Lakers 102, Suns 96: Running Diary

59893993Lakers – Suns Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Suns contest in Phoenix while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to break a streak of four consecutive road losses.

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton
Suns: Leandro Barbosa

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire and Robin Lopez

Pregame Notes
The Lakers blew Phoenix out in both games in L.A. (total of 39 points) but lost by 15 here in the Valley of the Sun earlier this year. For a full preview, plus Phil Jackson’s pregame thoughts, CLICK HERE.

59893987First Quarter
8:15 The early game plan for both teams: feed the post. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol took four of L.A.’s first 6 shots, while Amare Stoudemire – thanks in part to two of his own offensive boards – took seven shots in the first four minutes, making three to keep Phoenix within three points.

5:27 A good beginning for Bynum continued as the 7-footer first sprinted up the floor and jammed home Derek Fisher’s trailing pass, then tipped in Bryant’s miss on the following possession to score eight of L.A.’s 18 points. However, the Suns switched into a zone defense that gave the Lakers problems, helping inspire an 8-0 run that put Phoenix up 24-18 with 2:54 to play as Phil Jackson was forced to call his third time out.

15.2 Put-back layups from Lamar Odom and Gasol cut what had been a nine-point lead to five, but Gasol missed his third straight free throw on the and-1 opportunity. Nash then pulled up for a jumper to make it a 31-24 margin at the quarter break. Stoudemire was terrific, going off for 17 points and seven rebounds, while the Lakers couldn’t have been happy with their execution at either end.

59893998Second Quarter
10:53 That execution, however, improved almost immediately as Bryant returned to start the second (he’d played only seven first quarter minutes due to picking up two fouls). First was an open Josh Powell jumper (swish), then an open corner three for Shannon Brown (swish) that cut Phoenix’s lead to two.

8:37 Phoenix answered right back with a 6-0 run that again pushed the lead to eight, leaving L.A. searching for a spark yet again. They got a quick one from Sasha Vujacic, who caused two turnovers in a row with his uber-aggressive defense, and nailed a pull-up three in between. Minutes later, Artest nailed a three and Bynum a short jumper to again cut the lead to two.

0:22.4 Remember how L.A. was struggling on offense? Yeah … that stopped happening. A fantastic stretch featured Lakers points on eight consecutive possessions, resulting in an 18-6 run that turned an 8-point deficit into a 7-point lead (53-46) at the half. Ron Artest was key, nailing two three-pointers and sticking back his own offensive rebound for eight of his 10 points in a solid individual stretch.

59893937Third Quarter
8:54 L.A. turned back to Bynum to open the third, and ‘Drew responded with three buckets, the first two dunks, to help L.A. reach its biggest lead of the day at 10. Fisher added a three, and Phoenix looked helpless to stop the multi-faceted Lakers attack that hasn’t been consistently available of late, particularly on the road.

6:26 Much like a shark, when it smells a bit of blood, Kobe goes right for the jugular, often on a pull-up three in transition that I call his “momentum three.” He nailed one to put the Lakers up 15 points, almost completely quieting the crowd. After another stop on defense, Bryant pulled up yet again to try and push it to 18, but missed.

0:22.2 Quite a difference a few minutes makes, as suddenly L.A. went back to its offensive struggles of the first quarter to concede an 11-0 run that cut that 15-point lead to just two, though Odom did manage to end the quarter with a layup that made it 77-73 into the fourth quarter. Nash, Richardson, Stoudemire and Hill all played a role in the Suns’ burst, though Phoenix’s second unit would enter to start the fourth.

59893992Fourth Quarter
9:10 Quite a thorn in L.A.’s side was Suns’ sub and resident “energy guy” Louis Amundson, who dunked on consecutive possessions to put Phoenix back in front for the first time since halfway through the second quarter, getting to 10 points with 10 rebounds in 23 minutes.

5:06 And there went the coach. Alvin Gentry, furious that Gasol wasn’t hit with a flagrant after a hard foul of Amundson, got ejected, allowing Fisher to sink two free throws that put L.A. back up 10. Artest had just hit his third triple of the game, and Fisher would nail his third two minutes later as L.A. clung to its lead.

1:26 Stoudemire’s two-handed dunk through traffic followed Richardson’s three to cut L.A.’s lead back to just four at 100-96, but Nash missed a three and then turned the ball over on the next possession to get the Lakers the ball back, resulting in 1-of-2 Kobe free throws (he oddly missed the first, which almost never happens late) to give L.A. a 5-point cushion with 16.5 seconds left for the Suns. That would prove to be enough, as the Suns would miss a few desperation attempts before Fisher sealed the win by intercepting Richardson’s pass.

With that, L.A. had snapped its 4-game road losing streak, and improved to 48-18 on the season.

Up next, a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back in Golden State and Sacramento. Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
2 Assists away from a triple-double for Kobe Bryant, who scored 21 points with 10 boards and eight dimes.

5 Starters with at least 15 points, led by 21 from Bryant, 18 from Andrew Bynum and 15 each from Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and Pau Gasol.

6 Three-pointers made by Fisher and Artest, both of whom nailed three. The Lakers made 9-of-25 triples, while Phoenix connected on 6-of-21 from distance.

9 Missed free throws by the Lakers, which nearly came back to bite ‘em. Phoenix hit 22-of-27, L.A. 13-of-22.

49.4 L.A.’s terrific shooting percentage, including 8-of-12 from Bynum and 7-of-11 from Gasol.