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Lakers' one-man gang takes on Suns' threesome

Is the top dog more valuable than a talented trio?

There are two televised chances to find out this week when the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns meet today (3:30 p.m., Ch. 7) at the Staples Center and Friday night (10:30 p.m., ESPN) in US Airways Center.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, the NBA's top scorer, may have his hands full with the Suns' threesome of center Amare Stoudemire, guard Steve Nash and forward Shawn Marion -- who combine for about 58 points per game.

Bryant has history against Marion. They've matched up 35 times with the Lakers winning 20. Bryant owns the edge in scoring (28.1 points per game to 17.8) and assists (5.3 to 1.7), but Marion has it in rebounds (10.4 to 5.9).

Nash, who spent six seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, and Bryant have split 32 meetings. Bryant averages 24.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists with a pair of triple-doubles while Nash tallies 18.8 points, 8.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds.

Bryant (28.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.1 assists) and Stoudemire (17.1 points, 9.5 rebounds) have divided 10 matchups.

Forwards will be the big attraction Monday night in Minneapolis when the Toronto Raptors face the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Minnesota's Kevin Garnett (21.5 points, 13 rebounds, 1.2 blocks) has dominated Chris Bosh (14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, one block), and won four of the six games, posting double-doubles in five of them.

After Washington selected Kwame Brown with the first pick of the 2001 draft, the Los Angeles Clippers tabbed forward Tyson Chandler next and promptly dealt him to the Chicago Bulls for Elton Brand.

Chandler, now with the New Orleans Hornets, and Brand match up Tuesday in Oklahoma City. Los Angeles' decision was a good one. Brand (18.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, two blocks) has won seven of eight matchups with Chandler (7.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.3 blocks).

Orlando grabbed Dwight Howard first in the 2004 draft, then Charlotte followed with center Emeka Okafor and Chicago, at No. 3, grabbed guard Ben Gordon.

Okafor and Gordon meet for the eighth time Friday night in the United Center.

Gordon's Bulls have won six of seven but the two have played to a near-stalemate. Okafor averages 16 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks with six double-doubles while Gordon nets 15.9 points with 2.4 assists.

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Heading on home

The Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets play their initial home games this week. That's normally good news for their players.

Atlanta hosts Washington (Tuesday through Thursday) and Florida (Friday-Sunday); Boston welcomes Seattle (Tuesday-Thursday) and Anaheim (Friday-April 16); and the Mets meet Philadelphia (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday) and Washington (Friday-Sunday).

Braves catcher Brian McCann went 18 for 49 (.367) with three homers last season against the Nationals and 19 for 59 (.322) with two homers against the Marlins.

Outfielder Jeff Francoeur (.329, seven homers, 15 RBIs) and shortstop Edgar Renteria (.320) also hit well against Florida in 2006.

Red Sox closer Jon Papelbon was perfect against both the Mariners and Angels last season with no earned runs in a combined 7 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and four saves.

Outfielder Eric Hinske, a Bosox newcomer, has batted 40 for 126 (.317) at his new home, Fenway Park, since 2004.

Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca hit .349 against the Phils and .304 against the Nats last season with a combined 15 RBIs. First baseman Carlos Delgado smacked five homers, the most against any opponent last season, and added 15 RBIs against the Phils.

Outfielder Shawn Green batted .400 with a .720 slugging percentage when he faced the Nats in 2006.

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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