7:30 PM ET, January 17, 2008
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns finally found a way to beat the Los Angeles Lakers after two decisive losses this season. Excellent shooting and ball movement were the key factors, along with a major hole in the middle on the other side.
Boris Diaw scored 19 points, Amare Stoudemire and Raja Bell added 16 each, and Steve Nash had 13 points and a season-high 20 assists for the Suns (27-12), who won for the eighth time in 11 games to move a half-game ahead of the Lakers.
"You can't make shots every night, but you can try to move the ball well," said Nash, who had more than half of his team's 37 assists. "I think our team, with all the shooters we have, if we move the ball well, we're going to have a nice night.
"It's just spacing and reading the defense, and then guys stepping up with confidence and shooting when they're open."
The Suns won despite committing 24 turnovers -- one off their season high. The Lakers were nearly as bad in the ball-handling department, turning the ball over 22 times to match their season high.
Much of the talk in the Lakers' locker room afterward concerned Kwame Brown, who is filling in for the injured Bynum. Brown felt the wrath of the home crowd in the third quarter, when he missed an open dunk and committed four of his seven turnovers.
Many fans booed Brown every time he touched the ball for several minutes before he came out for good after committing his fifth foul with 3:50 left in the third period. He had eight points and six rebounds.
"I thought it was terrible," said Kobe Bryant, who led the Lakers with 30 points and seven rebounds. "If they want to do that, they can stay home. He's going to be our guy here for two months. He's going to do fine, he's going to play well the next game.
"Kwame's sensitive. You boo him, it's going to affect him. I told him I've got his back."
Other teammates were upset as well.
"That's tough for anybody. For a guy who wants to play the right way, it's even tougher," said Lamar Odom, who had 19 points and matched his career high with 19 rebounds.
"We all stand behind him, we have faith in him," said Jordan Farmar, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. "That's just not right. If you're a Laker fan, you should support your team through the good, the bad, the ugly."
Brown left without speaking to reporters.
The Suns bounced back from a 40.7 percent shooting performance in a 97-90 loss to the Clippers two nights earlier, shooting 51.9 percent to 37.9 percent for the Lakers (26-12), who had their seven-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the fourth time in their last 21 games.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson downplayed Bynum's absence.
"I wish it was that simple," Jackson said. "Phoenix had a lot to do with it. They played real well tonight and we played tired. I thought we reacted poorly to the ball and things we have to do."
With Bryant on the bench, Sasha Vujacic scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter and Odom added a basket to cut Phoenix's lead to 79-71. But that was as close as the Lakers would get until the final minute.
It was 89-80 when Barbosa made a layup and Bell added a 3-pointer, giving the Suns a 14-point lead with 4:44 left. Odom made two free throws with 46 1/2 seconds remaining to cut Phoenix's lead to 102-96, but a jumper by Diaw as the shot clock ran down clinched the victory.
"It was an ugly win for us," Stoudemire said. "They weren't at full strength. We knew that, and we didn't play particularly well. We were supposed to put them away coming out of halftime, but we didn't. We let those guys get back in it and it almost bit us."
The Suns extended their 13-point halftime lead to 66-46 less than five minutes into the third period, and it was 79-61 entering the fourth quarter.
The Suns, who never trailed, led by as many as 17 in the second quarter before settling for a 56-43 halftime lead. Bryant went scoreless in the second period, missing four shots, after going 4-for-8 and scoring 13 points in the first quarter.
Suns F Grant Hill, who underwent an emergency appendectomy Jan. 9, missed his fifth game, and Lakers F Vladimir Radmanovic sat out his eighth with a sprained right ankle. Both might return to action next week. ... The three-time defending division champion Suns had an 18-6 record against the Lakers during the past three seasons, including first-round playoff wins each of the past two years. ... Bynum expressed both disappointment and optimism in a brief meeting with reporters before the game. "It's serious because I'm going to miss two months," he said. "At the same time, it's not because it's nothing that's going to affect my future."
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||42-81 (.519)||36-95 (.379)|
|3PM-3PA||9-18 (.500)||10-27 (.370)|
|FTM-FTA||13-16 (.813)||16-25 (.640)|
|Fast Break Points||23||10|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||22 (1/0)||20 (0/0)|