Newsroom Notes: Bench Powers Suns Over Lakers

By Stefan Swiat,

Posted: April 7, 2012

The Suns and the Lakers strolled into Saturday’s contest two of the hottest four teams in the league since the All-Star break.

But the Suns walked away winners of a 125-105 home victory over a Lakers club that currently sits in third place in the Western Conference.

Arriving late last night after a tough loss in Denver, Phoenix caught a break when Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant was forced to sit out the night with an injured shin. Despite Bryant on the sidelines, the Lakers jumped out to an early 10-point lead before the Suns bench could unleash an electric offensive display in the second quarter.

“We’re playing for the playoffs right now,” Suns backup point guard Sebastian Telfair said. “Our guys are coming out extremely focused and we’re focusing on defense. We’re starting to understand that when we get defensive stops, it helps our offense.”

Telfair uncorked a season-high-tying 13 points in the first half to give the Suns a five-point lead heading into the half. But he wasn’t even the most explosive member of the second unit.

Suns shooting guard Michael Redd poured in 17 points in the second period, the highest total of any Suns player in a quarter this season. Redd finished the game with 23 points on 4-of-10 shooting from downtown, marking his fourth consecutive contest in double figures.

Despite missing almost two full seasons with knee issues, Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry had a premonition that Redd was going to contribute this season.

“I think our medical staff can make anybody healthy enough to play,” Gentry said. “And I think he’s an extremely hard worker and our medical staff is the greatest. I think he feels good and I think it’s been a while since he’s had the opportunity to go out and play in a game like that, so I was happy for him.”

Overall, the Suns’ bench outscored the Lakers reserves 40-6 in the first half and 58-10 on the night.

In the third period, the starters followed the bench’s lead with Suns shooting guard Shannon Brown erupting for 20 of his team-high 24 points in the quarter. The 6-3 guard has now extended his career-high streak of double-digit scoring games to eight consecutive.

After heading to the fourth ahead by 16, Phoenix rolled to victory from there. Steve Nash (13 points and 11 assists), Marcin Gortat (14 points) and Markieff Morris (13 points) were the rest of the Suns players in double figures.

It was the Suns’ seventh victory in the last eight home games in which the Suns trailed by double figures. Phoenix also moved to 7-2 in the last nine games on the second half of a back-to-back.

On the night, the Suns shot 14-of-29 from downtown, forced the Lakers into committing 10 more turnovers and held a 14-point advantage in fast break points. The Suns also set a franchise record for fewest turnovers with three.

It was a record that had stood since January 17, 1995.

“It was good,” Nash said. “We took care of the ball tonight and we gave ourselves a lot of opportunities to shoot the ball at the basket. And we’re a good shooting team, so usually if we get a lot of shots we’re going to make enough.”

The Suns, which were two games behind Dallas, Houston and Denver for the final playoff spot, improved to just a game behind Denver after the win.

The Suns visit the Timberwolves on Monday.

Brown vs. Bryant

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant commonly refers to Suns shooting guard Shannon Brown as his “little brother.” But after spending two and a half seasons in L.A. as his understudy and backup, he’s learned a few tricks from the All-Star; enough he believes to make him work more on the offensive than the average defender.

In fact, when asked who he thinks could make Bryant work the hardest, he nominated himself.

“I’d like to say myself,” Brown said smiling.

In order to defend such a prolific scorer, he said, “You have to go hard at him, stay down and stay low. He’s got a lot of tricks.”

Unfortunately, we’ll probably have to wait until next year to see how Brown fares against his “big brother.”

Brown Talks Lakers

As a former Laker, Brown weighed in on who he thought would make up the All-Laker Team. He named Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as his top four, but couldn’t figure out the final spot.

Wilt Chamberlain? Jerry West? James Worthy? Elgin Baylor? Brown couldn’t decide.

Not that it matters. After all, they're the Lakers.

Bench Is Warming

Since the All-Star break, Coach Gentry has been pleased with the cohesion his second unit has found amongst each other. He attributes the gelling to the All-Star break and trading deadline passing.

After those dates pass, Gentry believes players settle into their roles and situations a little more.

“Guys know that they’ll be here and they’re more comfortable,” the Suns head coach said. “Individually Robin (Lopez), Sebastian (Telfair) and Michael (Redd) have all been playing well.”

As mentioned above, the Suns outscored the Lakers bench 58-10 on the night.

Hill On the Mend

According to Gentry, Hill is making excellent progress on his knee rehab following surgery a week ago. In fact, yesterday was his first day of running and he continues to work with the training staff on his recovery.

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