Lakers Gameday | 11/12/09 | Suns
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- GAME RECAP
- SHAW PREVIEW
- GAME PREVIEW
- INJURY REPORT
- GAME NOTES
Kobe, Lakers run sluggish Suns out of the building
by Bryan Chu, for NBA.com
LOS ANGELES (NBA.com exclusive) -- In what was billed as the biggest challenge for the Lakers in the early going, the defending champions answered in resounding fashion, thrashing the Suns 121-102 Thursday at the Staples Center.
The Suns did not put up much of a fight, finding themselves down by as many as 27 points.
"We just beat them inside of the paint," said Kobe Bryant, who had a game-high 29 points. "We got a lot of easy opportunities."
After missing consecutive games due to a right elbow strain, Lakers center Andrew Bynum seemed as if he didn't miss a beat, tying a season-high 26 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. He also recorded his sixth double-double.
The 7-footer used his 40-pound weight advantage over Channing Frye en route to making his first four baskets.
"That was the game plan, go inside, do that early and often and that paid off for us," Bynum said. "It wasn't hard getting into a rhythm. I had three good days of practice, treatment."
With both teams sitting atop the Western Conference with the best records in the league, this was an important game, but it didn't live up to the hype. With the victory, the Lakers (7-1), who own the longest winning streak in the league at six, now head to Denver to face a tough Nuggets (6-3) team on Friday.
The Suns (8-2) came in riding a four-game winning streak and had a chance to tie the best 10-game start in franchise history (Phoenix went 9-1 in 1980-81). But even more so, the Suns had a chance to add onto their list of impressive victories, already defeating the Celtics and the Heat.
Phoenix came in averaging a league-best 112 points, but it was held to its second-lowest scoring output this season. The Suns also shot a season-low 36.5 percent when they came in averaging over 50 percent.
"We were a tired team," said Steve Nash, whose team has been in seven cities in the past 10 days. "We came out really flat. We missed a lot of easy shots that we normally knock down. It's been a tough stretch for us and I'm glad it's over."
Phoenix was led by Jared Dudley's 14 points. Nash was held to 13 points and five assists, well below his league-leading 12.6 per game.
Amar'e Stoudemire struggled his way to eight points on 2-for-15 shooting and Jason Richardson scored just five points on 2-for-9 from the field.
The third quarter proved to be the deciding factor in this game.
After a Grant Hill jumper cut the Suns' deficit to 65-55, the Lakers answered with a 15-0 run capped by a beautiful alley-oop from Lamar Odom to Bryant, who flushed it down with a reverse, two-handed dunk to give the Lakers an 80-55 lead with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Phoenix did cobble together mini runs, but Los Angeles, who shot 57.6 percent for the game, had an answer every time.
"They have a really good team and now with Bynum back, I mean it is just tough matchups all around," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. "Like I said, I don't know where their weakness is really. They are going to be a handful for whoever plays them."
Before the game, Suns guard Leandro Barbosa opined that the fast start to the season was because of the return to run-and-gun play.
"We're playing our basketball," Barbosa said. "We're speeding up the offense. I think this is the way we like to play, our defense is getting better so when we get the ball we can really fastbreak."
But against the Lakers, the Suns had just two fastbreak points.
"We just got back, we did a good job communicating with one another," Bryant said. "We had a lot of effort in getting back in transition."
While the Lakers were still without Pau Gasol, who has been out since Oct. 10 with a right hamstring injury, Bynum returned and established himself in the post early. He scored 16 of his 26 points in the first half.
Like O.J. Mayo and Devin Brown, smaller guards like Richardson continue to struggle against Bryant. Things did get chippy between the two at the end of the first half with Richardson drawing a technical after fouling Bryant.
Against the Nuggets, Bryant is expecting a heated competition.
"The next game, I'm sure they're going to be a little more aggressive attacking, but I'll just make my adjustments," Bryant said.
Lakers’ Coach Phil Jackson on tonight’s game:
“Well, we finished out the half, I thought, relatively well – the end of the first half – and came out and had a good third quarter to kind of edge this game out of reach. Although it’s hard to say that against the Phoenix Suns’ team. Andrew had a lot of opportunities in there. It was nice having him back on the inside again. Kobe was a force all night inside.
On the Suns’ shooting:
“Stoudemire missed a dunk. He missed a lay-up. He’s 2-15; that’s a night you’re not going to see very often from him. Jason Richardson, who’s been shooting lights out, was 2-9. Those two guys, we’ll take that any time we can get it. That’s not going to happen very often.”
