Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday night contest against Phoenix, a night in which Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was honored with a statue outside of Staples Center, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Morris, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol, Howard
Suns: G. Dragic, J. Dudley, M. Beasley, L. Scola, M. Gortat
7:44 A 9-0 Lakers run featured a bucket by each of the team’s starters, allowing a 12-6 early edge as the ball movement impressed to the tune of five assists. Darius Morris had one dime in his role of starting point guard with both Steve Nash (leg) and Steve Blake (abdomen), but it would be Kobe Bryant initiating much of the offense again. In his last three games with the Steve’s out, Bryant is averaging seven assists an evening.
0:00 If Mike D’Antoni wants this team to average around 110-115 points, they were well on that pace after one, scoring 35 points on 14 of 23 field goals, including 4 of 5 from three as the third World Peace triple sank home at the buzzer to make it 35-30. Gasol was red hot, hitting five straight 18-ish foot jumpers, even if the defense wasn’t strong (especially against screen/roll) on the other end.
4:05 The Lakers used a nice push, capped by Antawn Jamison’s wing triple, to open a 50-40 lead with eight minutes left in the third, but then took forever to score again, the Suns bursting to a 15-0 run to take a 55-50 lead. Finally stopping the bleeding (62 percent field goals from Phoenix) was Bryant, whose back-to-back hoops gave him 12 points and made it a 1-point game.
0:00 A half of ridiculous runs continued as L.A. reeled off 12 straight to counter the 15-point Phoenix push, enough to secure a 62-57 halftime edge. The D picked up to close the quarter, getting the Suns from 63 percent down to 54 percent, while six triples doubled up the three from the visitors. World Peace was terrific, with 15 points (three triples himself), four boards, three dimes and three steals.
5:00 Howard split 2 of 4 free throws on consecutive trips (his habit all early season, as he’s almost right at 50 percent from the stripe) … but the star of the game continued to be World Peace, who drained his fifth three-pointer to make it 80-75. He had 21 points to lead all scorers, Kobe next at 17.
2:00 Moments before Gortat’s put-back layup countered one from Jordan Hill to tie the score at 82, we learned that Steve Nash would miss at least one more week as he tries to recover from a non-displaced fracture in his left leg. Certainly not what Lakers fans wanted to hear, as the PG would miss a minimum of five games in a heavy week.
9:21 A good close to the third quarter, then a better start to the fourth had the Lakers’ lead up to 15 points at 101-86, the biggest margin of the night. Leading the way were Hill and Howard, the two bigs anchoring the paint on defense and hitting the offensive glass to combine for 26 points and 15 boards in their collective minutes. Bryant got hot late in the third before checking out with 25 points in 31 minutes.
6:30 With the starters back in, two Kobe free throws kept the lead safe at 103-90, at least for the time being. The bench group of Hill, Duhon, Meeks and Jamison was collectively strong especially on the glass (13 boards), with Hill adding 10 points and Meeks seven in only nine minutes.
0:00 Mike D’Antoni said he’s looking for around 110-115 points for this Lakers team, and he could have been pleased with 114 while watching from the locker room, the final tally for his new squad to best 102 from Phoenix. Kobe led the way with 31 and six assists, while MWP chipped in 22 and Gasol and Howard both had double-doubles. Up next: Houston on Sunday. We’ll see you there.