The latter part of the third quarter had all the makings of a huge comeback for the Lakers – 27 points down, everything going the home team’s way and then suddenly Kobe Bryant stepped in and led a 15-4 run to decrease the deficit to a manageable 15 points. After putting their collective foot on the Lakers’ neck, the Phoenix Suns suddenly went cold in the third, shooting just 38% to the Lakers’ 63%.
After Bryant missed a free throw early in the fourth quarter, he immediate rebounded the ball and tossed it to Troy Murphy who stood at the corner and threw up a three pointer that brought the lead down to an even more manageable 11 points. With just over seven minutes still left in the game, all the Lakers had to do was bear down on the defense, make good choices on offense and this game would be theirs.
Unfortunately, the Lakers brought the Suns’ lead to just 10 points but never got over the double-digit hump. They couldn’t hit a three pointer to save their lives and the turnovers just continued to haunt them. Add all this to a desperate Phoenix Suns team who had already lost to the Lakers twice this season and were just12-19 entering this game, and the end wasn’t all that unpredictable.
Kobe Bryant – He had 12 points on 6-9 for the entire first half, then led the team in the third quarter with 11 points to spark that 15-4 run. Whether he did too much or too little is up for debate. He did everything he could but shoot the threeball well (just 1-8). He scored 32 points on 11-24, grabbed 7 rebounds and handed out five assists. He even had two steals. Bryant was robbed time and again tonight, however, by teammates who couldn’t hit their shots, but he did create plays for them. His worst stat of the night were his 10 turnovers, but no matter how you slice it, Bryant did everything but play the entire 48 minutes. He logged almost 40 tonight.
Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol – A few more rebounds might’ve been nice, but still, the Lakers’ two starting bigs combined for 33 points, 22 rebounds and eight assists (six belonging to Gasol). There seems to be a disconnect in the Lakers’ game plan when it comes to Bynum, because he flourishes in the first half, but barely gets the ball in the second half. He played just over 19 minutes and scored 12 points in the first two quarters on 5-9, but only played nine minutes and attempted just three shots (made two of them) in the second half. Is he hurt, is he bring punished? Who knows? But the Lakers sure could have used more of this offense in the second half since he only scored six points.
Third and Fourth Quarter Climb – The Lakers may not have gotten the victory tonight, but it wasn’t for naught. They still got to within 10 points after being down by as many as 27. If they had made a more concerted effort to make good plays, they probably would have won this game. (maybe this should be a low-point?)
Paint Points – The Lakers had 26 points in the paid in the first half and added 20 more in the second. 46 points in the paint is excellent, if only they’d use it more off.
Turnovers – Like their hands are lathered in butter and oil, the Lakers simply couldn’t secure the ball. Phoenix’s defense (all defenses really), is typically rough on Kobe Bryant and tonight was certainly no exception. Bryant had those 10 turnovers for a reason. The Lakers’ 22 assists to 18 turnovers – not the ideal ratio for this stat comparison. Phoenix had just 11 turnovers for the entire game! They had seven in the first half and managed to only turn the ball over four times in the second half. 25 assists on 34 made field goals – that’s the kind of ratio the Lakers should aspire to.
3-point shooting – The Lakers have had problems shooting from behind the arc all season long. They are, in fact, 27th in the league in 3PT%, but 17% for a game is just so unbelievably abysmal. Troy Murphy was 2-4 and Bryant was 1-8 – those were the only three pointers of the evening for the Lakers in 18 tries. Against a team like Phoenix who, despite the advanced age of some of their players still like to run, the Lakers needed to be conscious of where those missed threes would land. Long shot = long rebound. With the 18 Laker turnovers and 15 missed threes, the Suns managed to score 21 fast break points, while the Lakers had a total of six fast break points. SIX.
Mike Brown’s odd rotations – After scoring 17 points in Friday’s game, Matt Barnes got a total of 11:20 minutes of playing time tonight, all in first quarter. He finished with five points on 2-8, four rebounds, two assists and a steal, not to mention no fouls and no turnovers. Jason Kapono played just under 19 minutes, all in the second half, and he produced just two points on 1-3, two rebounds and four personal fouls. Mike Brown’s questionable rotations continue. Sure, Matt Barnes wasn’t shooting well but defensively, he’s the more viable option when compared to Kapono.
The Phoenix Suns had to beat the Lakers SOME TIME, and tonight was their night. That 17 point deficit to end the first quarter really did the Lakers in and they weren’t able to make-up