Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against Phoenix, the Lakers looking for a third straight win, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: S. Nash, J. Dudley, G. Hill, C. Frye, M. Gortat
9:45 L.A.’s offense went through Bynum early, the center making his first three shots in an early 6-6 tie, the third coming courtesy of a pretty Gasol lob for a dunk. Before the game, Suns coach Alvin Gentry called the Lakers’ two seven footers the league’s toughest front court combo with which to defend … so he’s on to something.
3:00 Despite a driving hoop from Gasol, L.A. still trailed 18-13 due to a largely flat first eight minutes. It’s nothing new that no matter how poorly a team had been playing before drawing the Lakers (Phoenix had lost three straight), they’d come in primed to face Kobe and Co., the Suns the latest example as their worked their way to a 12-6 board edge.
0:00 You could point to L.A.’s seven turnovers as a big reason for their sluggish first quarter, but the Suns had eight turnovers themselves. More telling was the 15-9 edge on the glass, and not a single offensive board for the Lakers, usually strong on that end. The Phoenix lead was 25-21.
6:49 In recent games, Matt Barnes has found a nice rhythm off the bench, as he showcased early in the second quarter by scoring nine of his 11 points on 4-of-4 FG’s, plus three boards. His bench mate Troy Murphy added a triple, a long two and an and-1 to put the home team up 42-35.
5:00 Mike Brown decided to reward the bench by keeping them in past the usual rotation, holding Gasol and Bryant out, and Blake’s immediate reward was a transition three to put L.A. up 10. Phoenix, however, got immediate buckets from newly-entered Nash and Gortat, prompting Bryant and Gasol’s return … but Nash then used basically the same play to get Gortat two more hoops, capping an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 45-43.
0:00 Inspired by Metta World Peace’s hands, L.A. answered that Phoenix burst with a 9-0 run to close the half, producing a 57-49 margin. Peace had three first half steals, the last leading to Fisher’s transition layup, while Kobe reached a game-high tying 14 points (Gortat) at the foul line to cap the scoring, having drawn Hill’s 3rd PF on a pretty crossover.
9:58 Guess how many guards in NBA history have collected 6,000 rebounds? It was eight before this game started, but when Kobe rose up on defense to claim his fourth, one more was added to the list. Yet another Kobe milestone. Meanwhile, he’d score back-to-back hoops on the other end to reach 20 points on 6-of-10 FG’s, keeping L.A.’s lead at nine.
3:55 Did we mention that Kobe has scored at least 40 points in consecutive games against Phoenix, including a league season-high 48 on Jan. 10? He caught fire in the third, making 6-of-7 shots plus two assists, then nailed a pull-up 3 to put L.A. up 83-63, getting to 30 points on 11-of-18 field goals.
0:00 Bryant added another bucket, but his self-proclaimed “little brother” Shannon Brown took advantage of rare minutes (Michael Redd had taken his backup SG burn away) to hit two threes, including a buzzer beater, to get the Suns within 14 at 87-73.
8:02 L.A.’s second unit couldn’t replicate a really strong first half performance, struggling offensively and conceding two three-pointers (Brown and Redd) as Phoenix trimmed the lead to 11. In to stabilize the offense came Gasol; one of the reasons he’s so valuable is that you can run your entire O through him, so rare for NBA 4′s and 5′s.
3:36 Give credit to Brown for sparking a big Suns comeback, scoring all 13 of his points in the second half, capped by a huge follow-slam of a Markieff Morris miss. Fisher and Bryant (34 points), however, responded with back-to-back jumpers to keep L.A. up nine at 99-90.
0:00 After some stat padding*, L.A. took a 111-99 win, its third straight, to improve to 18-12 on the season and 13-2 at home. Up next: a Sunday rematch with these same Suns, though in the Valley of the Sun this time. See you there.
*Gasol finished his 19th double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 boards, Bynum went for his 17th with 17 and 14, and Kobe concluded a terrific game with 36 points, eight boards and six dimes.