92Jan. 30, 2013
86US Airways Center
27 PTS, 6 REB, 5 ST
17 PTS, 9 AST, 5 REB
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Suns Eclipse Lakers in Fourth Quarter
By: Stefan Swiat, Suns.comWhen the NBA schedule was released on July 26, NBA fans in Phoenix and Los Angeles quickly circled January 30 on their calendars.
Suns vs. Lakers at US Airways Center is always one of the most popular matchups of the season, but this particular game had an added dimension of intrigue. Not only was it the homecoming of former Suns point guard Steve Nash, but it was the first time the Suns have rocked their all-black jerseys in 13 years.
In what was to be a “blackout,” there were many rays of light emanating from the Suns on Wednesday as they captured a thrilling 92-86 victory over the Lakers.
“Our fans were incredible tonight,” Suns Head Coach Lindsey Hunter said. “The atmosphere was just electric. It’s everything you want to see in an NBA game.”
Besides a warm welcome during introductions, Nash received a video tribute that commemorated his 10 seasons in the Valley, resulting in a standing ovation. But his homecoming would be spoiled after that.
Although, it did seem like the night would go L.A.'s way when the Lakers utilized a 21-10 run to give themselves separation at the beginning of the second half. By shooting 13-for-20 in the third quarter, the Lakers moved out to a double-digit lead heading into the fourth.
However, much of that lead could be attributed to the Suns’ icy shooting. After shooting 48 percent in the first period, the Suns cooled off from the field in the two middle periods, connecting on only 36 percent of their shots in the second and third quarters.
But it was the Lakers that went ice-cold in the fourth, totaling only 13 points in the final period on 4-of-20 shooting.
“Everyone was engaged and solid in their defense,” Suns point guard Goran Dragic said. “We knew that (Lakers shooting guard) Kobe (Bryant) was going to get a bunch of isos and everybody from the weak side came from the strong side to try to make him see a lot of bodies and try to force him to pass the ball.”
Meanwhile, the Suns drained 11-of-16 of their tries and exploded for 29 in the fourth period behind a season-high 27 points from reserve forward Michael Beasley. With the score knotted at 86-86, Beasley would put the Suns ahead on a driving layup with 43.8 ticks left on the clock.
“He was aggressive,” Dragic said of Beasley’s performance. “He didn’t think much. When he was alone he didn’t pump-fake, he just shot the ball.”
Dragic added later, “He was just in the zone.”
After a missed layup by Kobe Bryant, Luis Scola was fouled and drilled two free throws with 17.8 ticks left in the contest. On the ensuing in-bounds play, Dragic sealed the game on a deflection that caused the Lakers to hurry a last-second shot; one they wouldn’t convert on.
The difference in the game came down to turnovers, with the Suns surrendering eight less on the night. In fact, the Lakers coughed up six critical turnovers in the fourth period, allowing the Suns to rally back to capture their eighth victory when trailing by double figures this season.
“We just told each other that we didn’t want to lose,” Beasley said. “Especially in front of a crowd like that on national TV.”
Besides Beasley’s epic night, Suns center Marcin Gortat contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds, while power forward Luis Scola (12 points), Dragic (11 points and eight assists) and swingman Jared Dudley (11 points) rounded out the rest of the Suns in double figures.
The Suns improved to 2-0 at home and 3-0 against Pacific Division teams under Hunter. In addition, the Suns have now defeated the Lakers three-straight times at home, which is their longest streak against L.A. since the 2004 season.
Meanwhile, the Lakers dropped their eighth-consecutive decision on the road. But more importantly, the Suns moved to 1-0 with their black jerseys during the 2012-13 season.
Since Hunter took over as head coach of the Suns, forward Michael Beasley has responded. In the previous four games since the coaching change, the former No. 2 pick has averaged 16 points and 5.3 rebounds.
In addition, he’s shot 51 percent from the floor, 3-of-6 from three-point land and a perfect 7-of-7 from the line. Beasley was at it again Wednesday, totaling 10 points and three steals on 1-of-1 shooting from downtown in the first half.
On the night, Beasley racked up a season-high 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting to go along with five steals and four rebounds. It was third effort of 19 or more points in five games and his first 20-point effort at home this season.
“I’m just playing aggressive,” Beasley said. “I’m trying to turn over a new leaf.
“No more nonchalant Beas. Back to the 'Beast.’”
Center of Attention
Since moving out of Dwight Howard’s shadow as his backup in Orlando, Gortat has made a name for himself around the NBA. It turns out, he’s also learning how to play against the Lakers' seven-time All-Star.
On Wednesday, Gortat posted his best game ever against his former teammate by totaling 14 points and 12 boards, all career-bests against the Lakers center. His previous highs against Howard were 12 points and 12 rebounds.
On the other end, Howard added nine points and 14 rebounds.
“I have to tell you,” Gortat said of his injury-plagued former teammate, “that Dwight Howard isn’t the Dwight Howard I used to know.”
Back in Black
With the debut of the 1990s black NBA Hardwood Classics jerseys Wednesday, the Suns asked fans to help eclipse the Lakers by wearing all black to the game. It was the first of seven times that Phoenix will don those jerseys this season, but it was the first time that they’ve been worn on the court since 2000.
What the Suns want to avoid are the orange uniforms. They are winless in those thus far this season.
“This place is special to me,” Nash said of his return to Phoenix. “The last eight years and the two years earlier in my career, and what the city has done for me is special.”
And when asked about how his return to Phoenix compared with Nash’s, former Suns Head Coach Mike D’Antoni said, “I couldn’t really hit a jump shot. I just sat over there and blew some timeouts.”
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