7:30 PM ET, October 31, 2006
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant could only sit and watch, unable to lend a hand to his Los Angeles Lakers teammates. Without him, it appeared they had no chance, especially when the high-scoring Phoenix Suns made their first nine shots in the season-opener.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who is recovering from hip replacement surgery, didn't travel to Golden State for Wednesday night's game. Assistant Kurt Rambis will fill in, just as he did during the preseason.
Jackson said he hopes to coach in the Lakers' next road game -- Sunday night at Seattle.
However, Phoenix cooled off, Lamar Odom sparked a comeback, and the Lakers beat the Suns 114-106 Tuesday night.
Odom matched his career high with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds and six assists, 19-year-old Andrew Bynum had career-high totals of 18 points and nine rebounds, and Maurice Evans added 17 points for the Lakers, who outscored the Suns by 27 after falling behind 39-20 in the first quarter.
Even their coach expressed surprise.
"You don't know what to expect, these players don't have any history as far as NBA games -- kids like [Jordan] Farmar, who gave us a big lift in the second half," Phil Jackson said. "Andrew's first start in his NBA career, a start that was auspicious. It was Maurice Evans' first game as a Laker, and on his homecourt, he comes off the bench in the second half and starts and does a great job for us."
Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, an All-Star two years ago who missed nearly all of last season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee, had six points in 12 minutes in a reserve role.
The Lakers shot 55.4 percent and outrebounded Phoenix 43-29. The Suns shot 51.9 percent -- not bad, but a major comedown after they made 77.2 percent in the first quarter.
Bryant, the NBA scoring champion with a 35.4-point average last season, didn't play because of soreness in his surgically repaired right knee, and will also sit out of Wednesday night's game at Golden State.
Bryant underwent arthroscopic surgery in mid-July, and missed the Lakers' eight exhibition games. He said he hoped to return this weekend.
Bryant spoke briefly to the capacity crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center before the game -- the Lakers' first since they were embarrassed 121-90 by the Suns in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series last spring. Phoenix rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the series.
"I am extremely proud," Bryant said. "We have been talking about it during the offseason and then in training camp about the confidence of this team. Tonight we played with that same kind of confidence."
The Kobe-less Lakers overcame a 19-point deficit to defeat the Suns, 114-106. It was the third time in the past three seasons that an NBA team has overcome a deficit of that size or larger to win its season-opening game.
In 2004, Washington overcame a 19-point Memphis lead to beat the Grizzlies, 103-91. And last year, the Bulls overcame a 25-point Charlotte lead to defeat the Bobcats in overtime, 109-105.
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Jackson was on the bench, just as he said he would be before undergoing right hip replacement surgery Oct. 3. Like Bryant, Jackson missed all eight preseason games, but worked extensively with his players in practice the past couple of weeks.
"The defense was the problem," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We just couldn't stop them. I think 106 points is enough to win, but they made shots."
Odom scored six points and Vladimir Radmanovic four during a 12-4 run that gave the Lakers a 101-85 lead with 9 minutes remaining. The Suns weren't closer than seven points after that.
"They played like a team tonight," Marion said. "We were up in the first half by 19 and should have blown the game open. But we let them back in, they got the momentum with the fans behind them and they ran away with it. When we aren't scoring, our defense should be there. But that wasn't the case tonight."
The Suns play their home opener Wednesday night against the Clippers, the team they eliminated in the second round.
The Lakers went ahead for good by scoring 13 straight points for an 83-73 lead late in the third quarter. It was 87-79 entering the final period.
"We defended well and rebounded the ball," Odom said. "I started the game slow, I took some bad shots. My adrenaline was going, I just had to slow down a little bit."
The Suns made 17-of-22 shots in the first quarter for a 41-26 lead. The Lakers trailed by 15 points despite shooting 11-of-21 in the period.
The Suns cooled off in the second quarter, shooting 6-of-18 while being outscored by 10 points, trimming their lead to 58-53.
A moment of silence was observed before the game in memory of former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach, who died Saturday at age 89. The Lakers and Celtics have met in the NBA Finals 10 times. ... Auerbach and Jackson share the NBA record, having won nine championship rings as head coaches. ... Jackson didn't travel to Golden State for Wednesday night's game. Assistant Kurt Rambis will fill in, just as he did during the preseason. Jackson said he hopes to coach in the Lakers' next road game -- Sunday night at Seattle. ... Nash, the NBA's MVP the past two years, has a new look this season, having cut most of his shaggy hair off. ... The Lakers also played without injured centers Kwame Brown (shoulder) and Chris Mihm (ankle), opening the door for Bynum. ... The Lakers are 14-1 in their last 15 season openers and 33-14 to begin the season since moving to Los Angeles in 1960. ... The Suns are 20-19 in season openers.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||40-77 (.519)||46-83 (.554)|
|3PM-3PA||13-30 (.433)||6-12 (.500)|
|FTM-FTA||13-17 (.765)||16-24 (.667)|
|Fast Break Points||20||25|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||25 (1/0)||19 (1/0)|