Monthly Archive for March, 2010

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Andrew Bynum Leaves Game With Achilles Strain

Lakers center Andrew Bynum suffered a left Achilles strain in the third quarter of L.A.’s Friday night contest against Minnesota, leaving a game to which he would not return.

Bynum finished the game against Minnesota with 11 points and five rebounds on 4-of-5 shooting in 20 minutes.

The 7-foot center had been playing his best basketball of the season, averaging 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 56.8 shooting in March, including a recent 4-game tear where he’d averaged 20.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 63.3 percent shooting.

Stay tuned for updates on Lakers.com, as Bynum will be re-evaluated on Saturday.

Rambis Brings Minnesota to Los Angeles


When former Lakers assistant coach and player Kurt Rambis left L.A. to take the head coaching job in Minnesota after winning a championship last June, he knew it was going to be a struggle, at least at first.

The Wolves are among the league’s youngest teams, a franchise in rebuilding mode that was not expecting to win many games in 2009-10, but rather assembling cap space and young assets for the future.

Sure enough, they haven’t won many games in 2009-10, a process not helped by Al Jefferson’s recovery from ACL surgery and last season’s No. 5 overall pick Kevin Love missing 22 games to injury.

Minnesota is just 14-55, and is struggling mightily of late, losing 11 straight and 17-of-18 after the Timberwolves’ lone 4-game winning streak this season, when they beat the Clippers, Knicks, Mavericks and Grizzlies in succession from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6.

Four games is the current length of L.A.’s winning streak, three of which came on the road (Phoenix, Golden State, Sacramento) after a home victory over Toronto, allowing the Lakers to reach 50 wins to just 18 losses.

The numbers are certainly daunting heading into Friday night’s contest between the two teams at STAPLES Center: the Lakers have lost five games at home all year, the Wolves have won five games on the road; Minnesota scores 98.1 points per game and concedes 107.7 points per game, L.A. scores 103.0 and allows 97.0; Minnesota has trouble with big teams in particular, the Lakers are perhaps the biggest. And so on.

Yet the Lakers have declared themselves to be in the business portion of their schedule, worrying less about opponents and more about their own level of play. Kobe Bryant was among other players this week to refuse to begin thinking about L.A.’s upcoming 5-game road trip before dealing first with Minnesota and then Washington on Sunday.

“We’re playing hard and want to continue to get better with execution all across the board and make sure we play with the right energy,” said Bryant. “We just have things that we need to work on and focus on for ourselves. It’s not about our next opponents, it’s about doing what we need to do to be a better team.”

For a detailed video breakdown of the Timberwolves from assistant coach Brian Shaw, scroll back to the top of the page and press play.

Follow Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) on Twitter.

Gasol Feeling Much Better

Pau Gasol (tonsilitis) is feeling much better today after missing Thursday’s practice.

The Spaniard participated in Friday’s shootaround and will play against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Kobe Speaks of DJ’s Special Gift

80391796MW074_Los_Angeles_LIn our “Chat with Congo Cash” earlier this week, DJ Mbenga addressed all kinds of topics from his nickname to fashion to Africa to nuggets about his Lakers teammates.

Among his most interesting comments came as he detailed his donation of a basketball court in Kobe Bryant’s name to his native Democratic Republic of Congo:

I always say, when we talk about Michael Jordan we always set him apart. But people gotta realize now, it’s not just Michael Jordan. It’s Kobe too. I told him, “I’m going to give you the best gift you’ve ever had … I’m building a basketball court in Congo with your name on it. People they love you there. You helped me to get a ring, I’m going to give you something back. I’m going to give you a basketball court with your name – that’s something nobody else can have. Even Michael Jordan never had that. I told him, “You’re going to give people hope. There are kids that are stealing, killing, (doing drugs) … instead I want them to play basketball at the Kobe … Bryant … Court.” It’s going to be in Kinshasa*. They are going to start working on it in a couple of weeks. Everything’s already been set up through my foundation.

After L.A. defeated Golden State on Monday night, we had a chance to ask Kobe about the honor:

It makes me feel great. He told me he was going to have a surprise for me, and something he and I talk about often is visiting Congo and speaking to some of the kids. DJ and I have a really close relationship. This is a tremendous honor, something that I didn’t expect. (DJ does) a ton for (the people) over there. It’s something that people don’t hear about, but he doesn’t do it for the attention, he does it because it’s something that’s close to his heart. I absolutely have to (go visit).

