Lakers – Suns Running Diary

Kobe BryantAs always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Previous Lakers – Suns Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Suns Running Diary 11-20-2008
Lakers 105, Suns 92: Postgame

Lakers – Suns Running Diary 12-10-2008
Lakers 115, Suns 110: Postgame

Lakers – Suns Running Diary 2-26-2009
Lakers 132, Suns 106: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Suns: Amare Stoudemire

Starter
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Walton, Odom and Gasol
Suns: Leandro Barbosa, Jason Richardson, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill and Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq’s Ride
Shaq's RideSince Shaq dropped 45 points, his most since March 21, 2003, I thought we should take a peek at his ridiculous ride that I saw after getting dropped off by a cab. It’s not small, huh?

First Quarter
11:40 If Kobe’s first jumper of the game is any indication, L.A. won’t be shooting 29 percent today.

9:14 L.A. put a few plays in yesterday in practice to try and get Shaq out of the lane, but he’s not budging. I think he made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on that defensive possession, but no matter for Gasol, who simply pulled up for a wide open 15 footer to tie the game at six.

7:20 L.A. made 6-of-9 shots to start the game, but conceded 8-of-15 from Phoenix as the Suns took a 16-12 lead. It wasn’t easy looks in transition but instead four offensive boards that allowed Phoenix their good looks.

5:58 With Louis Amundson checking in for Shaq, L.A. has mismatches at both the four and five positions, with Lou on Gasol and Barnes on Odom. Will they use ‘em?

3:33 The Lakers were finally punished for giving up good looks from three, as Barnes hit from the corner after Phoenix had missed its first five looks. That hit gave the Suns a 22-18 edge.

2:35 We know how terrible L.A.’s bench was on Friday in Denver (seven points). Ariza got off to a good start tonight by stealing a Jared Dudley pass that led to a Gasol layup. A minute later, Trevor nicely fed over the top to Odom for a layup after Lamar had sealed Amundson. L.A. still trailed 29-25, however.

0:07.2 After Gasol made his fifth field goal, Barnes hit his second three to give Phoenix a 34-26 lead after one. As we expected, this crowd-boosted Suns team doesn’t look much like the one that conceded 132 points on Friday.

The Lakers shot 48 percent from the field, but conceded 55.6 percent to the Suns, who had six different players grab an offensive rebound.

LamarSecond Quarter
11:22 There’s J-Peezy. Josh Powell became the second bench contributor immediately, first clearing a defensive board and then following a Gasol miss with a nasty dunk.

9:14 After the Denver game, Phil Jackson was concerned that L.A. was giving up too many easy looks defensively. Well … That hasn’t changed much tonight. Phoenix opened the quarter with a layup drill and took a 40-30 lead when Richardson drove past Gasol and used the glass.

8:59 Just noticed Larry Fitzgerald Jr. sitting courtside. What’s the NBA equivalent of a guy that spent his childhood at a practice facility while his dad worked? Um … Kobe Bryant? Maybe this metaphor works better the other way around. In other LFJr. news, how likely is it that he wouldn’t be able to contain himself were a wayward pass to go near his sideline?

7:17 Sasha Vujacic, for three. L.A. could really use a Machine boost right now, still trailing by nine.

5:12 A terrible play resulted in a Barnes three, with Fisher and Mbenga not paying attention on the inbounds, Goran Dragic stealing it and feeding Barnes for an open look that gave the Suns a 52-38 lead, their largest of the game. By the way, Dragic descends from a long line of Slovenian vampires (in case you couldn’t tell from his name).

3:30 Shaq did his run-hard-and-drag-man-next-to-rim move he pulls out in transition every once in a while, resulting in an easy layup over Gasol that gave him 16 points (6-of-7 FGs, 4-of-5 FTs) and the Suns a 58-43 lead.

3:00 Out of the ensuing timeout, after Shaq made 1-of-2 free throws after Odom’s clean-looking block, Stu Lantz (not calling the game since it’s an ABC national contest) and Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times chided me for not recognizing some old funky song. Their argument weakened when neither could name the tune.

1:00 After Ariza’s reach-in put Richardson at the line, he missed his team’s 8th free throw already, getting the second to put Phoenix up 62-49. Gasol answered with a hoop, but then conceded a running layup from Dudley as the Suns continued to score at will in L.A.’s paint.

0:09.3 Peezy’s two free throws made it an 11-point game.

0:01.2 Despite playing quite poorly, L.A. had a chance to go into the locker room with a nice bit of momentum, as Powell came up with a steal and Fisher capitalized by canning a triple. However, Barbosa streaked up the floor, drew a foul on Vujacic and made two free throws to put the lead back to 10. On Friday, the Lakers trailed Denver by six at the half and managed to surge to a five-point lead midway through the third quarter, but do the Lakers have it in them tonight? We’ll see.

