Lakers 103, Suns 118: Running Diary

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We took a look at the Lakers – Suns contest in Arizona while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked for their sixth straight road win.

Inactives
Lakers: Ron Artest
Suns: Taylor Griffin, Jason Collins

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Odom*, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Amar’e Stoudemire.
*Odom started his second straight game in place of Ron Artest, out with a concussion. Phil Jackson said that Artest is still experiencing dizziness, but is hopeful he can return to for Tuesday’s game.

Odom Embraces Planet Orange
About a month ago, the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding wrote about Lamar Odom’s new penchant for scarfing oranges, an idea first proposed by new teammate and old friend Ron Artest. As it turns out, that habit has gone nowhere, as Odom said before the contest that he still goes through at least two oranges on game days. Last year, he was more likely to be found eating peach candy (or, really, any other sweet/sour candy) before games, but no more. Appropriately, the major marketing slogan in Phoenix is “Planet Orange.”

59201615First Quarter
12:00 Phoenix still announces Amare Stoudemire’s self-appointed nickname, S.T.A.T. (Standing Tall And Talented), which I always enjoy. Stoudemire’s charged with defending the bigger Andrew Bynum, while Channing Frye must deal with Pau Gasol. It was the Spaniard who struck first, just as he did in Sacramento last night, with a little turnaround jumper.

6:47 Kobe Bryant appeared to take a blow to his finger while slashing to the hoop and drawing a foul, but after a time out sunk both to put L.A. up 12-10 early. The right elbow strain he suffered against Sacramento almost made us forget about the avulsion fracture on his right index finger.

2:58 Bynum scored six straight points as the Lakers took an 18-13 lead, but didn’t get a touch for the next three possessions as Phoenix reeled off a 7-0 run. As if to prove the point, Bynum got the ball on the next Lakers’ possession and promptly drew a foul, sinking both free throws to get to nine points with six rebounds and a block in by far his best stretch of late.

Second Quarter
8:44 A good start to the second quarter it was not, as Phoenix scored the first seven points before pushing their lead to 10 points. L.A. turned the ball over twice after posting not one turnover in the first quarter, including a failed 2-on-1 fastbreak with Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown miscommunicating (robbing us of a potential Brown dunk, sadly).

5:09 Joining Bryant in the injured finger department was Odom, who sprained the middle and index fingers on his right hand. He is a lefty, we should note, and returned to the game.

0:09.5 With L.A.’s offense stalling at about 30 percent from the field, Bryant went off, making 7-of-his-last-8 shots to get to 17 points, 13 in the quarter, to bring L.A. within six at the half (56-50). In other news, the Human Slinky performed at halftime – always a crowd pleaser.

59201526Third Quarter
9:58 Like in the second, the Suns came out red hot to start the quarter, nailing 4-of-5 shots (including a pull-up J from Nash) to re-open a 10-point lead. I, however, was still thinking about how the Slinky started its career. What was the motivation?

2:05 Unfortunately for L.A., the Suns didn’t slow down much as the quarter continued, nailing five three pointers to push their lead to 19 points at 87-68. Perhaps “unfortunately” isn’t the operative word, since it was turnovers and missed defensive assignments that led to many of the open looks.

0:28.3 At least one Laker was still playing great. No surprise that it was Bryant, who rolled off L.A.’s final nine points to bring ‘em back within 12 heading into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter
9:35 Robin Lopez out-maneuvered Gasol for an offensive board and put it back in from the baseline, drawing Phil Jackson’s ire from the bench. It’s not often that Gasol has the team’s worst +/-, yet he did at that point (-16).

6:14 Jared Dudley, a Southern California native (San Diego), hurt the Lakers in the second half with 11 of his 19 points, including three long-distance bombs. The Suns had connected on 11-of-33 triples at that point, not a great percentage, but still damaging to the Lakers.

3:27 Up 16, Phoenix put Nash and Stoudemire back into the contest to seal the deal, and that they did. First, Amare made an and-1 bucket, leading to a pull-up three from Nash on the next possession for the biggest Suns’ lead of the game. Jackson had inserted his subs minutes before the run, content to try things again against Golden State on Tuesday night.

Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
(-) 21 Pau Gasol’s plus-minus rating for the night, a shocking number considering his level of skill. The Spaniard managed only 13 points and five rebounds on the evening.

3 Lakers that played over 30 minutes: Kobe Bryant (36:10), Pau Gasol (35:26) and Lamar Odom (barely over, at 30:12).

12 Three-pointers hit by the Suns in 32 attempts, including nine in the second half, to only six makes from the Lakers.

13 In your dubious stat of the night, L.A. managed only 13 assists on 40 field goals, compared with 25 on 43 from Phoenix.

34 Points from Kobe Bryant, who nailed 14-of-26 shots (53.8 percent), and added seven rebounds.

48.9 Field goal percentage for the Suns, quite a departure for the league’s best FG defense in L.A.