Suns beat LA, snap four-game skid

slider phoenix_sunsThe Phoenix Suns started fast and withstood a furious second half rally to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-90 Sunday night at US Airways Center. The win snapped the Suns four-game losing streak. 

“I think offensively we were really efficient and we did a good job of executing,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said after the game. 

The Suns (13-19) jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead after a Marcin Gortat hoop. The Lakers (18-13) stormed back thanks to consecutive baskets from center Andrew Bynum before Phoenix pushed the lead up to seven midway through the quarter when Channing Frye picked off a pass (one of seven LA first quarter turnovers) leading to a Steve Nash layup and Mike Brown timeout.

Gortat and Grant Hill paced Planet Orange with nine points each, while Nash added seven assists as Phoenix led 35-19 at the end of the first.

The crisp play continued to start the second as rookie Markeef Morris buried an angle three to give Phoenix their biggest lead 41-22.

A Kobe Bryant steal and uncontested layup cut the lead to 14 (47-33) at the 5:35 mark before halftime. Phoenix responded with a 9-2 run of their own as the lead swelled to 58-35 on Jared Dudley’s three-pointer.  

Phoenix played one of their better first halves of the season out-rebounding the bigger Lakers 27-22, while making 5-11 threes (Lakers were 0-6) on their way to a 63-40 lead at the break. 

Things didn’t get much better for LA after intermission as Dudley’s three off of Nash’s 13th assist made it 78-52, forcing another Lakers timeout. The teams would trade baskets, but LA would not go quietly as a Bryant three and pair of free throws moments later cut the lead to 15 (80-65).   

Phoenix rested their starters to start the fourth and things started to get interesting when Bryant rebounded his own missed free throw and spotted sharp-shooting big man Troy Murphy who nailed a corner three in front of the Suns bench to make it 88-77 with 7:21 to play. Gentry returned with all five starters after a timeout. Two more Bryant free throws cut the lead to ten, but LA would get no closer as Grant Hill’s top of the key jumper off Nash’s game-high 14th assist (his eighth game with at least 14 this season) in the final minute put the game away.

“I thought our energy was great,” Nash said. “We were decisive, confident, we stepped up to take our open shots and knocked them down. We got some stops and turnovers and got out in transition.” 

Dudley led the Suns with a season-high 25 points, while Gortat added 21 and 15 boards.

Bryant paced the Lakers with 32 on 11-24 shooting in 40 minutes, but did commit 10 turnovers thanks to a solid defensive effort from Hill who limited the “Black Mamba” to just 1-8 on three-point attempts.

“Grant does a great job,” Nash explained. “You can never stop Kobe, but he does a good job of just being there every time and if he makes shots, he makes shots, but it’s tough when you got Grant right in your face every play.”

The Suns will look to make it two in a row when they host the Washington Wizards Monday night.