Follow Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) on Twitter.

Lakers 106, Kings 99: Running Diary

59927105Lakers – Warriors Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Kings contest in Sacramento while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to win their third straight road game.

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton (back)
Kings: Jon Brockman

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Kings: Beno Udrih, Tyreke Evans, Donte Green, Carl Landry and Spencer Hawes

Pregame Notes
(Editor’s note: We were a bit light on pictures right after the game, as you can see by the photo above) For a full preview of the contest, CLICK HERE. Details include Sacramento’s adjustment after the Kevin Martin for Carl Landry trade, Tyreke Evans’ play and what L.A. specifically wants to do to counter certain Kings’ plays such as the high screen and roll with Spencer Hawes and Beno Udrih.

59927589First Quarter
8:15 Andrew Bynum was an absolute man among small children in the paint in the game’s first four minutes, during which he dunked three times and laid in a fourth time, the Kings flailing limbs his way to no avail. That helped the Lakers to an early 11-4 lead in front of a terrific, energized crowd.

6:16 The Bynum-inspired start was all well and good, like the past season of “Friday Night Lights.” But the next two minutes were more like “The Jerry Springer Show,” (guilty pleasure or not) as the Kings rattled off a 9-0 run, the first seven points scored by Spencer Hawes (who happened to set a career high with 30 points against L.A. on New Year’s night.

0:02.4 The final six minutes swung the pendulum back L.A.’s way, in a big way, thanks almost exclusively to Kobe Bryant. No. 24 reeled off 13 straight points himself, and the Lakers conceded only four at the other end to build a 28-17 lead after the first quarter. Feel free to align Kobe’s dominant stretch with the “Real World – Road Rules Challenge” series (OK, last random TV reference for a while, sorry). Bynum, meanwhile, finished the quarter with 11 points and six rebounds, already approaching his solid recent stretch that’s had him average nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds over his last three games.

59927080Second Quarter
9:46 No TV reference this time, but feel free to think of a really bad show as the Lakers’ bench conceded a 10-2 run to start the half. The Farmar-Brown-Morrison-Odom-Gasol fivesome played right into Sacramento’s hands by trying to run up and down, letting the Kings right back into the game.

6:06 After a Tyreke Evans layup, the scoreboard read “Kings 20, Lakers 6″ in the first six minutes of the second, continuing what has been a deplorable stretch of second quarters for L.A. of late, to the point that Phil Jackson has mentioned the hard-to-explain issue more than once. But thanks to the solid first quarter, the Lakers trailed by just one after a Kobe jumper.

0:51 The final half of the second saw the teams swap leads several times as good things continued to happen for L.A. when Bynum touched the ball inside, whether intentional or not. After Bryant’s driving attempt (his 18th shot of the half) rimmed out, Bynum broke through for an offensive board, then stuffed it back for yet another dunk. Moments later, Kobe spotted Bynum alone under the rim and lofted an alley-oop pass for, you guessed it, another dunk that had the 7-footer at 17 points with eight boards. It wasn’t like L.A. was calling much for ‘Drew, either, as much of his action came off five offensive boards.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 106, Kings 99: Running Diary’

Lakers Set For New-Look Kings

D070030001.jpgWith the Lakers (49-18) in the state capital for a Tuesday evening tilt against the Kings (23-44), a slew of questions come into play after a two-plus month hiatus since the last time the two teams met (Jan. 1).

Do the Kings play a bit harder against the Lakers than they do in general? How has the loss of Kevin Martin and acquisition of Carl Landry affected the team? How good is Tyreke Evans? Are Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes and Landry at all equipped to deal with Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom?

First things first, the Kings do appear to raise their level of play against the Lakers … but that’s nothing new for the Purple and Gold. Sacramento played very well in each of L.A.’s two games against the Kings, first in a double overtime contest at ARCO Arena on Dec. 26, then in the New Years Day game that demanded Kobe Bryant’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer as a Lakers’ bail out. Yet the Kings simply haven’t been able to match L.A.’s talent of late, and the Lakers have won 8-of-10 games including six straight.

Since trading Martin to Houston for Landry, the Kings have gone 5-8, including a home win over Utah and road win in Houston (Landry put up 22 and 10 in that one). The Lakers game marks the fourth of five straight home games that began with a victory over Toronto, a loss to Portland and Sunday’s 114-100 victory over Minnesota in which Evans just missed a triple-double with 29 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. In related news, he’s pretty good even without a completely reliable outside shot.

