The Suns gave a four quarter effort on offense tonight, but they struggled defensively, and the Lakers were able to hold them off and get a win at home 114-102.
The Phoenix Suns started out the game hot offensively. Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley were both active as scorers and playmakers early in the game. In fact, as Paul Coro tweeted, "Each Suns point in the first quarter was scored or assisted by Dragic or Beasley."
Unfortunately though, the Lakers were even hotter and had outscored the Suns 35-30 by the end of the first quarter, in great part due to the hot shooting of Metta World Peace of all people, and especially Pau Gasol who scored 10 straight points for the Lakers going 5-5 on 20-foot jump shots one after the other.
The Suns continued to fight in the second quarter with Sebastian Telfair, Markieff Morris, Shannon Brown, P.J. Tucker, and even Jermaine O'Neal contributing in some way or another. In fact, Jermaine O'Neal started mixing it up with Dwight Howard and seemingly causing the Lakers' big man to get flustered and taken out of the game to a certain extent.
The Suns' bench helped the Suns not only keep the game close, but they helped orchestrate a 15-0 run that helped the Suns eventually pull ahead by as many as five points, up 55-50 with four minutes left in the second quarter. However, the Lakers battled back as the Suns started missing the same kinds of shots they were making earlier in the quarter, and L.A. was able to regain the lead up 62-57 at the end of the first half.
In the third quarter, the Suns and Lakers continued their back and forth scoring, with the Lakers holding serve and playing well enough to keep the lead. The Suns were kept alive mostly by the play of Luis Scola and Goran Dragic who hit difficult shots to keep Phoenix within striking distance and even tying in once again 84-84 at one point. The rest of the Suns didn't necessarily play poorly, but watching them you definitely noticed they were missing some easy opportunities at times...I'm looking at you Gortat.
Then came the Kobe Bryant who once again turned into the Black Mamba to hit a couple difficult shots, draw the foul to get to the line, and then steal the ball from Shannon Brown to score on a fast break at the other end...all in a matter of minutes. The Lakers were able to extend their lead to 92-84 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the same Suns bench that was able to make a 15-0 run against mostly Lakers' starters was out-matched by one of the weakest benches in the league. Largely behind the play of Jordan Hill, yes Jordan Hill, the Lakers were able to extend the lead early in the 4th quarter to go up by as many as 15 points (101-86) with nine minutes left to play.
The Suns starters returned after a disappointing showing by the bench, minus Marcin Gortat who they left on the bench in favor of Jermaine O'Neal, and were able to at least stop the bleeding if nothing else. However, they were unable to ever mount any sort of comeback this time, and Alvin Gentry finally waived the white flag with around two minutes to go bringing in Kendall Marshall, Wesley Johnson, and Luke Zeller to finish out the game as the Lakers were able to hold on to win it 114-102.
The Suns were led by Goran Dragic's 22 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals. Luis Scola also posted an impressive 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. The Lakers were led by Kobe Bryant's 31 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. Metta Word Peace also played his best game of the season posting 22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.
Both teams shot the ball at around 50% tonight, but L.A. shot the ball slightly better from three going 8-21 compared to 5-14 for the Suns. The Lakers also capitalized on their trips to the free throw line shooting 22-28 from the charity stripe compared to an abysmal 7-15 for the Suns. In addition, L.A. also won the rebounding battle 48-38, and committed less turnovers than the Suns by a margin of 11 to 15.
The Lakers improve to 4-5 on the season as the Suns drop to 4-6 before heading back home to play against the Miami Heat tomorrow.
Hang in there Suns fans...