Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening contest at Phoenix, a.k.a. the return of Steve Nash, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Suns: G. Dragic, P. Tucker, J. Dudley, L. Scola, M. Gortat
7:40 The first triple from the Lakers came courtesy of Metta World Peace, off the second Kobe assist, to cut an early Suns lead to two at 12-10. Phoenix was the aggressor early, despite there being more people in the Valley of the Sun cheering for Nash and the Lakers. Nash was quiet early, missing his only field goal attempt, as Bryant resumed the ball-handling duties he’d picked up while amassing 39 assists in the past three games.
0:32.8 L.A. were turning the ball over at an alarming rate, with three straight poor passes giving them a ridiculous nine mishaps in the quarter. The Suns were only able to take moderate advantage, however, taking a 26-22 lead out of the period. Nash had six points, including four free throws, while Bryant had four assists, but the two combined for five of the nine turnovers.
3:00 Phoenix couldn’t buy a bucket, making only 3 of 20 shots before back-to-back hoops from Marcin Gortat pulled them within a point. L.A. had led by as many as five by starting the quarter well, the second unit playing strong for a second straight game since Steve Blake returned.
0:00 An ugly half of hoops finished with a 41-all scoreline, Michael Beasley reaching 10 points off the Suns bench with an and-1 in the final minute. L.A. turned the ball over 12 times, and didn’t have terrific energy on either end, though it didn’t hurt them too much on the scoreboard at least in terms of a deficit.
10:02 World Peace missed three wide open triples in the first half he’d like to have back, but he atoned by draining back-to-back corner triples, both from Kobe, to put the Lakers up 51-45 to force a Suns time out two minutes into the third. On the next possession, Kobe added yet another assist, his ninth of the game.
2:15 Gasol’s sixth field goal came on a hook in the paint, putting the Lakers back up 10 after Phoenix had trimmed a once 13-point lead down to eight. The Spaniard had 12 points with his five boards off the bench, while Howard was up to 12 rebounds with nine points after back-to-back buckets moments earlier.
0:00 The lead stayed in double digits heading into the fourth, Antawn Jamison doing the late damage with back-to-back jumpers from opposite corners (one a triple) to make it 73-63. L.A. outscored Phoenix 32-22 in the period.
8:08 Two Shannon Brown free throws cut L.A.’s lead down to seven; in related news, Bryant and Nash returned to the game for the Lakers, trying to secure their first road win in January. However, a trailing Scola laid the ball in off penetration from Dragic to cap an 8-0 run, and Phoenix was back in it…
3:39: Up 13 with 10 minutes to go, the Lakers suddenly found themselves in a tie game. Phoenix roared all the way back behind the scoring of Beasley, and got the first three-point make in six attempts from Jared Dudley to tie it at 82. L.A. were in trouble, yet again, on the road.
0:18.4 It got worse for L.A., who fell behind by four with Beasley and Scola converting back-to-back jumpers. Kobe managed to tie the game with a layup and then two free throws with 1:07 to go, but Beasley got a fumbling layup to fall, somehow, with 43.8 seconds to go, making it 88-86. Bryant got all the way to the rim on the ensuing possession, but couldn’t finish a layup. L.A. had to foul, and Scola put the game on ice with two free throws and 17.8 seconds left. Clark missed a desperation three, and after two Dudley free throws, the final margin was 92-86 for the Suns. The Lakers offense fell apart in the final 10 minutes, as they managed only eight points, towards 13 in the fourth quarter. Up next is Friday’s contest at Minnesota; we’ll see you there.