Evans, in fact, is likely the front runner for Rookie of the Year (even as Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who was terrific against L.A. on Monday, games steam) on the strength of some outstanding numbers: 20.3 points, 5.6 assists and 5.1 rebounds with 1.47 steals in 37.2 minutes. Landry, meanwhile, gave the Lakers problems off Houston’s bench last season and earlier this season, and has been solid* with averages of 17.0 points and 6.8 rebounds in 37 minutes.
*Solid, not great, due to the 37 minutes. Neither Bynum nor Odom play over 30 minutes per game.

Among L.A.’s chief concerns with the Kings is Evans’s unique ability to get all the way to the rim and finish, particularly in transition, and both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are on protect-the-basket alert. Speaking of the paint, Landry’s had success with a bevy of pump fakes and via offensive rebounds, another point of emphasis for the Lakers.

An additional area of focus will be doing a better job with Spencer Hawes, who hurt the Lakers at STAPLES with his ability to step out and shoot the ball out of screen and rolls sets often involving Beno Udrih. Hawes went off for a career-high 30 points in that game, including 4-of-5 3-pointers, plus 11 rebounds.

The Lakers also hope Andrew Bynum’s upward trend continues, as the center who wasn’t even playing at this time of year last season due to an MCL tear has averaged 19.6 points and 9.6 rebounds in his last three games. The Kings will try and use Jason Thompson (12.6 points, team-high 8.5 rebounds) to go at Bynum, but it’s clearly a tough matchup

To catch all the action, tune into KCAL or 710 ESPN radio for a 7 p.m. start.

Lakers 124, Warriors 121: Running Diary

59918506Lakers – Warriors Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Warriors contest in Golden State while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to win a second straight road game.

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton
Warriors: Ronny Turiaf, Andris Biedrins

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette, Anthony Tolliver, Chris Hunter

Pregame Notes
Kobe Bryant showed up a few hours early in Oakland to get some additional shots up, which Derek Fisher later explained is something he’d prefer to do more often but hasn’t been able to as much this season due to various injuries. We also heard from Phil Jackson, which you can read about by CLICKING HERE.

59918046First Quarter
7:30 The Lakers were hotter than Sasha Vujacic after getting called for a foul to start the game, nailing all six of their shots and all three free throws, but three turnovers and two threes from D-League call up Anthony Tolliver kept Golden State within two points. L.A. then promptly missed its next six shots in a 16-all tie. Not yet into the game was D.J. Mbenga, whom I bring up as he sat down with us for an extended interview in which he discussed building a basketball court in his native Congo with Kobe Bryant’s name on it, fashion, his nickname and much more.

2:52 Nobody was happier that Ron Artest drained two wide open 3-pointers than Kobe Bryant, who assisted on each when the Warriors’ defense overcompensated on the other side of the floor. Artest has been L.A.’s best 3-point shooter this season, flirting with 40 percent for most of the year before dipping to around 38 percent of late. Kobe knows quite well how much more difficult the Lakers are to beat if Artest’s 3-ball is going down, and went immediately towards Ron Ron with a “Yeah boy!” look after the second make.

0:02.5 Pau Gasol was efficient and effective throughout the first, matching Kobe’s nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, plus three rebounds and an assist. One area that he wasn’t happy with: his free throw shooting. The Spaniard clanked his first three before making the fourth a game after shooting just 1-of-5, but he remains near 80 percent on the season. Nonetheless, L.A. took a 39-32 lead into the second quarter.

Second Quarter
9:02 After a Steve-Kerr-circa-1996 efficient offensive first quarter that saw L.A. dish 13 assists on 14 field goals (66.7 percent shooting), the team’s first field goal of the second came three minutes in on an Odom put back. In related news, G.S. stayed within three points.

599180593:36 More of the same continued through the second, L.A. scoring easily but missing free throws, and giving up a bit more than they liked defensively. Bryant earned a trip to the line but missed the second, the seventh miss of the half from the Purple and Gold, and C.J. Watson hit a J at the other end to bring his squad within one at 57-56. A clear positive for the Lakers, however: balance. Kobe had taken nine shots, Gasol six, Artest and Bynum five and Odom four.

