Kobe Bryant is making his last trip to the valley of the sun tonight when the Los Angeles Lakers face the Phoenix Suns. Kobe has had plenty of memories beating down the Suns over the years, so this is another anticipated farewell game. Kobe will likely played limited minutes since he played 30 minutes last night.
D’Angelo Russell will start tonight despite bruising his shin in last night’s win against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers lost to the Suns last week in a close game in Los Angeles. Once again, there are draft lottery implications in tonight’s game. The Suns are four games ahead of the Lakers in the win column with 12 games remaining in the regular season, and ideally the Lakers would like to keep ownership of the league’s second worst record.
Both teams started slowly, missing all their shots from the field and turning the ball over in the first three minutes. Kobe Bryant finally made the game’s first field goal, as he drove toward the baseline on the right side and rose up for the pull up jumper. The crowd cheered loudly every time Kobe touched the ball, and the Lakers lead 8-5 midway through the first quarter. Kobe caught the ball in the post against P.J. Tucker, then proceeded to make the fadeaway jumper over his right shoulder to give the Lakers a 13-7 lead with 3:41 remaining in the first. Lou Williams checked into the game and knocked down two three-pointers, one of which he drew the foul on and converted a four-point play. The Lakers played tough defense in the first quarter and led 22-16 after one.
The Lakers had led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter, but the Suns went on a 10-0 run to cut the Lakers lead to just one point. Marcelo Huertas checked into the game and knocked down back-to-back jumpers coming around the screen, which sparked an 8-0 Lakers run. D’Angelo Russell checked into the game and immediately intercepted a pass in the Suns’ backcourt, then proceeded to make a contested floater in the lane to give the Lakers a 36-26 advantage with 6:57 remaining in the half. Phoenix began inching back into the game, but Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle scored back-to-back buckets to keep control of the game. The Suns continued to mount a comeback with a 10-0 run and tied the game at the half: 47-47.
The Lakers missed two layups to start the quarter and Russell picked up his third foul 30 seconds into the half. The Suns picked up their defensive intensity and Devin Booker scored two buckets to give him 17 points in the game. The Lakers played sloppy basketball and the Suns opened up a six point lead with 7:25 to go in the third quarter. Kobe drilled a three-pointer from the corner, but it was quickly answered by Mirza Teletovic, his fifth three-pointer of the game, and the Suns led by seven. Suddenly, after a few turnovers, the Lakers trailed by 14 points with 2:46 remaining in the quarter. The Lakers allowed the Suns to score 36 points in the third quarter and trailed 74-83 going into the fourth quarter as Huertas beat the buzzer with a hook shot.
The Suns opened up the third quarter with back-to-back three-pointers to extend their lead to 15 points. Lou Williams responded with leaving his defender in the dust then dishing it off to Brandon Bass for the dunk. On the defensive end, the Lakers forced a turnover and Larry Nance Jr. threw down an athletic dunk on the break. These plays contributed to a 16-4 Lakers run, and the Lakers only trailed by three with seven minutes remaining in regulation. D’Angelo Russell dropped an absolute dime with the bounce pass to Larry Nance Jr., who finished with a strong two-handed jam. Brandon Knight drained back-to-back three-pointers to extend the Suns lead to 12 points with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter. The game seemed to be out of reach, as Jon Leuer drove to the basket and converted a three-point play, and the Lakers trailed 94-109. Kobe responded with back-to-back triples and the Phoenix crowd chanted his name with admiration. The Suns put the game away with a dunk from Alex Len, and Metta World Peace checked in for Kobe Bryant, who walked off of the court in the valley of the sun for the final time to a standing ovation.
Final Score: Lakers 107 Suns 119