On the defense of Andrew Bynum:
“He did pretty well out there. He got some help situation. He was scrambling around out there. I thought he did pretty well.
On the quality of tonight’s win:
“It’s a good win. We have to take it into perspective. They played a back-to-back game and came off the home floor on a road game.”
On going into Denver tomorrow:
“Well, the first run I think is the one that takes it out of players. They get exhausted right away with that high altitude, light-headed lung burn. After that you can kind of settle in the second time out. You really move in better shape. The game has to be at level of tempo like we want to play at. Tonight, that was the key is we played the tempo game for at least the first three quarters the way we wanted the tempo of the game.”
Lakers’ Kobe Bryant on tonight’s game :
“We played really well. We executed our strategy. We played with a purpose and we came out with a big win.”
On Lakers’ efficiency in the first half:
“We just beat them inside of the paint. We got a lot of easy opportunities and we got a win as a result.”
On Bynum’s performance in tonight’s game :
“He played extremely well and he obviously had a match up advantage with his length and his size, and he used it extremely well.”
Lakers’ Bynum on his performance in tonight’s game:
“It feels very good. You have to get to the post position and really do your job. When the team tells you to come through, you have to come through and play hard and do the work inside.”
On how he’s feeling physically:
“I was able to rest over these last 5 or 6 days. That really helped me out. I got my legs back, I’m fresh. As far as the elbow goes, I’m going to continue getting treatment. It hurts a little bit but it’s going to be that way for a little while.”
Lakers’ Shannon Brown on the Lakers’ bench performance:
“We played good. Our starters definitely set the tone in our offense and in our defense and we just tried to follow through and keep up the energy.”
Lakers vs. Suns Game Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE, STATS Writer
Off to their best start in 29 seasons, the Phoenix Suns are thriving in their up-tempo style.
The Los Angeles Lakers aren't surprised at all.
The Pacific Division-leading Suns look to win their fifth straight game Thursday night, when they'll face the defending champion Lakers for the first time this season.
Back home following a 4-1 eastern trip, Phoenix (8-1) routed New Orleans 124-104 on Wednesday. Amare Stoudemire had 21 points, Grant Hill added 18 and six other Suns scored in double figures as Phoenix set a season high in points while matching Boston with the league's best record.
After missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004, the Suns are off to their best start since opening 11-1 in 1980-81. Phoenix has scored 100 or more in each of its first nine games for the first time since 1990-91.
"It was a great win for us,'' coach Alvin Gentry said. "I thought we played as well as we could in the first half. Offensively, we did a good job of staying in attack mode.''
Since Gentry took over for the final 31 games last season for the fired Terry Porter, who tried to implement a slowed-down approach with the Suns, Phoenix has scored 98 or more in 39 of 40 contests.
The Suns lead the NBA in points per game this season with 112.3.
"They just upgraded their speed and went back to the style they were running three, four or five years ago," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, whose team has won five in a row.
Steve Nash played only 23 minutes Wednesday, but he posted his fourth consecutive double-double with 12 points and 10 assists. He leads the league in assists with 12.6 per game.
He averaged 7.5 points and 9.5 assists in two games versus the Lakers (6-1) last season before missing the final two matchups with a sprained right ankle.
Los Angeles center Andrew Bynum was sidelined those two contests with a torn right medial collateral ligament. He is expected back in the lineup Thursday at Staples Center after missing two games with a strained right elbow suffered in a 103-102 overtime victory at Houston on Nov. 4.
"There was a little bit of pain today (Tuesday), but it's something I can play through," said Bynum, averaging 20.0 points and 10.6 rebounds.
With Bynum sidelined, DJ Mbenga has done a solid job making his third and fourth career starts. He had five points and a career-high 13 rebounds in Friday's 114-98 win over Memphis, then posted his first career double-double Sunday with 10 points and 12 boards in a 104-88 victory over New Orleans.
Shannon Brown hit three 3-pointers and added a season-high 15 points against the Hornets.
"We believed this was going to be a really, really tough game,'' Kobe Bryant said after scoring 26 of his 28 points in the first half. "Because of that, everybody's antennas were up, and everybody was really focused. We got a lot of help from DJ, Shannon, all the bench guys. There are going to be nights when we struggle, and we'll need their help.''