2:03 Before the game, Phil Jackson warned against the Lakers turning the ball over, recognizing that it would lead directly to run outs and points at the other end for the Warriors. Oops. Bynum tried a cross court pass that was easily intercepted by Watson and turned into a layup, giving G.S. a 59-57 lead, L.A. already totaling 10 turnovers. It got worse quickly, the Lakers committing five more turnovers in the final two minutes to help the Warriors claim a 65-59 halftime lead. Jackson may as well have gone reverse psychology and said “Turn the ball over please.” Fortunately for L.A., a six-point deficit to the Warriors at halftime isn’t exactly intimidating, particularly with how easily scoring came when not turning it over (58.3 percent shooting, 20 free throw attempts).

Third Quarter
9:57 Great defense to start the third could have fairly been expected for a Lakers’ team that’s done so quite frequently (not frankly), but three quick field goals, including a Stephen Curry three, pushed Golden State’s lead to nine, its highest of the game.

4:25 Remember when G.S. was up nine? Since then, the Lakers did indeed put up the bunker (WWI style? No? OK.) on defense and converted nearly without fail at the other end, putting together a 20-5 run that created a 83-78 lead when Gasol followed Bynum’s dunk with a 7-foot hook. The two bigs had combined for 36 points (20 for Pau) and 19 rebounds (12 for Bynum) at that point to lead the Lakers.

0:33.7 With an angry, to quite angry expression on his face after not getting what he thought were a series of fouls called on Warriors’ reaches, Bryant finally get to the line in transition and sank both foul shots to cap a 35-22 quarter dominated by L.A. Bryant had reached his season high of eight turnovers, but also managed 20 points with four assists heading into the final quarter.

59918043Fourth Quarter
10:09 Monta Ellis, the NBA’s sixth leading scorer with 25.6 points per game, trailing only LeBron, Durant, Carmelo, Kobe and Wade, couldn’t have dropped a shot into the Pacific Ocean off the Bay Bridge on the way into Oakland tonight. He was only 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) after another missed layup. In a slight bit of fairness, he was charged with guarding Kobe at the other end for much of the game. Meanwhile, Odom went the other way with efficiency, making all six of his attempts for 15 points with nine boards, while Gasol was 9-of-12 for 22 points.

3:18 Curry’s fifth three was but a temporary lifeline for the Warriors, as Bryant immediately answered with a three of his own, and Fisher followed with an alley-oop to Gasol in transition to put the Lakers up 119-108 with time running out on G.S.

0:23.0 Wait a second… Ellis, who as we mentioned literally couldn’t throw a stone in the ocean from a boat, pulled up for a transition three after forcing Bryant’s ninth turnover (Kobe thought it was a foul and had a good argument) to cap a super-quick 9-0 run to an almost indifferent Lakers team that made it just a two-point margin. Golden State still had to foul, and Shannon Brown made both free throws with 13.9 seconds to play. After an ensuing Ellis layup and Bryant’s improbable miss of 1-of-2 free throws, both Curry and Ellis had looks at potential game-tying threes, but both missed. The final attempt, from Ellis, seemed to hang on the rim for about three seconds, bouncing this way and that, before ultimately spinning out. Lakers win, barely.

Up next for the Purple and Gold is a Tuesday evening tilt against Sacramento, but until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
9 Turnovers for Kobe Bryant, to surpass his previous season high of eight in Chicago on Dec. 15. Andrew Bynum added eight turnovers of his own (Golden State had only five as a team to L.A.’s 24), masking otherwise good games from both players. Kobe finished with a team-high 28 points with four assists, while Bynum was good for 19-and-14 double-double with three blocks.

21.7 Field goal percentage for Monta Ellis, who started just 2-of-19 from the field before making three of his final four attempts.

35 Total rebounds snatched by Bynum (14), Pau Gasol (nine) and Lamar Odom (12) who controlled the paint throughout for L.A. That was more than Golden State’s total of 29 rebounds; the Lakers finished with 56 as a team, spurred in part by the turnover discrepancy.

40 Minutes played by Kobe Bryant on the front end of a back-to-back.

77.3 Combined shooting percentage for Odom (7-of-9) and Gasol (10-of-13) for 17 and 26 points, respectively.

Kobe Comes Early to Oakland

kobe_warriorsLakers guard Kobe Bryant arrived early to ORACLE Arena in Oakland in preparation for L.A.’s Monday night contest against Golden State, running through a variety of shooting drills with assistant coach Brian Shaw.

