Lakers 99, Suns 95: Jan. 5 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday night game at Phoenix as the Lakers looked for their fourth win in five games since Andrew Bynum returned to the starting line up, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: S. Nash, V. Carter, G. Hill, M. Gortat and R. Lopez

FIRST QUARTER
8:52 The Suns went off the reservation a bit with their line up, looking to match up with L.A.’s length by starting Marcin Gortat at the four and Robin Lopez at the five, moving Mickael Pietrus to the bench. Since neither Gortat nor Lopez is much of an offensive threat, Phoenix looked different from the team revolving around three-point shooting on the wings, content to let the bigs set screens for jump shots from Vince Carter and Grant Hill. Those two vets, however, both hit two perimeter J’s to give Phoenix an early 9-6 lead, while L.A. pounded the ball inside to Andrew Bynum (four points).

4:00 After letting Bynum carry the heavy load inside to open the quarter, as he drew three PF’s and scored four points despite missing 4-of-6 free throws, Kobe Bryant started to take advantage of the open space on the court with Phoenix packing the paint. He sank his next three shots, including a three from his favorite spot of last season’s Western Conference Finals, kicking off a run that would continue in earnest once he went to the bench.

1:24 Since entering near the at the 5:27 mark, Lamar Odom amassed six rebounds with four points and an assist, leading a 16-0 Lakers burst capped by five straight points from Shannon Brown out of transition run outs. Though L.A. had played the night before, their legs looked more than fresh in building a 29-17 lead. Phoenix managed a put-back layup from sub Jared Dudley to stop the run, and he added two free throws with 0.8 seconds left to cut L.A.’s lead to seven (31-24) at the break.

SECOND QUARTER
10:29 Steve Blake buried back-to-back jumpers to open the second for the Lakers, and Brown followed with two free throws after drawing a foul in transition, but the Lakers missed two defensive rotations at the other end to concede open threes to Jared Dudley and Channing Frye, negating their own offense.

7:45 Tough break for the Lakers with Odom’s third personal foul, his going to the bench immediately followed by Phoenix getting a transition layup from Hill off Blake’s turnover to tie the game. Blake, however, drained his third shot of the game at the other end in four attempts, a triple, to put L.A. back up three at 42-39.

2:01 Phoenix continued a much better second quarter thanks in large part to Dudley, who buried his second triple after converting his second offensive-rebound layup to reach 16 points. Nash followed a triple of his own to give the Suns their first lead since early in the game, and after Nash drew Artest’s charge, Dudley hit yet another to make it a 50-46 Phoenix lead. L.A. would pull three points back before halftime to trail by a point at the break. Bryant had 10 points, while nine of his teammates scored at least one bucket.

THIRD QUARTER
8:00 Much like the third quarter against Detroit, L.A. came out with solid defensive intensity, and took advantage of their stops to go on a 12-5 run that opened an eight-point lead. Bryant made all three of his shots in the stretch, while Bynum converted two easy looks inside.

3:30 Ron Artest continued a solid individual game by hitting his second triple of the game, and following up by working the offensive glass to earn L.A. two extra shots on a possession, even though he wouldn’t be credited with a rebound as he forced Gortat to knock the ball out of bounds. Meanwhile, Matt Barnes would enter to give Artest a break, charged with limiting Dudley at the other end after Phoenix’s SF scored 19 first half points.

0:08.0 Bryant’s 1-of-2 free throws allowed L.A. a 80-73 lead after the third quarter, thanks to an Odom-inspired 7-2 run featuring his ridiculous spinning, banked leaner and his pretty dish to Barnes on the next possession.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:45 A scary moment temporarily took the noise out of the building and particularly the Lakers fans, as Odom remained on the floor holding his left elbow after converting a tough finger roll. However, it ended up being just a funny bone injury (ulner nerve contusion), and Odom came right back in after a time out.

5:49 With the Suns’ second unit in, Alvin Gentry went to the zone defense he employed so often in the 2010 Western Conference Finals, to mixed effect. L.A. did settle for some long jumpers, they also penetrated the zone for a drop-in layup from Bynum and a reverse layup from Brown, who cut into the paint to receive Odom’s pass, putting L.A. up 90-82.

2:00 After shooting very well all game (9-for-12), Bryant missed three straight jumpers while the Suns scored seven straight to cut L.A.’s lead to one. But Brown, with two free throws, and Artest, with a clutch corner three, built the lead right back to six. Artest’s triple came just seconds after he subbed into the game, as Phoenix left him wide open in the corner. On the next possession, Artest earned L.A. a second shot with his offensive board, and Fisher dropped a deep two to make it a seven-point lead. L.A. would concede a triple from Frye in the final minute, but Gasol preserved a four-point win (99-95) by swatting Carter’s three-point attempt with 10 seconds to play, after which L.A. just ran out the clock.

That’s four of five wins for L.A. since Bynum returned to the starting line up.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
3 Three-pointers buried by Ron Artest, including the game-clinching dagger with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter. Artest had a really solid all-around game, scoring 11 points with four boards and four assists, coupled by his usual rugged defense throughout.

16 More rebounds coralled by the Lakers (47-31), led by Lamar Odom’s 10, Pau Gasol’s nine and seven each from Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant.

21 Points off the bench for Phoenix’s Jared Dudley to lead the Suns, 19 of which came in the first half to keep the Suns in the contest.

40 Bench points for the Lakers, led by Shannon Brown’s 13, Lamar Odom’s 12 and Steve Blake’s seven.

47.1 L.A.’s shooting percentage, just below Phoenix’s 48.6 performance in a relatively efficient offensive game. Kobe started out hot, hitting 9-of-12, before missing his final five shots of the contest … not that it hurt the Lakers, thanks to Artest and Fisher’s late heroics.