Bryant averaged 28.3 points and 6.8 rebounds as the Lakers won three of four versus the Suns in 2008-09. In the teams' last matchup March 1, Bryant had 49 points and 11 boards in a 118-111 loss in Phoenix.
The Lakers will likely be without forward Pau Gasol, who has yet to play this season because of a strained right hamstring suffered in the preseason.
"I don't have any hopes for him on Thursday for sure," Jackson said Tuesday.
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Andrew Bynum (strained right elbow) is questionable.
Pau Gasol (right hamstring strain) is doubtful.
Robin Lopez (broken fifth metatarsal, left foot) is out.
Leandro Barbosa (inflamed right hand) is day-to-day.
SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers have won each of their last two season series with the Suns by a 3-1 margin, with their series victory in 2007-08 snapping a run of three consecutive losing seasons to the Suns from 2004-07. This will be the 210th meeting between the two teams with the Lakers leading the all-time series 122-87. The Lakers are 14- 6 against the Suns all-time at STAPLES Center but just 5-5 in their last 10 regular season home games against Phoenix. On the road, the Lakers have gone 3-7 in their last 10 regular season visits to Phoenix but have won three of their last four at US Airways Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 23-13 against the Suns during the regular season. In 45 career games against the Suns including 38 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.6 points and on February 20, 2008 at Phoenix, surpassed 1,000 career points against the Suns. Last season, Bryant shared MVP honors with Shaquille O’Neal at the NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix. Additionally, last season, the Lakers defeated the Suns by 26 points 2/26/09 at STAPLES Center. The 26-point margin of victory was the Lakers largest over the Suns since January 4, 2002 when Los Angeles defeated Phoenix 118-86 at STAPLES Center. Suns forward Jared Dudley was a teammate in Charlotte with both Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison while Lakers forward Luke Walton and Suns center Channing Frye were teammates at Arizona for two seasons (2001-02, 2002-03). Also, Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright won three championships as a center for Phil Jackson’s Bulls from 1990-92 and served as an assistant coach under Jackson from 1996-98 when the Bulls won their final two championships of the 90’s.
JACKSON NEARS LARRY BROWN FOR 5th ON THE ALL-TIME COACHING WIN LIST
A season after earning his record 10th NBA Championship as a head coach, Phil Jackson (1,047-436) is now just one win shy of tying Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown (1,048-850) for 5th on the NBA’s all-time coaching win list. The only coach in league history to win better than 70 percent of his games (.706), Jackson ranks 12th in all-time regular season games coached and 1st in playoff games coached (300), won (209) and playoff winning percentage (.697). Last season, Jackson became the fastest coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 career victories, needing 1,423 games to reach the mark. Earning induction in his first year of consideration, on September 7, 2007, Jackson was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Only Jerry Sloan (4th), Pat Riley (3rd), Don Nelson (2nd) and Lenny Wilkens (1st) have more career victories than Brown and Jackson while of the top six, Jackson has coached 1,000+ fewer games than Wilkens, 800+ fewer games than Nelson, nearly 500 fewer games than Riley and roughly 400 fewer games than Sloan and Brown.
Thursday’s game against Phoenix is the first of a back-to-back set with the Suns and Nuggets. The Lakers returned 2-0 from their first road trip and set of back-to-backs of the season last week, winning in overtime in both Oklahoma City and Houston. On the season, the Lakers are 1-0 in the first game and 1-0 in the second game of back-to- backs. This year, the Lakers will play 20 sets of back-to-back games, the most the team has played in a single season since playing 22 sets of back-to-backs during the 1999-00 campaign. Last year, the Lakers played 19 sets of back-to-backs, going 14-5 in the first game and 14-5 in the second as well. Charlotte, Detroit and Milwaukee lead the league with 23 back-to-backs each in 2009-10 while New Orleans (15) and San Antonio (17) will play the fewest sets this season.
With their 104-88 victory over New Orleans November 8th, the Lakers posted their FIRST wire-to-wire victory of the season. Last season, the Lakers claimed nine wire-to- wire victories (games in which they never trailed) during the regular season, tied for 3rd most in the league (Phoenix) behind Cleveland (14) and Orlando (13). The Lakers also won in wire-to-wire fashion twice during the 2009 Playoffs (4/29 vs. Utah and 5/17 vs. Houston). Additionally, the Lakers were one of only two teams last season (Cleveland) to never lose in wire-to-wire fashion during the regular season. In the playoffs, however, the Lakers played two games in which they never led, falling twice to Houston in the Conference Semifinals (5/10/09 at HOU and 5/14/09 at HOU). In the regular season, the Lakers have not lost in wire-to-wire fashion since 1/17/08 vs. PHX.
