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The Lakers continued their home stand tonight against their Pacific Division rivals, the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers were undefeated at home since the All-Star break coming into the game, and were looking to stay that way against the team they played in the Western Conference Finals a season ago.
However, the Suns looked much different tonight than they did last season, as they experienced a major overhaul halfway through the season. The new-look Suns were looking to stay in the post-season hunt, and a win tonight against the Lakers was going to be key in doing so.
The Suns came out of the locker room with more energy and intensity than the Lakers. Even though Los Angeles was missing Andrew Bynum for the second straight game, the Lakers still had a size advantage. However, poor defense from the Lakers allowed the Suns to attack the paint and get easy buckets. Los Angeles has played great defense during their recent hot streak, but that was not evident in the first quarter of tonight’s game.
Phoenix ended the first quarter with the lead, and a lot of that could be credited to Vince Carter. The veteran swingman ended the quarter with 10 points, and was an offensive catalyst for the team in the quarter. The Suns had 12 assists on 14 made baskets, and were stifling the Lakers with a zone defense. At the end of the first quarter the Suns led the Lakers 31-25.
The second quarter looked very similar to the meeting between the Lakers and Suns from early in the season. Back in November the Suns beat the Lakers 121-116, and made 22 three-point shots in the process. Phoenix was hot in the quarter, especially beyond the arc. There was little defense to be found on either end of the ball, which had both Phil Jackson and Alvin Gentry pulling out what hair they have left.
The Lakers made a run at the end of the quarter, and ended up re-claiming the lead for the first time in the quarter with less than five minutes to go. Despite Phoenix’s hot shooting from the field, their defense allowed the Lakers to shoot a high percentage as well. The Lakers managed to take control of the momentum in the quarter, but still couldn’t control the Suns defensively. At the end of the first half the Lakers and Suns were locked in an offensive shootout, with the Lakers leading 66-60.
The third quarter allowed the Lakers to distance themselves from Phoenix. Los Angeles kept up their hot shooting and eventually pulled away from the Suns. The player of the quarter for the Lakers was Lamar Odom, who showed up big time in place of Andrew Bynum. Odom was a force on both ends of the floor, and had one of his most consistent offensive games of the season.
The Lakers jumped out to a big lead, up by 21 at one point in the quarter. However, once they got their lead they once again relaxed on defense. Phoenix was able to crawl back into it at the end of the quarter. The Suns got hot from the outside again, and by the end of the quarter were trailing the Lakers 95-86.
Phoenix continued to climb back into the game early in the fourth. Consecutive three pointers from Channing Frye and Aaron Brooks cut the Lakers once impressive lead down to a single point. The Lakers reserves looked dazed and confused on both ends of the floor, and were settling for contested jump shots from the outside. While the Lakers were able to reclaim the lead, Phoenix refused to quit.
A clutch three-point basket from Steve Blake followed by a jump shot from Kobe Bryant pushed the Lakers back on top. With the starters back in the game the Lakers turned up the defensive intensity as well. Los Angeles managed to hold onto the lead until the closing seconds when Frye pulled Phoenix back within three.
The Suns turned up the defensive intensity on the last two possessions, and with a clutch three-point shot from Grant Hill tied the game with 10.5 seconds remaining. The Lakers tried to take the lead in the closing seconds, but Bryant missed a contested jump shot to give Phoenix back the ball. A scrappy final-second possession from the Suns resulted in a missed three-point attempt from Vince Carter, which sent the game into overtime tied at 112.
Overtime looked very similar to the end of the fourth for the Lakers. Bryant was forcing bad shots and the Lakers offense struggled. The teams went back and forth until a Ron Artest three-point shot put the Lakers back on top by three with 1:27 left in the extra period.
After Nash was able to pull Phoenix back within a point the Lakers saw Bryant force another bad jump shot. Fortunately for Los Angeles Odom was able to snag the rebound, forcing the Suns to foul Derek Fisher. Fisher, who is well known for his clutch play, went to the line and made both free throws to extend the Lakers lead to three with eight seconds left. With time running out the Lakers made a crucial mistake – fouling Channing Frye behind the three-point line with just 1.1 seconds to go. Frye stepped to the line and calmly sank three free throws, tying the game back up at 121.
For the last possession of overtime the Lakers got the ball into Lamar Odom. The Lakers F had a good look at the basket but couldn’t get the shot to fall. The Lakers and Suns were headed to double overtime tied at 121.
The Lakers found themselves in double overtime for the first time since December 26th, 2009 when they played the New York Knicks. Phoenix struck first in the second overtime, as Vince Carter drew first blood. The Lakers managed to score the next three baskets, as a 6-0 run put them back on top by four. Phoenix refused to quit, and ended up taking the lead back from the Lakers on an open three from Channing Frye.
Looking to tie the game the Lakers brought the ball up with Kobe Bryant. Bryant drove and made a seemingly impossible pass to Pau Gasol, who drew the foul. Gasol went to the line, and much like Frye had done in the previous overtime, calmly sank the free throws to tie the game at 130. Phoenix was unable to get a shot off in the final seconds, and the game remained tied heading into a third overtime.
Headed into the third overtime period both the Lakers and the Suns were looking to finally claim a victory. This was only the second triple overtime home game in Los Angeles Lakers history, the first coming back in February of 1969. The Suns scored the first basket of the third overtime, and the Lakers had trouble scoring. It seemed as if a lid was on the basket for the Lakers, who missed several close range shots.
A turning point came halfway through the period when Grant Hill collected his sixth personal foul, sending him to the bench. His defense on Kobe Bryant had been key, and once he was out Bryant immediately took advantage. Kobe sank a three-point basket to put the Lakers back on top. That play was followed by a Ron Artest steal and dunk to put Los Angeles up three with less than two minutes to go.
Artest made another big play moments later, sinking a tough fadeaway to put the Lakers back up by five with 1:08 left in the third overtime. Phoenix proved to be resilient once more, as Frye hit another big three to cut the lead back down to two. However, a running floater from Kobe Bryant sealed the Suns’ fate, and the Lakers won their first triple overtime game of the year, 139-137.