After an excellent comeback game against the Utah Jazz on Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers looked to keep the momentum going in their sixth preseason match against the Phoenix Suns. In the previous game, the short-handed Lakers showed energy and toughness in the second half and forced 29 Jazz turnovers.
Jeremy Lin made his return tonight for the Lakers, but came off the bench as Ronnie Price remained in the starting lineup for the purple and gold.
The Suns, who surprised everyone last season by totaling 48 wins, are led by their backcourt stars Eric Bledsoe and 2014 Most Improved Player Goran Dragic. They also added noted Lakers killer Isaiah Thomas in the off-season giving them an explosive trio of guards.
The game started off slow with Ronnie Price scoring the first field goal in the two minutes into the game. Both teams struggled to find the basket and had a difficult time maintaining the ball. Wesley Johnson got the offense going, hitting a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at four apiece. The Suns took advantage off a Lakers turnover with Eric Bledsoe leading the fast break and lobbing the ball to Markieff Morris for an alley-oop dunk. Marcus Morris scored a transition three pointer, which gave the Suns the lead 13-11 in four minutes into the first. With a Goran Dragic jumper, the Suns went on a 9-0 run, to take the lead 19-11. However, the Lakers began to find momentum by playing great defense, going on a 6-0 run led by a Jordan Hill turnaround hook shot and trailing 19-17. Both teams struggled down the stretch, ending the first quarter with a Suns lead 24-17.
Wayne Ellington, Ed Davis, Julius Randle, Roscoe Smith, and Jeremy Lin opened up for the Lakers in the second quarter. Gerald Green got the scoring going for Phoenix with a long two and a three from the left wing. Julius Randle continued to impress from the last preseason game, going coast-to-coast and making a bank shot in the lane. Ed Davis continued to be the rim protector with two early blocks and a layup, assisted by Lin to cut deficit to four. However, Green got hot, scoring a fadeaway three to give the Suns a seven point lead with six minutes left in the quarter. Kobe Bryant makes his first basket, a turnaround jumper, cutting the lead to three with four minutes left in the quarter and Johnson would hit a three pointer from the corner to tie the game at 34. After a pair of free throws from Lin and giving the Lakers the lead, Green hit another three pointer from the left corner to give the Suns back the lead. Both teams went back and forth on offense with the Lakers leading 43-39. However, Isaiah Thomas led the Suns’ offense by attacking the basket and finishing the second quarter with a Suns lead 50-47.
As the third quarter started the Lakers went inside right away to Jordan Hill to take advantage of his size down low. He finished with a one handed jam with authority. On the next two Lakers possessions, Kobe went to work with his back to the basket, finishing on fade away jumpers. He continued to score with an off the dribble jumper from the top of the key. Defensively, the Lakers stayed at home for the most part, preventing guards like Dragic and Beldsoe from penetrating in the half court. However, when the Lakers were caught out of position, the extremely quick Bledsoe and Dragic took advantage of uncontested lay ups in the open floor. Halfway through the period Kobe remained aggressive, scoring 10 points. He committed a couple of turnovers but responded with a layup on the left side of the bucket, but the Suns held on to their slim lead at this point at 64-61. The Lakers demonstrated good ball movement late into the quarter but the tenacious quickness that is the Pheonix Suns defense bested the Lakers efforts. The backup front court played well immediately with Julius Randle driving to the hoop and finding Davis off of a no look pass for an easy layup. To wrap up the period, Suns guards Dragic and Isaiah Thomas gave the Lakers fits hitting a few outside shots. Kobe finished the quarter with 15 points and Jordan Hill finished with 14 and 5 boards with the score 77-71 in the favor of the Suns.
The Lakers were active offensively driving to the basket and dishing out as pressure presented itself. The first Lakers bucket of the quarter came from Julius Randle driving and kicking out to Ellington who swung it to Jeremy Lin for an outside jump shot. Early in the quarter the Lakers contained Isaiah Thomas from doing much damage inside. Lin continued his aggression by finding Ed Davis for an alley oop. Lin and Davis continue to demonstrate terrific on the court chemistry. With 8:44 to go in the game the Suns lead 84-77. On a sloppy exchange in which Ellington saved the ball from going out of bounds, the Suns recovered and drove to the hoop. Davis denied Thomas at the rim, and hustled down the court to be the recipient of a no look Lin dime. Davis finished with a one handed flush. Kobe entered with seven minutes left in the game. Lin hit a deep three to cut the Suns lead to four soon after his exceptional pass to Davis. With 4:51 to go, Jeremy Lin continued to play well attacking the rim for a lay up. Wes Johnson did not have a good outing and committed one of his seven turn overs which resulted in a PJ Tucker lay up. With 3:40 left in the quarter the Lakers line up was Lin, Kobe, Wes, Boozer, and Davis. Soon after, Davis was replaced by Hill. He did a great job defensively as well, closing out on the Suns big shooters like Markieff Morris. Kobe hit two classic midrange jumpers to give the Lakers a two-point lead but Thomas matched him with a three-point play to put the Suns up one with a minute remaining. Kobe would not be denied, carrying the Lakers down the stretch and giving them a three point lead with 12 seconds remaining. A crazy scramble ends in Thomas knocking down a jumper to send the game to OT tied at 94.
Bryant’s hot shooting carried over into the overtime with another midrange jumper. He would follow it with another jumper to give the Lakers a one-point lead, but a Gerald Green three put the Suns back up two. Byron Scott took Kobe out of the game with two minutes left and Boozer took over the scoring with a couple of jumpers, but the Lakers struggled to contain the Suns and still trailed by three. Wesley Johnson caught fire late, nailing back-to-back threes to cut the Suns lead to a point with less than a minute left. A Shavlik Randolph three and two Thomas free throws gave the Suns an insurmountable six-point lead and they would hold on to beat the Lakers 114-108.
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