VUJACIC COMPLETES 6TH FOUR-POINT PLAY OF CAREER, 28th IN FRANCHISE HISTORY
In the fourth quarter of the Lakers November 8th victory over New Orleans, Sasha Vujacic converted the 28th four-point play in Lakers franchise history (regular season and playoffs included). With his three-pointer and free throw, Vujacic is now responsible for six of the team’s 23 regular season four-point plays and 28 overall. Kobe Bryant owns the most four-point plays in team history with 10 overall (7 regular season, 3 postseason), followed by Vujacic (6), Derek Fisher (5) and Eddie Jones (2).
BRYANT OVERTAKES IVERSON ON NBA’S ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
With 41 points November 6th against the Grizzlies, Kobe Bryant (24,055) moved ahead of Memphis’ Allen Iverson (24,020) for 16th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant moved to 17th on the list with his first two free throws on April 10th at Portland last season, passing Charles Barkley (23,757). Barkley reached his scoring total in 1,073 games over 16 seasons in contrast to Bryant, who did so in his 946th career game. In all last season, Bryant passed Robert Parish (23,334) for 18th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Adrian Dantley (23,177) for 19th, Elgin Baylor (23,149) for 20th, Clyde Drexler (22,195) for 21st, Gary Payton (21,813) for 22nd and Larry Bird (21,791) for 23rd. Additionally, in passing Baylor, now only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (24,176) and Jerry West (25,192 points) have scored more points with the Lakers than Bryant. Next on the NBA’s all-time list ahead of Bryant and Iverson are Patrick Ewing (24,815) and Jerry West (25,192).
BRYANT YOUNGEST IN NBA HISTORY TO 24,000 CAREER POINTS; 17th EVER TO REACH MILESTONE
With a second-quarter basket November 6th against the Grizzlies, Kobe Bryant (31 years, 75 days) became the youngest player in NBA history to score 24,000 points, reaching the milestone ahead of Wilt Chamberlain (31 years, 113 days). In terms of games, of the 17 players to now have scored 24,000 points, Bryant is the 9th fastest to do so in terms of games (954). Wilt Chamberlain was the fastest in league history to score 24,000 points, doing so in just 653 games.
Last season, with 34 points February 10 vs. Oklahoma City, Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to score 23,000 points (30 years, 171 days), reaching the milestone FIVE days younger than Wilt Chamberlain (30 years, 176 days). In terms of games, of the 21 players to score 23,000 points, Bryant was the 11th fastest to do so, reaching the mark in 917 games. Earlier in the year, with 28 points December 2 at Indiana, Bryant became the 22nd player in NBA history to score 22,000 points and in doing so, became the 2nd youngest player ever to 22,000 points (30 years, 101 days), one day older than Wilt Chamberlain (30 years, 100 days) who scored his 22,000th point on 11/26/66. The youngest player in league history to accumulate 14,000 – 20,000 and 23,000 – 24,000 points, Bryant became the 12th fastest to 22,000 points in terms of games, reaching the mark in 881 career games. Through his career, Bryant has been 29th fastest to 15,000, 22nd fastest to 16,000, 20th fastest to 17,000, 16th fastest to 18,000, 15th fastest to 19,000, 15th fastest to 20,000, 12th fastest to 21,000, 12th fastest to 22,000 and 11th fastest to 23,000 points in terms of games.
In the Lakers November 6th victory over Memphis, Kobe Bryant scored 41 points, marking the 99th time in his career that he has scored 40-plus points in a game and the third time this season. Last season, Bryant posted four 40-plus point games. Bryant’s 46 points February 1, 2008 at Toronto moved him past Elgin Baylor (88 40-plus games) for third all-time and into first in Lakers franchise history. In the history of the NBA, only two players have more career 40-point games: Wilt Chamberlain (271) and Michael Jordan (173). The Lakers are now 68-31 in games that Bryant has scored 40-plus points. This season, the Lakers are 3-0 when Bryant scores 40-plus. Bryant holds the Lakers franchise record for 40-point games in a single season, recording 27 during the 2005-06 campaign. Bryant also holds the franchise record for most consecutive 40-point games (9), established during the 2002-03 season, which is tied for the fourth longest such streak in NBA history (Michael Jordan) behind Wilt Chamberlain, who twice posted streaks of 14 and once had a 10-game streak.