An hour after Bryant completed his shooting regimen and started his stretching routine in the locker room, Derek Fisher said that Kobe’s various injuries throughout the season (broken finger, sprained ankle among others) have affected No. 24′s preferred routine.

“He hasn’t been able to practice as much as he (could) in the past,” said Fisher. “Working out before and after the game and things like that … but he’s been getting (to the arena) at 4:30 (p.m.) to try and ramp himself up for 7:30.”

This season, Bryant has put up 44 and 20 points in two games against Golden State, missing the third match up while recovering from his ankle injury. He added 11 and six assists, respectively, in those two Lakers wins, and is looking for a season sweep of the Warriors.

Phil Jackson Pregame
Some notes from Jackson’s pregame session:
- Jackson noted the edge that he expects Golden State to play with since this is the fourth meeting between the teams and that L.A. has won the first three. Clearly, no team ever wants to lose, but four times is a different beast.

- While of course pounding the ball down low is a key, Jackson said it’s not so much about what Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol do, but how L.A.’s guards manage to control the game and how well they’re able to feed the post. Golden State is a small, active team that tries to disrupt passing angles and prevent easy entry passes, of which Jackson is aware.

- Jackson mentioned the fluky nature of the Lakers having such a multitude of hand injuries, the roll call reading: Kobe, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown.

- L.A.’s head coach isn’t so much watching the scoreboard to see how far behind Denver or Dallas is, but instead simply keeping an eye on all teams that the Lakers might face.

Lakers Set For Northern Cali Trip

59027592After stopping a four-game road losing streak with a Friday night victory in Phoenix, the Lakers will look to build a streak in the other column when they head to Northern California for Monday-Tuesday road clashes with Golden State and Sacramento.

On paper, the Warriors (18-47) and Kings (22-44) are among the league’s worst teams, the Lakers having already beaten the Kings twice and Warriors thrice.

But both wins against Sacramento came down to the wire, first a 112-103 double overtime victory in the state capital on Dec. 26 and second a 109-108 buzzer-beating win courtesy of Kobe Bryant’s three-pointer in front of the Kings’ bench. The victories came easier against Golden State (a total of 49 points, in fact), but the Warriors have played better at home of late, taking Portland down to the wire before a late loss on Thursday and defeating Toronto on Saturday.

While the Kings will surely bang with and bruise the Lakers, the Warriors will try and entice them into the kind of wide-open, free-wheeling game that helped them beat the Raptors.

“(It’s about) the pace of the game,” said Phil Jackson. “Players get used to playing the game with a five- to eight-second pace where shots are going up, and that gets contagious. That happened to us in Phoenix on (Friday) in the third quarter where we got shooting three-pointers at their level.”

Jackson explained that falling into the Suns’ style helped their opponent cut into their lead, as such, L.A.’s coaching staff will stress the inside game of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol … even if that’s not even a little bit out of the ordinary.

“It’s always part of the game plan to give it to Bynum and Gasol,” said Ron Artest. Fair enough.

59196894Bynum has been particularly solid of late. In consecutive wins over Toronto and Phoenix, the youngest Laker has gone 8-of-12 from the field for 22 and 18 points, respectively, bullying his way to the basket for an array of dunks and layups. Add 15 total rebounds, three blocks and no turnovers, not to mention an improvement on defense notable enough to garner Phil Jackson’s explicit approval.

“I like what he’s done defensively,” Jackson said after the win in Phoenix. “I thought he’s played pretty good defense.”

Since Golden State is missing nearly all of its big men – center Andris Biedrins is done for the season, backup Ronny Turiaf is out with a sore knee and forward Anthony Randolph has been out for most of the season – Bynum certainly won’t face a lot of opposition in terms of raw size.

The Kings, however, can throw some bigger bodies at L.A., such as Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and newly-acquired Carl Landry, who gave the Lakers problems while playing for the Houston Rockets.

Aside from getting the ball inside, Jackson offered some keys to winning both games.

“The big thing is loose balls, turnovers, rebounds,” he said. “You (want to) give teams one attempt so that you’re getting the majority of the shots and you’re limiting them by not giving them open floor opportunities.”

The importance of securing wins is evident to the Lakers, well aware that Denver trails by 3.0 games and Dallas by 3.5 in the West.

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.