Byron Scott could not have asked for a more challenging task heading into the second game of the young 2014 season. Not only did he see his Lakers get run off of it’s home turf by the Houston Rockets in a 108-90 loss, but the first year Lakers coach witnessed his first round pick, Julius Randle, go down with a broken tibia.
Injuries have plagued the Lakers since the beginning of the 2012 season, and so far, 2014 is no exception. Now, Kobe and the Lakers must cap off a back to back to begin the season with the up-tempo Phoenix Suns. Speedy guards Gordon Dragic and Eric Bledsoe would present a test for the new look Lakers back court in a high scoring game.
The Suns started off moving the ball around and feeding their big, Miles Plumlee with a dunk. Carlos Boozer responded with a layup that was interfered with for a goal-tend. The fast paced Suns, however, jumped out to a 7-2 lead. Kobe hit his first bucket with just over two minutes gone by. Boozer and Kobe were joined by Jeremy Lin, Jordan Hill and Wes Johnson. Kobe showed aggressiveness early on shooting three shots in three minutes and looked effective driving to the hoop. The Lakers struggled early getting out on three point shooters. The Suns thrived on dribble penetration and kicking the ball out for outside looks. Bryant stayed in attack mode as he finished with a three point play for an easy layup plus the foul. The Lakers star was active on both ends, making his presence felt in the game early on. With 5:29 left in the quarter Kobe scored seven of the Lakers nine points as they trailed by eight. The Suns lead was mainly due to their 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Suns forward Markeiff Morris took advantage of a lazy Boozer by beating him down court to finish inside for a point play as Kobe took his first rest of the game. Lin responded by putting his mark on the game with a fast break lay up. He followed that bucket with another drive to the basket, resulting in two free throws. The outside shooting of the Suns began to be overwhelming as the Lakers trailed 30-15 with over two minutes to go in the quarter. The Lakers continued to struggle turning the ball over on three straight possessions as the Suns made yet another three pointer. The Lakers ended the quarter on a 4-0 run, however, the Suns shot 6-13 from beyond the arc as the Suns lead 33-19 after 12 minutes.
Ed Davis began the 2nd quarter with a three-point play, showing activity on both ends on the floor. His effort was a bright spot early on. Davis took the floor with Jordan Clarkson, Ronnie Price, Wayne Ellington, and Hill. Ellington showed off his range, hitting two 20 footers to cut the Suns lead to eight. Hill got into the act hitting a long outside shot of his own as the Suns called a timeout to stop the Lakers run. Kobe checked back in with 8:37 remaining in the second as the Lakers trailed by eight. He immediately took it to the hoop for a floater near the left elbow. The Lakers caused a turnover on their next trip down resulting in a Davis layup. Bryant began to get hot, hitting a patent fade-away and forcing the foul for the three point play. The jumper brought him to 4-8 shooting with 12 points to lead the Lakers. He hit yet another jumper to make it a four point defect half way through the period. The Suns went on a run as the Lakers could not convert on shots inside as Bledsoe began to take the ball to the hoop on two straight possessions extending the Suns lead to 11. Kobe hit the Lakers first three of the game as the team only attempted two compared to the Suns 16 through 20 minutes. Bryant forced a turnover with his disciplined defense , and finished on the other end with contested left handed layup. Davis cleaned up a Kobe miss for his ninth point and fifth rebound of the half. The Suns were persistent, keeping their lead steadily through 24 minutes as the score was 59-50. Kobe lead all scorers with 19.
The Lakers starters came out ready to play as Wes Johnson got fouled on a three point attempt. He made all three of his foul shots cutting the lead to six. Dragic’s quickness was overwhelming for the Lakers defense on the following Suns possession, but Hill grabbed an offensive board on the other end and earned a trip to the charity stripe. The Suns theme early on to start the period was getting the ball inside as Bledsoe found Plumlee for another dunk. While the Lakers started off the half with good intentions, looking inside, Boozer was not helping the cause by committing his eighth turnover resulting in Goran Dragic free throws. The score with over two minutes gone by was 70-55. Kobe did his part hitting a runner for his 21st point. The Morris twins continued to hurt the Lakers shooting a combined 5-11 from downtown and 26 points in total. It all seemed to crash down after Kobe forced a three that resulted in a shot clock violation. Coming off of a Lin tipped jump ball, the Black Mamba hit his second three and 26th point of the night with five minutes left in the period. Frustration ensued as Kobe believed he was fouled after his third straight miss. He was given a technical foul for expressing his angst towards the officials. The Suns continued to destroy the Lakers beyond the arc with 13 of 23 made three pointers. Kobe continued to fight for his team scoring his 30th point on a three point play on which he made a tough layup at the rim. Drama again presented itself towards the end of the quarter as Bledsoe and Bryant tied up for a jump ball. Bledsoe thought that he was fouled and was given his second technical foul of the night, resulting in an ejection. Kobe had 31 points on 11-25 shooting as the Lakers trailed 98-73 going into the final twelve minutes.
To start the fourth quarter, backup center Robert Sacre earned a trip to the charity stripe and rookie Jordan Clarkson finished on a contested layup at the bucket. Sacre was aggressive with his allotted minutes scoring on a fade-away from 7 feet. The young group of Sacre, Clarkson, Davis, Prise, and Ellington struggled on defensive rotations just as the Lakers starters did, allowing two straight Isaiah Thomas three pointers. Thomas lead all Suns through six minutes of the fourth quarter with 23. Clarkson and Ellington took advantage of their minutes hitting two outside shots but the Lakers trailed 110-86 halfway through the final period. The backups continued to play hard as the clock wound down but were unable to make any dent in the lead as they fell 119-99.
Lakers Julius Randle Fractures Right Tibia, Kobe’s Reaction