Lakers 124, Suns 112: Game 2 Running Diary

60499947Lakers – Suns Gameday Page
L.A. looked to follow up an impressive 128-107 Game 1 victory with Game 2′s Wednesday evening contest at STAPLES Center. We were there to make sure you didn’t miss a thing:

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison
Suns: Taylor Griffin

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

Phil Jackson Pregame
Roughly an hour-and-a-half before every game, Phil Jackson addresses the media, though in the Conference Finals the scene moves to a large room in the STAPLES Center underground to accommodate the large media contingent. On Wednesday, Jackson said that he expected the Suns to leave Kobe with single coverage, that he wasn’t concerned about Bryant’s knee but worried about Andrew Bynum’s, and shared that the coaches are never surprised when Lamar Odom has a big game as he did in Game 1.

60500098First Quarter
9:39 A good start for the Lakers concluded with two free throws from Andrew Bynum after Ron Artest had scored five straight points, including a corner three and driving layup. The Lakers like Artest’s matchup with the smaller Jason Richardson, and took advantage early for the second straight game in a 9-4 start.

5:57 The Suns quickly countered with an 11-2 run of their own to take their first lead behind three field goals from Amare Stoudemire … at least before a 6-0 Lakers run produced a 17-13 edge and a Suns’ time out. Bynum added two more buckets, both near the rim, plus three rebounds before giving way to Lamar Odom, who immediately grabbed an offensive board and laid it back in. Odom, of course, had 19 points and 19 rebounds in Game 1 before Stoudemire called him “lucky,” setting up a bit of additional drama*.
*Before the game, Stoudemire entered L.A.’s underground weight room, and Odom followed unknowingly a minute later. Fun.

0:00 The first standing ovation of the game from the partisan crowd came in emphatic form as Artest buried a corner three at the buzzer, capping a 7-0 run to close the quarter and putting the Lakers up 36-24. Artest finished the first with 10 points, three boards, two assists and a steal, while Bryant was terrific moving the ball, producing six assists along with his nine points. The Purple and Gold shot 58.3 percent after shooting 58 percent for the entirety of Game 1.

60500210Second Quarter
11:00 As fortunate bounces go … Louis Amundson badly missed the second of two free throws after L.A. had taken a 14-point lead with a Jordan Farmar jumper, but the ball got knocked out to a waiting Jared Dudley, who buried a much-needed three as Phoenix tried to stay in the game.

5:49 The Suns’ bench, about which we’d heard to much heading into the series, made its mark for the first time with an 11-0 run to cut L.A.’s lead down to just three on Dudley’s three-pointer. Moments later, Dudley nailed his third straight from long distance (the reserve hit 45.8 percent of his threes in the regular season), but a Farmar three, long two from Shannon Brown and Gasol free throw made it 47-41 Lakers.

1:30 Bryant pushed his assist total to nine (no typo, that’s 9) as Artest and Derek Fisher hit back-to-back threes to push L.A.’s lead back to 12. Artest’s third triple got him to a team-high 15 points, as L.A. was also controlling the boards (23-17) while shooting 57 percent. The half ended with the home team up 65-56, L.A. scoring with relative ease while shooting 57.1 percent from the field.

60500396Third Quarter
10:16 Bryant was the story of the third in Game 1, as he exploded for 21 points, and his first bucket in this one was a pretty turnaround in the paint. Richardson, however, scored all seven Suns’ points to open the quarter, cutting L.A.’s lead to six and forcing a Phil Jackson time out. Much had been made about a stat in which Phoenix won nearly all of its games when J-Rich went for at least 20 points, but it wouldn’t matter if the Lakers kept scoring so easily.

3:06 Speaking of scoring … that was some fun basketball to watch. The teams basically traded buckets for five minutes, but the Suns barely missed a shot while cutting the lead to four on Grant Hill’s pull-up jumper.

1:13 Hill closed a terrific individual quarter by making his sixth straight shot before finally missing inside the final minute, scoring 14 of Phoenix’s 34 points and helping the Suns tie the score at 90 heading into the final quarter. The Lakers struggled to get the ball inside against Phoenix’s small, athletic lineup with Stoudemire playing center and Dudley at the four, the Suns scrambling around. As such, L.A. would need to ramp things up at both ends to break a 90-90 tie into the final quarter…

60500186Fourth Quarter
11:23… And they certainly did. It was a solid start to the final quarter from Farmar, who buried a corner three, then picked Goran Dragic’s pocket before missing a fadeaway in the paint. L.A. got a stop on D, then saw Bryant notch his 10th assist as Gasol laid in easily at the rim to put the Purple and Gold up five. Bryant, however, flashed into the paint to help at the other end, leaving Dudley to hit his fifth three in as many attempts to cut it right back to two. That, however, was the Suns’ only make in the next several minutes (five straight misses) as the Lakers’ D found its rhythm.

7:15 Farmar picked quite a time to step up, nailing another triple, this one a pull-up in transition that preceded Bryant’s jumper to push L.A.’s lead right back into double digits at 11. Two minutes later, Bryant notched his playoff-career-high 12th assist, finding Gasol (21 points) at the rim, as things began to come easily for L.A.

1:57 Phoenix simply could not get stops, particularly near the rim, as Gasol and Odom took turns laying balls in off the glass, dunking and making short jumpers. Odom grabbed four boards and scored six points in the quarter to reach a 15-10 double-double, while Gasol scored 12 points and grabbed three boards to reach a game-high 27 points with nine rebounds of his own. Odom’s left-handed baseline dunk was the final blow as the Lakers’ lead swelled to 14 points at 120-106, the Suns taking a final time out to discuss.

The game ended with L.A. scoring 124 points, Phoenix 112, L.A. once again shooting the lights out (57.7 percent). Bryant was masterful at directing his team in a 21-point, 13-assist performance, Gasol finished with a game-high 29 points on 19 shots while Odom again provided a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards. The three took over the final quarter, which L.A. claimed 34-22 to send the Lakers to their eighth straight playoff win and put Phoenix in a 2-0 Western Conference Finals hole.

Stay tuned for all the postgame reaction on Lakers.com.