Behind Stellar All-Around Play, Lakers Best Suns 114-106

After opening the new season at home with a nail-biting victory over the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Lakers quest for a three-peat continued Friday night, as they traveled to Phoenix to take on a familiar face in their division rival Suns. The last time the Lakers took the court at the Suns’ US Airways Arena, the Lakers left celebrating a game six victory that sent them to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season. In their first of four match ups that will take place during the 2010-11 NBA regular season, the Lakers would pick up where they left off in May.

First Quarter

A 17-foot jumper by Kobe Bryant opened up the first quarter, igniting the Lakers to a 7-1 lead to begin the game. The Suns didn’t stay down for long, as they dug themselves out of the early deficit , going on a 7-0 run behind baskets from Jason Richardson, Grant Hill and Robin Lopez.

The period was a continuous see-saw battle, featuring 11 lead changes and not much defense, as both teams shot over 50 percent in the opening 12 minutes. The Suns offense was powered by the strong play of Hill and Lopez, who scored eight and six points, respectively. The Lakers dynamic duo of Bryant and Pau Gasol replicated those numbers, scoring eight and six points as well. httpvhd://

After back-to-back three-pointers by the Lakers’ Steve Blake and the Suns’ Jared Dudley, a put back off of an offensive rebound by Gasol put the Lakers up 28-27 heading into the second quarter.

Second Quarter

Although the Lakers led for much of the second period, the Suns weren’t too far behind, never trailing by more than seven. The Suns kept themselves afloat behind strong play from their bench, which scored the team’s first 14 points of the quarter (including 10 from reserve guard Goran Dragic). While the Lakers’ bench wasn’t as prominent offensively, they were fueled by Gasol’s eight second quarter points, giving him 14 for the half.

Hill, who sat out for much of the second period, returned to the floor with 4:50 to play, and continued his hot shooting, scoring six of the Suns’ last eight points. Despite a strong first-half outing from Hill, the two teams entered the locker room with the Lakers leading 57-50, behind 9 points and 11 rebounds from Lamar Odom and 12 points and five rebounds from Bryant.

Third Quarter

Continuing his first-half offensive prowess, Gasol scored six third-quarter points, giving him 20 on the night. After a Gasol basket to begin the period, the Lakers hit three consecutive three-pointers, courtesy of Ron Artest and Bryant.

In addition to the strong play from Gasol and Bryant, Lamar Odom began to enter triple double waters as he finished the period with 12 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists.

The Suns saw much of the same in the third-quarter, not only on the scoreboard, but from their players as well, as Hill continued to lead them offensively, scoring seven points in the period, increasing his total to 21.

The Lakers capped off the second to last quarter in emphatic fashion, as Shannon Brown came up with a steal off of a bad pass by Dragic and coasted for a quintessential “Cannon” Brown dunk. The slam gave the Lakers an 87-79 lead heading into the final period. httpvhd://

Fourth Quarter

The Lakers’ momentum carried over into the fourth period, and two three pointers by Matt Barnes gave the Lakers a 12 point lead and the Lakers would never look back.

After scoring 21 points through three quarters, Hill went scoreless in the final period. A barrage of three-pointers by the Suns gave them a fighting chance late in the game, but even back to back treys from Jason Richardson wasn’t enough, as the Lakers made their free throws and collected their second win of the season, dropping the suns 114-106.

Gasol flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 21 points, eight rebounds and nine assists while Odom made major contributions, posting 18 points, 17 rebounds and five assists. Once again, Kobe was Kobe, as he finished with 25 points and seven rebounds.

The victory marks Phil Jackson’s 1,100th win of his career; and he remains behind only Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens, Pat Riley and Jerry Sloan for the most coaching victories in NBA history.

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