Unfortunately for the Lakers, Kobe Bryant’s final game in Phoenix finished with the same result of their last 10 trips to the neighboring state.
Bryant provided 17 points, but shot just 5-of-13, as the purple and gold left the desert with another loss — this time a 119-107 defeat on Wednesday night.
The Lakers (15-56) trailed for nearly the entire second half, falling behind by as many as 15 points. But they managed to trim Phoenix’s lead to 93-90 early in the fourth quarter via a 14-2 run capped off by back-to-back buckets from D’Angelo Russell.
But the Suns (20-51) ignited from there with a 16-4 explosion keyed by eight points from Jon Leuer and twin 3-pointers by Brandon Knight.
Bryant exited to a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd at Talking Stick Resort Arena, and Julius Randle pounded the Suns for 19 points and 15 rebounds. But that was about it for the visitors, who had zero players reach 20 points while three Suns did.
Leuer scored 13 of his season-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, also hauling in 14 rebounds. But the Suns’ backcourt was the source of most of Los Angeles’ pain.
“Phoenix’s guards killed us,” head coach Byron Scott said. “They outplayed our guards big time. I think if you look at points, rebounds, assists and everything, they just thoroughly outplayed them. Simple as that.”
Indeed, Devin Booker racked up 28 points and seven assists, while Knight — who dropped a triple-double on the Lakers in November — piled together 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Bryant called the 19-year-old Booker “fantastic,” applauding his attitude and fundamentals, while noting that his approach seemed familiar.
“He went straight to my move the first time he caught it,” Bryant said. “(I’m like), ‘You’re not gonna beat me on my move, man!’ But it was great to see. It was absolutely great to see, because I remember I did the same thing with (Michael Jordan).’”
The Lakers controlled the game early on, taking a 22-16 lead after a first quarter that saw their hosts shoot 7-of-24.
While Phoenix quickly tied it up in the next frame, the Lakers used a 12-2 run to push their advantage back up to 36-26. But the Suns never stopped coming back, sending both teams to halftime with 47 points.
From there, it was all about Phoenix, which shot 13-of-19 in the third quarter. Booker and Mirza Teletovic each provided 11 points in the period, as the Suns used a 14-4 spurt to take a late 14-point lead. That left both teams trading runs in the final frame until the home team pulled ahead too far.
While the Lakers committed only 10 turnovers, they also handed out just 13 assists. Phoenix had no such trouble, tallying a season-best 31 assists while shooting 50.5 percent.
“We’ve all been ‘the guy’ our entire lives,” Randle said. “Eventually, we’ve got to realize that everybody’s got to sacrifice something. Really figure out how everybody plays around each other, what works best for each other and learn how to play with each other instead of us all try to do it ourselves.”
Bryant called the Lakers’ playoff battles with the Suns in the 2000s “a true rivalry,” as each team took two series victories. … With 11 contests remaining, Phoenix is now five games ahead of the Lakers for the second-worst record in the NBA. … P.J. Tucker provided six points, 13 rebounds and six assists for Phoenix.