Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against Phoenix, 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
3:58 It’s been a really rough start to 2013 for Metta World Peace on offense. He’s shot over 50 percent only twice in the new year, and is shooting 26 percent in February. But the slump may be over … he hit four straight shots amidst a personal 9-0 scoring run to put the Lakers up 20-11 early. Dwight Howard then reached eight points with a bucket off Kobe’s fourth assist and a free throw, and was active on defense (five boards) to help open a 12-point lead for the home team, bent on revenge after blowing a 13-point fourth quarter lead at Phoenix to kick off the Grammy trip.
0:00 Kobe kept passing, with consecutive assists getting Antawn Jamison open jumpers from the corner in front of L.A.’s bench, the veteran knocking both – one being a three – down to allow a 30-point quarter. Phoenix did manage a corner three of its own (the second from P.J. Tucker) to keep the margin at eight after one quarter. Howard grabbed six boards with his eight points in a strong individual quarter.
6:56 A pretty pass from Steve Blake got Jamison a layup, and capped an 8-0 Lakers run to restore a double-digit lead at 41-30 after the Suns had opened the quarter on a run to cut the once 12-point lead to just three. Blake also had a three-pointer and an alley-oop assist to Howard amidst the run.
0:00 A solid all-around first half concluded with the Lakers taking a 56-47 lead, behind eight dimes from the occasionally-over-passing Bryant, whose four turnovers helped Phoenix to 12 fast break points. But 14 points from Jamison were a nice bonus off the bench, his fast break dunk closing the scoring in the half.
6:38 The fifth field goal and second triple from World put the Lakers up 10, but they played very poorly in the next few minutes, allowing a 7-0 Phoenix run that could have been 11-0 had Jared Dudley not missed consecutive layup attempts. L.A. was up to 12 turnovers, with Bryant (five of those turnovers) continuing to try and force the ball into Howard. The Suns were up to 21 fast break points, a big problem for L.A. all year, as they rank dead last on the season in that category.
0:00 The offense was unrecognizably poor for almost the entirety of the third quarter, L.A. literally failing to make a shot from the 8:58 mark (Metta’s three) until the quarter closed, the team missing 13 consecutive shots. Kobe missed all four of his attempts, and his over-passing seemed to break the rhythm of the offense, reaching six of the team’s 15 turnovers. Phoenix took advantage with an 18-2 run, 24-9 overall in the quarter to head into the fourth period up 71-65. After 18 assists in the first half, they had two in the third.
9:48 To L.A.’s rescue to start the fourth quarter came World Peace, his five straight points behind intensity on both ends tying the game at 73. His third steal led to two free throws to cap the run, as Howard checked back in at the 10-minute mark, Mike D’Antoni not wanting to risk leaving the small unit featuring Clark at center any longer, and a 10-2 run continued with a tough hoop through the Phoenix trees by Meeks making it 75-73.
2:10 Forty-six minutes into the game, and Bryant hit his first field goal, having missed his previous seven and turned the ball over six times trying to get everybody else going. He did have nine assists, and put the Lakers up eight with the put-back shot in the paint. They’d outscored Phoenix 24-10 to that point of the fourth, with Jamison up to 19 points with 10 boards and Howard 19 points with 17 boards and two blocks.
0:00 The defense and hustle ultimately won out for L.A. in the fourth quarter, Phoenix managing only 14 points to total 85 in the game on 41 percent shooting. Howard was the key in the paint, with 18 rebounds and pretty good help on the weak side, while World Peace was all over the perimeter, his fourth steal coming in the final moments, to help seal it. The Lakers have now won 8 of 12 games, and four straight at home, with the Clippers coming in on Thursday in the final game before the All-Star break. We’ll see you there.