Lakers 139, Suns 137: March 22 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers looking for a fifth straight win, 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, C. Frye, R. Lopez

FIRST QUARTER
9:00 After starting 1-for-6, two of their shots being blocked by Pau Gasol, the Suns connected on consecutive hoops with a Channing Frye floater and Vince Carter corner three. The triple came off the exact kind of action L.A.’s coaches have planned against, two defenders committing to a penetrating Steve Nash, leaving Carter open in the corner for the triple.

6:03 Though Robin Lopez starts, Phoenix’s best center, by far, is Marcin Gortat. He checked in early, and promptly converted a dunk and then a layup in transition by beating L.A.’s bigs down the floor, putting the Suns up 18-15. The Polish Hammer, actually, is probably one of the league’s top seven or eight centers (try to think of eight that are better). Furthermore, the Suns have been much better of late with Frye in the line up. They went 1-4 with him out of the line up last week, but had won 8-of-11 with him on the court.

0:00 The Suns played very well in the first, looking like a team fighting for a playoff spot (which they of course are being two games back of Memphis for the eight spot) while scoring 31 points on 50 percent shooting. The Lakers did manage to stick around despite playing just average, going for 27 points behind eight from Gasol and five each from Odom, Bryant and Barnes off the bench.

SECOND QUARTER
6:29 Keeping the Lakers in the game despite continued red hot shooting from the Suns was Odom, who made six of his first eight shots for a game-high 13 points, plus five boards and two dimes. Phoenix, however, was taking advantage of a fast pace against L.A.’s bench to hit 7-of-10 field goals in the second, including its fifth three-pointer, to open an eight-point lead that Odom chipped down to five at 50-45.

3:14 The next stretch of minutes saw improved defensive intensity from L.A., led by an all-over-the-place Artest, which resulted in a 55-52 lead with Gasol and Bryant scoring on the other end. Both teams were shooting 54 percent a moment earlier in a well-played game with only five total turnovers. Artest then hit his second three-pointer to put the Lakers up 58-53, their biggest lead.

0:00 The Lakers got hurt in one category more than any other in the first half, fast break points, as they gave up 19 while scoring only two. Nonetheless, a 6-0 individual scoring run from Bryant allowed the home team to close the half with a 66-60 lead.

THIRD QUARTER
10:00 Building on Bryant’s run to close the half, Gasol, Odom and Bryant scored in succession to open a 72-60 lead over the Suns. Phoenix actually got three good looks at three-pointers, but missed ‘em all. Missing wasn’t in Odom’s vocabulary, as he followed up his 8-of-11 Sunday effort against Portland by making 7-of-9 shots, improving his 53.8 field goal percentage that ranked eighth in the NBA heading into the game.

8:19 Odom kept going, forcing more entries here, nailing a three-pointer and then a tough and-1 through traffic to improve to 9-of-11 from the field for 21 points, a game high. In the process, L.A. opened a 17-point lead, taking full control of the game.

4:34 L.A.’s lead ballooned to as many as 21 points when Bryant hit back-to-back three-pointers (to reach 12 points in the quarter), but Phil Jackson didn’t like where the tempo was going as Nash answered with consecutive threes of his own, and Fisher took a triple early in the shot clock. Phil called time out with the lead down to 15 points, and drew up a play to get Gasol a left-handed hook inside that set the lead at 91-74.

FOURTH QUARTER
12:00 Phoenix used an 18-6 run to close the third quarter, getting a bevy of inside hoops in addition to Nash’s threes, cutting what had been a 21-point lead to just nine at 95-86. L.A. would start the fourth with subs Blake, Brown, Barnes, Walton plus Odom, trying to maintain the advantage.

7:43 With Odom in the starting line up, the only sub able to get anything going on offense was Barnes, who cut to the hoop before throwing down a one-handed dunk that had him up to 13 points on 6-of-9 field goals. Walton, however, was 1-for-5, and Brown 0-for-3. On the other side of the court, Aaron Brooks — who used to hurt the Lakers as a Houston Rocket — was up to 15 points off Phoenix’s bench, while Mickael Pietrus had 10 and Gortat 14.

3:54 Phoenix eventually tied the score at 101, the bench crew having trouble creating good shots against the Suns zone D … at least until Bryant and Gasol checked back in, which created an open three for Blake (swish), Bryant’s pull-up jumper, another Bryant jumper and then Odom’s hoop to push the lead right back to nine at 110-101.

0:47.0 The 14th three-pointer of the game for Phoenix, from Frye, cut LAL’s lead suddenly in half at 112-109, and a Fisher miss at the other end gave the visitors a chance to tie … which they did as Grant Hill hit a three from the corner. On the other end, Bryant missed a tough driving runner through traffic, and with a chance to win the game, Carter couldn’t get close on a three over the outstretched arms of Gasol. Overtime.

OVERTIME
2:05 With little else working on a suddenly-stalled offense, Odom went to work for the Lakers, scoring a tough hoop from the baseline to add to a minute-earlier basket that got him to 29 points on the evening, a new season high, on 13-of-17 shooting (76 percent). Then the biggest shot of the game to that point sank through, from three-point range, for Artest, giving the Lakers a three-point lead.

0:13.0 Terrific all game for Phoenix was Gortat, who scored off a pretty Nash pass to get the Suns within one … but even better all night was Odom, who grabbed a critical offensive board off Bryant’s missed three to earn two free throws for Fisher on the inbounds pass. Both went down, allowing L.A. a 121-118 lead. But…

0:01.1 … Phoenix ran an inbounds play to get Frye a look at a three, which he missed long, the rebound falling to Nash. He found Frye again, and Odom tried to foul him on the ground, but the refs said Frye was going up to shoot, rewarding Phoenix with three free throws and a chance to tie the game with 1.1 seconds left. Through the pressure, Frye hit all three. Odom missed a potential game winner on the other end from 20 feet, bringing us some double overtime.

DOUBLE OVERTIME
3:08 Instead of allowing fatigue to set in, L.A.’s All-Stars doubled down in double OT, Bryant scoring four straight points and Gasol then delivering his best post move of the game — a drop step to his left with a lefty finish off glass — to put L.A. up 127-123. The Spaniard had looked tired at times in Bynum’s absence while playing 45 minutes to that point, making only 8-of-23 shots (34 percent) before his lefty layup.

0:02.5 A wild game continued to get more crazy, with the Suns going on a 5-0 run to take a two-point lead on a Frye three, before the Lakers got a stop and then two pressure-packed Gasol free throws to tie the game with 2.5 seconds left in the game. The Suns had a chance to win, but Bryant didn’t allow Hill to get a shot off, forcing triple OT for the first time since Dec. 26, 2009 at Charlotte.

TRIPLE OVERTIME
1:53 The drama just kept going and going at 10:45 p.m. Pacific time, with Bryant pulling up for a three over Dudley having just fouled out Grant Hill. Then a huge play from Artest, again, this time stripping Nash and converting a huge left-handed dunk at the other end to put the Lakers up 135-132.

0:14.2 OK, so, again … just silliness. After a ridiculous one-leg, falling-away jumper from Artest, Frye hit Phoenix’s 17th three of the game to cut the lead to two. So Bryant just ran up the court and pulled up for a jumper to push it back to four. It finally ended after a Suns’ layup with 1.8 seconds left, the final score 139-137. We’ll take a breath, and come back with Postgame Numbers shortly.