Wednesday night the Lakers were in Phoenix facing the lowly Suns in an effort to extend their win streak. In what has been a volatile and sporadic season, the Lakers seem to have found a consistent winning formula. During the past three game homestand in wins against Utah, Oklahoma City, and New Orleans, the Lakers placed emphasis on ball movement and passing.
Kobe and Steve Nash seem to have switched positions, as Kobe has been within reach of a triple double in all three games. He has also allotted more assists in the past three games than in any three game stretch of his career. In last night’s win over the soon-to-be Pelicans, the Lakers accumulated an incredible 32 assists on 37 field goals. A win tonight would build a four game win streak as well as get the Lakers off to a good start on their annual Grammy Trip.
Steve Nash returns to Phoenix. The game would be an emotional one for Steve Nash, who returned to the building he played in for so many years. After all the dedication and hard work he put into this community, he made his first appearance back home since leaving for the rival Lakers.
The Lakers looked to get off to a fast start with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, and Dwight Howard. After both teams struggled offensively to start the game, Kobe looked to score early with a jumper giving the Lakers their first lead. Kobe immediately returned to facilitator mode as the Lakers looked to attack the Suns inside with Dwight Howard. The Suns got out to an 8-3 early lead as they simply came out with more energy than the Lakers. Kobe then got his first assist of the night with nine minutes to go.
While they did make early outside shots, the Suns had notable problems in the pain on both offense and defense. Questionable shot taking as well as Laker turnovers did give them the early lead though. The first substitution occurred when Pau Gasol checked into the game for Earl Clark with 6:38 to go. A notable teamwork effort came when Kobe sacrificed an open layup on the fastbreak for an easy dunk by Pau Gasol.
The Lakers did not have their first lead until the two minute mark when Earl Clark drained a three. The Lakers immediately gave the lead right back with a myriad of turnovers and trailed 26-22 after one.
Trailing on the road yet again after one quarter, the Lakers would need to cut down on turnovers for any chance of making a run. The Lakers got off to a hot start with a bucket from Steve Bake and a three from Jamison. Former Laker Shannon Brown answered as the teams traded leads. As Pau Gasol continued to struggle, so did the Lakers as a team. After minutes of struggling, the Lakers regained the lead at 31-30 on a pass from Howard to Gasol. When Kobe checked back in he immediately went to work and gave the Lakers their largest lead at three points. Phoenix was really struggling on offense, giving the Lakers a cushion despite their 11 turnovers.
With Goran Dragic afraid to leave Steve Nash open and give help defense on Kobe, Bryant had several easy one on one takes. Phoenix, meanwhile, was in a five minute drought of field goals. Dwight Howard continued to play well and aggressively on the inside.
Overall, a plethora of Laker turnovers was countered by terrible shooting from the Suns. At the half, the game was tied at 41.
Both teams looked tired and dazed in the first half. The first team to break out of this sleep-like trance would likely reel of a quick run during the third period. Kobe was back in passing mode, finding Metta World Peace for an open three for the first basket of the third quarter. Pau Gasol, who came in early in the third quarter, continued to attack the paint. A quick Suns timeout was forced after Kobe immaculately split the double team and passed up a good look for an even better shot from World Peace. Great ball movement had the Lakers up by six.
An open jumper by Luis Scola was answered by an open jumper from Pau off a pass from Kobe. The Lakers were off to a great start to the quarter, having not missed a field goal yet. Steve Nash soon swished a three pointer as the Lakers stretched their lead to seven. The Suns were struggling mightily and showing why they have 30 losses.
Kobe’s new style of play was shocking both announcers and fans tonight, as he continued to pass out of open shots. Bryant reached double figures off of a beautiful shot with five minutes to go that gave the Lakers a nine point lead. The dominance of Dwight Howard, a force to be reckoned with on the glass, forced a Phoenix timeout with three minutes to go. The Lakers were the team that came out of the locker room with energy and were on an 18-7 run. The Lakers finished a great quarter with a 73-63 lead.
The Lakers looked to follow up an excellent third quarter with a solid fourth and notch the win. The key to continuing their excellent play was in the excellent ball movement that has seemingly been contagious tonight and in the last few games. With Nash, Howard, and Kobe out of the game, Pau Gasol was the focal point of the offense. Quick passes led to yet another Antawn Jamison three pointer while the Suns struggled to create shots. The benefactor of poor shooting from the Suns, yet another extra pass led to a wide open layup and a thirteen point lead.
The Suns promptly cut the lead down to nine as the Lakers began to turn the ball frequently for the first time since the first quarter. D’Antoni immediately brought World Peace and Howard back. Kobe remained on the bench getting a much-needed rest. The Lakers stayed cold however, and free throws from Shannon Brown cut the Laker lead down to 7. Steve Nash and Kobe returned to the game with just under eight minutes to go and the offense going cold. A layup from Luis Scola had the Laker lead down to five.
A worrisome moment came for the Lakers when Dwight Howard went down with under seven minutes to go clutching his shoulder. The Laker drought ended with a long two from Kobe but the Suns continued to persevere. With five minute to go, Michael Beasley attacked the rim and scored to cut the lead back to five. A fastbreak score from Dragic made it a three point game and the Lakers were in trouble. A three from Jared Dudley tied the game with three and a half minutes to go.
A jumper from Beasley with two and half to go gave the Suns a two point lead. A jumper from Scola then put the Lakers down by four. In desperate need of a bucket, Kobe made a layup but the Lakers needed stops. Two clutch Kobe free throws tied the game with 1:07 remaining and a tie game. The Lakers had once again shown the inability to finish games. Michael Beasley scored and Kobe missed a layup before Michael Beasley was intentionally fouled. After using their foul to give, Luis Scola made both free throws to put the Lakers in a four point hole with seventeen seconds to go.
At the end the Lakers blew a 13 point fourth quarter lead and lost to the Suns 92 to 86.