns trailed by 18 in the second half and 17 going into the final quarter. An offensive outburst by Goran Dragic and strong play by Stoudemire in the fourth helped Phoenix pull to within three with just over two minutes to play, but it couldn't get any closer.

Boston beat Los Angeles in the 2008 finals, with a dominant defense that made life miserable for Bryant, that season's MVP. When they meet again starting Thursday, the Lakers can show how much better they are since then.

"We'll see how much we've matured," Bryant said.

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