On Monday night the Lakers took on the Phoenix Suns in the second night of a back to back after defeating the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night, L.A. was quickly back in action. This was a good opportunity for the Lakers to avenge an earlier loss to the Suns in which they had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter before squandering the advantage and losing to the Suns.
If the Lakers were going to get their third straight win they would have to do it without Kobe Bryant. Kobe was still dealing with an injured ankle, and missed his second consecutive game.
The Lakers started off the game looking to go to Dwight Howard and rely on his size and strength to help them establish an early lead against Phoenix. Howard was certainly active early, which was an encouraging sign on the second of a back to back, but he was having trouble getting his shot to fall. Still, the Lakers took an early lead and appeared to have more lift than usual on a back to back game.
Without Kobe the Lakers had trouble finding offense, and were relying on outside shooting and Howard’s inside presence to help them build a lead on the Suns. Still, despite a relatively poor first quarter, the Lakers led 25-21 after the first period.
Nash’s last free throw inched him ahead of Mark Price for the all-time NBA lead in percentage again. … LAL 14, PHX 10.
— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) March 19, 2013
Things quickly fell apart for the Lakers in the second quarter. With Howard on the bench to start the period, L.A. had trouble finding offense. After a recent string of strong games from Antawn Jamison, he had one of his worst halves of basketball of the season on Monday. He looked a step slow on several defensive possessions, and even gave up an offensive rebound on a missed free throw purely by forgetting to box out.
One bright spot in the second for L.A. was Steve Blake, who continues to play with exceptional confidence. He seemed much more comfortable with the ball than we’ve seen him for most of his time with the Lakers. He made several nice passes, and even scored six points in the period.
Even though the Lakers struggled mightily in the second quarter, and clearly looked like an older team that had played the night before, they were down only three at the end of the first, 47-44.
The Lakers didn’t look much better in the third than they did in the second. Whenever the Lakers managed to climb close they quickly allowed the Suns to push their lead to nine midway through the quarter.
It wasn’t just that the team was struggling, but how ugly the game was in the process.
Ugly basketball here from the Lakers. Just brutal.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) March 19, 2013
Even with the team looking dead to rights for the majority of the quarter, the Lakers trimmed an 11-point deficit back to five by the time the quarter came to an end.
With the Lakers down five heading into the final period, they would need to establish some sort of energy and momentum if they were to come back and beat the Suns. They just didn’t have the energy to get it done in the fourth, and Phoenix quickly ran away from the Lakers, ending their hopes of a comeback.
The Suns, meanwhile, have been sitting on this game, eying a chance to break a slump, & have been the aggressor all night.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 19, 2013
Phoenix pushed the lead to 16 with five minutes remaining in the game, and it was very evident that the Lakers weren’t going to get it done. This game was a prime example of Mike D’Antoni failing to utilize all his assets, using just an eight man rotation and burning his guys into the ground. The collective exhaustion was brazenly apparent, as nearly every Lakers player looked gassed by the time the second half came around.
In the end the Lakers just couldn’t muster the energy to get the win on the second of a back to back. Thankfully for the aging Lakers they had the knowledge of three days off between this loss and their game against the Washington Wizards. Ultimately they just didn’t have enough to beat the Suns, and they fell to Phoenix 99-76.