Lakers 90, Suns 102: Feb. 19 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening road contest at Phoenix, the Lakers looking for a fourth consecutive victory and second straight over Phoenix, whom they beat on Friday night in L.A., 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: S. Nash, J. Dudley, G. Hill, C. Frye, M. Gortat

FIRST QUARTER
3:17 Phoenix used a 14-2 run, scoring in all ways, to open a 29-14 lead in putting the Lakers in a big hole early. It can be difficult to match a team’s energy a game after beating them badly, as L.A. did Phoenix on Friday at home, and this was certainly the case early on. Mike Brown was the opposite of happy, saying during the time out that the points were already far too many to concede.

0:44.4 Matt Barnes has been playing some excellent ball of LAL’s bench of late, crediting in part the return of Steve Blake to the rotation from his rib injury, and after a season-high 17 points on Friday, he cut to the hoop for a dunk and then drew a foul for L.A.’s first nice little stanza of the game. The Suns, however, still took a 35-19 lead into the second quarter.

SECOND QUARTER
12:00 We mentioned the big Suns lead, but we should note that Phoenix has really struggled after the first quarter, being outscored by an average of 12 points in the final three quarters in the last four games. Point being, L.A. couldn’t get too down after a poor first quarter effort.

9:00 The Blake to Barnes combo worked again, this time on an alley-oop layup, though L.A. still trailed by 17 points as the Suns got solid bench production from rookie Markieff Morris (eight points). The Lakers started to cut into the lead a bit thanks to Bynum’s defense (his third block) and a gorgeous Gasol pass to get Bynum his fifth field goal, making it a 47-33 contest halfway through the period.

0:48.0 Not hard to guess what Brown was talking about in L.A.’s time out late in the second: defense, or in this case, a lack there of. Phoenix already had 60 points, boosted by nine offensive rebounds resulting in seven second chance points, compared with L.A.’s goose egg. The board edge overall was 27-21, and four threes to L.A.’s 0 also helped produce a 60-37 lead. Frye added a three, so Kobe’s long two made it a 63-40 Suns advantage at the half.

THIRD QUARTER
7:00 L.A.’s third quarter energy wasn’t all that much better than its first half effort, Phoenix taking advantage to push to a 71-48 lead despite a rare made jumper for World Peace (1-for-4). Bynum continued to look very strong inside, however, throwing home a Bryant alley-oop to reach 16 points with nine boards.

0:00 The Lakers did manage to cut eight points off the Suns’ halftime lead, getting within 15 on Gasol’s up-and-under move in the final minute to set them up for a fourth quarter comeback. Generally, teams like to be within 10 points with six minutes to go in the final quarter to have a good shot at a come back, and L.A. was getting closer. Bryant led the way by getting up to 21 points on 9-of-17 field goals, though he was just 1-for-5 from three. That make was L.A.’s only from distance, while Phoenix had 7-of-17 go down.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:00 The lead chopping continued as an aggressive trap of Bryant eventually led to a wide-open corner three from Troy Murphy, whose swish made it 82-70 Suns. It was just the second triple for L.A., while the Suns had converted 7-of-17. Lost amidst an otherwise solid game for Bryant, however, were the 10 turnovers he committed, including back-to-back cough ups as Phoenix went back up 16.

7:21 But back came Kobe, this time getting a tough and-1 bucket to fall, grabbing his own missed free throw and circling around with the dribble before finding Murphy for his second corner three of the fourth quarter.

3:49 Phoenix had enough of an answer, however, forcing Kobe’s 11th turnover, and getting a pull-up jumper from Dudley to go back up by 13. Not L.A.’s evening. Phoenix kept its lead in double digits before closing out a 102-90 victory. They certainly played with the backs-against-the-wall nature the Lakers often seem to bring out in opponents, particularly ones that have lost four straight, and been handled twice by L.A. this season.

With the loss, the Lakers fall to 18-13 on the season, failing to take advantage of losses by both the Clippers and Mavs, ahead of L.A. in the standings. Up next, a Monday evening back end of a back-to-back against Portland. We’ll see you there.