Behind Kobe’s 24 Points, Lakers Knock Off Suns, 99-95

Just 24 hours after their 25-point blowout of the Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Lakers (24-11) took the court at US Airways Center in Phoenix, Az. to take on Steve Nash and the Suns (14-18). This will be the first time that the Lakers face the post-trade Suns, who acquired Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus from Orlando for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark in mid-December.

The last time the two teams squared off was back on Nov. 14 at Staples Center, but the Suns caught fire and hit 22 three-pointers en route to a 121-116 win.

After winning big at home for the first time since their 33-point win over the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 3, the Lakers traveled to Phoenix in hopes of extending their winning-streak to two games and creating some form of much-needed momentum.

First Quarter

Carter scored the first basket of the game for the Suns, but the team’s remained close for most of the period. After being ignited by a basket from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers ran away from the Suns on a 16-0 run, putting them up by 12, 29-17 with 1:23 remaining in the period.

Shannon Brown scored five points off of the bench for the Lakers in a 16 second span, but it was the big men who controlled the period, as the trio of Gasol, Bynum and Odom provided the Lakers with a combined 12 points and 13 rebounds.

After starting last night’s game 0-9 from the field, Kobe came out feeling his stroke, as he finished the period with seven points on three of four shooting.

Mickael Pietrus nailed a 3-pointer with 29 seconds remaining to end the Lakers run and Jarred Dudley converted two free throws right before time expired and the two teams exited the first 12 minutes of play with the Lakers in the lead, 31-24.

Second Quarter

The Lakers and Suns began the second period with a mini-shoot out, as Steve Blake nailed two consecutive jumpers; however, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley hit three pointers of their own on both sides of Blake’s second basket.

Shannon Brown completed two free throws to put the Lakers back up by seven, and neither team missed a shot until their was 9:44 left in the period.

A 7-3 run by the Suns (and 13 points in less than four minutes) narrowed the Lakers lead to just two points, 39-37, forcing Phil Jackson to call a timeout.

After providing the Lakers with a spark off the bench, Odom picked up his third foul with 7:53 remaining in the first half, relegating him to the bench until the third period.

Jared Dudley’s seven points in the first four minutes of play helped bring the Suns within striking distance of the Lakers, but even though a layup by Grant Hill cut the deficit down to one, Blake responded with his third basket of the period to put the Lakers back up by three, 42-39.

Dudley scored his ninth point of the period with just under four minutes to play, pulling the Suns within one point yet again, but Derek Fisher responded with a basket of his own to keep the Suns a 3-pointer away from tying the game.

The 3-pointer that the Suns needed came on the next possession down, as Dudley scored his 12th point of the period and 16th of the game on a triple from the wing to tie the game at 44. Even though Luke Walton gave the Lakers a two-point lead with a rare basket, former MVP Steve Nash knocked down a trey to give the Suns their first lead since there was 4:24 left in the first quarter.

Coming out of a timeout, Dudley continued his streak of hot shooting and knocked down another three to extend the Suns lead to four, and give him 19 points on eight field goal attempts in the first half.

Kobe scored three points in the final two minutes of play to bring the Lakers within one, but the two teams headed into the locker room with the scoreboard displaying 50-49 in the Suns favor.

Third Quarter

Vince Carter opened up the third period with a jumper on Ron Artest’s face, increasing the Suns lead to three, but after that, Kobe nailed a triple and converted a three-point play, putting the Lakers back on top, 55-52.

After Gortat split a pair of free throws, Kobe came down and nailed a long deuce then found Gasol for a two-point jumper, giving the Lakers a six point advantage.

Following a two-point jumper by Nash, Bynum scored four unanswered points for the Lakers to push their lead to eight, 63-55.

Five quick, consecutive points by the Suns cut the Lakers’ advantage to three; however, a bucket by Gasol and a made technical free throw by Kobe put the Lakers back up by six.

Nash converted a jumper and converted a free throw following a Derek Fisher technical, but a long jumper from Odom and a short corner three by Artest put the Lakers ahead by six.

Despite scoring 15 points in the second quarter, Dudley finally scored his first points of the period on an 18-foot jumper to bring the Suns within two with just under two minutes remaining in the quarter. But with less than a minute to play, the Lakers outscored the Suns 5-1 and took a 80-73 lead as the two teams entered the fourth and final period.

Fourth Quarter

The fourth quarter was kicked off with a 3-pointer by Pietrus, but Bynum responded with a basket of his own.

After completing a layup in traffic, Odom hit the ground hard, and was in apparent pain. However, after a 20 second timeout, it was revealed that it was just a contusion of the funny bone and he returned to action.

Phoenix’s Goran Dragic responded with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to five, but after utilizing his length down low, Bynum scored inside to retain the Lakers’ seven point advantage.

After Hakim Warrick of the Suns went one-of-two from the charity stripe, Odom found Brown for a two-point basket, improving the Lakers’ lead to eight.

With the shot clock winding down, Kobe shook off his defender to nail a mid range jumper, putting the Lakers up 92-84 and giving Kobe 24 points on the night.

However, the Suns refused to lie down and take the loss, as they went on a 7-0 run, which was capped off with a 3-pointer by Vince Carter to bring the Suns within one point.

Brown drew a foul and converted both free throws to give the Lakers a three-point cushion, then Kobe found a wide open Artest in the corner for a triple to put the Lakers back up by six, 97-91 with 90 seconds to play.

Gortat split a pair of free throws but Fisher nailed a jumper to put the Lakers up by seven and even though Channing Frye would knock down a 3-pointer with just under 30 seconds to play, the Lakers would close out the Suns, 99-95.

The Lakers will return home on Friday night as they play host to Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets (21-15), who the Lakers knocked off on Dec. 29 to end a three game losing-streak. The Hornets lost at home tonight to the Golden State Warriors, 110-103.

After scoring 24 points tonight, Kobe pulled within 16 points of passing Oscar Robertson for ninth on the all time scoring list, which he is expected to do on Friday.

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