Richardson's fifth 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining capped a
21-point effort and overshadowed Bryant's second triple-double in
as many games as the Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers
113-110 on Wednesday night.
The Suns improved to 16-3, tying Seattle for the NBA's best
record and equaling the best start in franchise history. The
1980-81 Suns also won 16 of their first 19 under coach John MacLeod
and finished 57-25.
"We're really growing up as a team, getting more mature and
coming into our own," Richardson said. "We still have a long way
to go and some good teams to beat to prove ourselves. But at the
same time, we're doing some pretty impressive things."
Phoenix has won nine of 10 on the road and six straight -- the
Suns' longest road winning streak since 1997-98, when they won
seven straight. Last season, they didn't get their ninth road win
until March 23. Two more would match their total for last season.
The Suns have won their last seven road games against Western
Conference opponents, including their final one last season.
Bryant had 20 points, tied a season high with 11 assists and
grabbed a season-high 14 rebounds en route to his 12th career
triple-double, third this season and second in two meetings with
Phoenix. The Lakers are 29-8 when Bryant reaches double digits in
assists, including 3-3 this season. This was his fourth straight
game with at least 10.
Bryant also had a triple-double Friday night against Golden
State, getting 10 points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds in a 97-88
win. In that game, he needed two free throws with 1:55 remaining to
accomplish it. This time, he completed it with an assist on Caron
Butler's 3-pointer with 2:09 left in the third quarter.
Joe Johnson had 25 points for the Suns, Amare Stoudemire 23
points and 10 rebounds, and Shawn Marion 19 points. The Suns made
16 3-pointers in 34 attempts, tying the franchise record set at
Golden State on March 17, 1995.
But the Suns, who enjoyed a 21-0 run against the Warriors on
Tuesday night and an 18-0 run against the Clippers on Nov. 21,
pulled ahead 109-107 with 15 consecutive points in a 3:45 span --
including back-to-back 3-pointers by Marion and one each by Johnson
and Steve Nash.
"We just kept fighting and kept fighting," Richardson said.
"We know it's not over until it's over. We're a team that can make
runs in an instant, and we did it tonight. Being down by 11 points
with that much time left, then coming back and winning, that says a
lot about the character of our team."
Nash's tying shot with 2:56 to play had the Lakers on their
heels, and Richardson put the Suns back in front with a pair of
free throws that capped the rally. Butler made a layup at the other
end before Stoudemire made one of two free throws for the Suns.
"It's a tough one," Bryant said. "They made some big shots
down the stretch. Nash hit a tough 3 to tie it up, and before that
we gave them two wide-open looks at 3s."
Bryant, who had only one free-throw attempt to that point,
missed the first and made the second to tie it at 100. The Suns
inbounded after a timeout with 28 seconds left, and Nash drove the
lane before kicking it out to Richardson -- who hit nothing but net
from behind the arc for the game-winner.
"I don't think they were really daring me, I think it was more
that they were giving respect to Steve," Richardson said.
"Knowing how Stevie plays, I knew that if he got in there and if
it wound up coming out to me, my whole focus was just taking it. I
knew I was going to make it if I took it."
Bryant attempted a 3 over Marion at the buzzer, but it hit the
right side of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
The Lakers, who blew a 17-point lead to the Suns in a 107-102
loss at Phoenix on Nov. 19, didn't take their first lead until
Bryant's three-point play put Los Angeles ahead 83-82 with 4:23
left in the third. Butler's 3-pointer capped the Lakers' pivotal
17-4 run with 2:09 left in the quarter.
The Suns, who came in averaging a league-leading 108.3 points a
game, took a 67-61 halftime lead. Richardson connected three times
from behind the arc in a two-minute span to increase Phoenix's
margin to 54-43 with 4:37 left in the half.
Bryant, concentrating almost exclusively on setting up his
teammates during the first 19 minutes, brought the frustrated
sellout crowd to its feet by draining three 3-pointers and a
16-footer in a 2:39 span on his next four attempts to slice
Phoenix's 11-point lead to 58-56 with 2:14 left in the half.
The Suns had won only one of their previous 10
regular-season games against the Lakers in Los Angeles. That was
last Jan. 19, when the Lakers were missing Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal
and Karl Malone because of injuries, and Horace Grant because of a
family health issue.