Pau GasolThird Quarter
9:51 Six straight points from Kobe, and L.A. was within six. This, and a halftime of reflection, had me thinking: There’s literally no reason to worry about L.A. having six consecutive poor quarters. These guys have spent less than a week’s worth of full nights in their beds in February, are getting every other team’s best effort, and are shorthanded down low with Andrew Bynum’s absence. That anyone’s considering even opening the lid of a panic button (you know who you are!) seems pretty silly.

8:27 Bryant thinks so too, with a three-pointer in transition to cut the lead to three. That’s 28 points for Kobe on 12-of-21. His act continued after Odom stripped O’Neal, and later fed Kobe in the paint for his 30. Suns by one.

6:51 Mamba. Driving right around Richardson, Kobe went straight into Shaq’s body and finished after taking contact from the big fella. He converted the and-1, giving him 14 of L.A.’s 16 points and the Lakers a 72-70 lead.

6:22 Did I say Mamba yet (Mamba)? How about another three? Lakers by five, with a pumped up MVP flying around the defensive half court as well. That’s fun. The only problem here is that the rest of the Lakers may fall into watch-him-work mode and stop running the offense, which could be detrimental as the game continues. But still:

Kobe: 17 points
Phoenix: four points

I forgot to mention an AMAZING halftime performance from David Hernandez, the American Idol final 10 reject from last season who’s from Phoenix and admitted to being a chippendale. Needless to say, Hernandez sung “I Believe I Can Fly” at midcourt. Amazing.

4:41 Phoenix responded to Kobe’s burst with a quick eight-point spurt to take a 78-75 lead as Bryant missed two jumpers. Time to run that triangle again…

3:33 Make that a 13-point spurt, courtesy most lately of a Shaq and-1 from the paint. Suns by eight.

2:06 A rough stretch for Ariza saw him miss a wide-open three badly, concede a three-pointer from Barnes by not stepping out to close in time and then turning the ball over with Amundson guarding him on the perimeter after he passed up another triple. It looked like the ball went off Amundson, but still.

1:41 L.A. can’t get a break now, with Powell going straight up and grabbing an offensive board off Vujacic’s miss and getting called for over the back, giving the Suns two Dudley free throws.

0:00.5 A crazy quarter that saw Bryant score 17 points in just under six minutes to give L.A. a 75-70 lead closed with a 21-6 Suns run, allowing Phoenix to maintain the 10-point lead it took into halftime. We certainly saw L.A.’s offense regress after Bryant’s spurt, just as the Suns went back to their layup line.

Lamar OdomFourth Quarter
11:38 L.A.’s bench is doing nothing but taking threes. In fact, seven of the ten field goal attempts from Ariza, Vujacic and Farmar came from three, and they had made just one.

Boy did that change in a hurry. Ariza nailed two triples and Vujacic one, with complements from a Josh Powell 17-footer to cut the Suns’ lead to just two at 94-92. That’s the kind of bench contribution the Lakers have struggled to provide, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.

8:31 I don’t think I’m supposed to complain about refs here on Lakers.com, but this one was kind of crazy. Remember when Kevin Garnett was called for the offensive foul with four minutes left to foul him out of L.A.’s win in Boston? Well, Lamar Odom was just called for an offensive foul of his own after the two exchanged arm contact near the paint. Just like that, Odom was done for the game. Yikes.

7:56 Kobe’s three got L.A. back within three at 98-95. His two free throws on the next possession answered a Barnes floater and got him to 41 points.

Spectacular Play Alert (SPA): Kobe flew down the lane and smashed home a two-handed dunk, which was answered by an absurd reverse layup, plus the harm, from Richardson. Suns 105, Lakers 99 with about six to play and Mbenga on the court with Gasol.

4:45 Shaq’s been very good tonight, scoring with ease on the low block once again on Gasol. That gave him 32 points on 13-of-18 from the field and 6-of-10 from the line.

3:56 Kobe and Shaq are going at it. After Bryant stripped Shaq almost viciously in the defensive paint after an offensive board, he drove straight into the Big Fella, drawing a hard foul and making two free throws for a 106-101 deficit. Kobe’s done everything in his power to will the Lakers on here in the Valley of the Sun, but is going to need some significant help down the stretch.

2:00 Why haven’t the Lakers guarded Matt Barnes tonight? He just canned his fifth three of the evening when Walton tried to help down on O’Neal, giving the former Golden Stater 23 points and giving Phoenix a 113-103 lead.

1:03 About the only thing Phoenix didn’t want to do nursing a nine-point lead was turn the ball over, which Barnes did at halfcourt. Ariza waltzed down for a dunk (114-107), before Shaq fouled out on the next possession by knocking Gasol over. Hmmm…

… But Kobe turned it right back over, putting Amundson on the line for two free throws with 38.2 seconds remaining. He hit 1-of-2, but L.A. came up with two steals to score four points, and Barnes missed 1-of-2 from the charity stripe as the Lakers looked up at a 116-111 deficit with 13.5 on the clock, and the ball.

0:07.9 But Bryant, on his 38th attempt from the field, couldn’t get a triple to go and the game was finally over.

Phoenix shot 10 free throws in the final two minutes, ultimately escaping with a 118-111 victory.