The Phoenix Suns came into tonight’s game with an opportunity to sweep their season series with the Lakers. With the way the last week has been for the purple and gold, all arrows pointed to another easy win for the Suns and another disappointing loss for Lakers. Funny thing about these Lakers, though – they’re completely unpredictable from game to game. They can’t even lose when we expect them to do so. It’s hard to know which team will show up each night. Luckily, tonight they decided to be a team that did more good than bad.
Behind the great performances of Chris Kaman and Jodie Meeks, the Lakers moved the ball and kept their opponent under 100 points.
Chris Kaman – Kaman has been on record saying that this has been the most challenging season of his career and that he can’t wait for it to be over. He’s too good of a player to receive “DNP-Coach’s Decision” as often as he did this season, and tonight he showed how big of a mistake those game-statuses were. With Pau Gasol missing another game, Kaman started and had a double-double in the first half with his 18 points and 10 rebounds. He finished the game with 28 points on an efficient 13-19 from the field, led the game with 17 rebound and even handed out six assists. Each time he received the ball in his hands, he was scoring or helping someone else score. He led the game in the +/- column with a +31.
Jodie Meeks – How did Meeks scored 22 points on just 6-9 from the field? He hit 9-10 from the free throw line, that’s how; two free throws of which were completed 3-point plays. It can’t be said enough how much Meeks has contributed to the team this season. In all the disappointment and shame in their losses, Meeks has been the exception. He really has been the most consistent performer on the team.
Ryan Kelly – Kelly’s stat line is solid – 17 points on 6-12 from the field, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks – but he does so much more than his box score can show. It’s his constant effort on both ends that help this team. Yes, he can score from various spots on the court, but his energy on the defensive end is there as well. Tonight, he stole the ball from Marc Morris and scored on a dunk early in the fourth quarter. And then, with just under four minutes left in the game and the Lakers trying to hold on to a lead, Kelly deflected an inbounds pass from Morris (again) and scored on a dunk to put the Lakers up by 15.
Kendall Marshall – It’s been so long, too long, since Marshall had a good all around game. Despite continuing to keep hjs teammates involved on the floor, his scoring has dropped tremendously. Today, however, he found his groove with a double-double to go along with Kaman’s. He scored 13 points on 6-6 from the field, handed out 11 assists, had three steals and even a block.
Defense – The Lakers held the Suns to just 15 points on 25% shooting in the first quarter, and just 39% for the game. Their energy on the other end of the floor was high and it helped them win the game.
Keep On Shooting – Despite such a dismal showing from downtown, the Lakers still shot 53% for the night, leading by as much as 26 points and much of that can be attributed to their work inside. They outscored the Suns 56-44 in points in the paint and 22-17 in fastbreak points. Six players scored in double figures, including Kent Bazemore, who has been a regular contributor since his arrival. Despite getting accidentally elbowed, and bleeding as a result, below his right eye by Goran Dragic, Bazemore scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds, handed out five assists, had two steals and one block.
Threeball – 5-18 from behind the arc – yikes! Without Kelly’s 2-3 from downtown, the Lakers would’ve been 3-15.
Lost lead – The Lakers had a 13-point lead early in the game, but lost it and even fell behind for a few minutes. Maintaining a lead has been such a challenge for them season. Most times, they don’t recover, but tonight they matched Phoenix’s run with one of their own to retake the lead until the end.
Wesley Johnson – The season has been one of peaks and valleys for Johnson. His production has been streaky at best, having games in which he can’t miss from the floor and defends his man well; to games like tonight where he only plays 11 minutes and goes 0-4.
They beat OKC three weeks ago, and then lost four games in a row. Then they won versus the Magic, completely ran over the New York Knicks, and then dropped a game to the league-worst Bucks and got humiliated by the Timberwolves. Tonight, after losing their three previous games to Phoenix, they led the Suns by as much as 26 points before defeating them 115-99.
It doesn’t make any sense, but then again, what part of this season has?