Harry How / Getty Images

Well thank goodness Andrew Bynum comes back on Friday. Maybe with him will return the Lakers’ defense. Tonight was an exciting offensive show for the masses, but the defending champions turned what could have been a quick victory in the third quarter, into a long-winded night…and we watched, agonized and loved every last second of it.

Their 89-68 lead with less than five minutes left in the third quarter turned into a nine-point lead when the fourth quarter opened. Three and a half minutes later, Phoenix’s new import, Aaron Brooks scored from behind the arc and the Laker advantage was down to a single point. It was a back and forth battle of offensive wills at that point, with neither team interested in applying any defensive pressure. And then it happened.

One overtime. Two overtimes. Three overtimes.

Finally, at the end of 63 minutes of game time, the Lakers prevailed

In the second game of Andrew Bynum’s suspension, Lamar Odom again came into the starting line-up to fill in the gap; though the disclaimer remains that he does so much more than just “fill in.” Odom, for the night, play over 55 minutes, scored 29 points on 13-22, grabbed 16 rebounds, handed out 5 assists, blocked a shot and had zero turnovers. Despite fouling Channing Frye in the act of shooting a three-pointer (which resulted in three made free throws and led to the second overtime), he remained calm through the next 10 minutes of game time, fighting for rebounds and helping his team get over the hump. Odom said that one of the things he learned most about participating in the FIBA championships last summer was how to play tired. In a game like tonight’s, that lesson sure came in handy.

Another resilient Laker was man of steel, Kobe Bryant. In his last three games, Bryant had shot just 37% from the field. Tonight he came alive with 42 points on a more acceptable 15-31. He came within one assist of a triple double, grabbed 12 rebounds and handed out 9 dimes. Bryant hasn’t looked this comfortable with his jumper since spraining his ankle in Dallas more than a week ago. He shot 3-5 from behind the arc and made 9-11 from the free throw line. His caveat for the evening, however, was a handful of miscues that led to pivotal turnovers resulting in Phoenix scoring. He too often dribbled the shot clock away before deciding to drive it in, giving the Suns too much time to plan for his attack. He went iso when he should have moved the ball, and drove into a swarm of defenders instead of hitting the open teammate. In the grand scheme of a triple overtime game, however, the Lakers wouldn’t have had a chance had it not been for Bryant’s late-game heroics – a pull-up jumper towards the end of the fourth quarter, and another late in the second OT; then a three-pointer and a floater in the third and final overtime. Like Joel and Stu always say, having Kobe Bryant on your team will always provide you a chance to win in the end.

Pau Gasol had another shifty shooting night, going just 9-25 for his 24 points, but he made shots when it counted and his team needed every bit of his scoring prowess to get this victory. He finished with 13 rebounds and handed out 3 assists and took 2 steals, but for three quarters collected just 7 of his 13 boards. Whether he had grown accustomed to Bynum’s rebounding tear of late is irrelevant. In a game against a Suns team with little size and no post-game, he should have had 13 rebounds by halftime. The “soft” label has surely grown tired when it comes to Pau Gasol because he has proven his toughness, both mentally and physically, in the last two championship runs. But his defensive deficiencies can hardly be masked, especially this season. He was no match for a less talented but more aggressive and emphatic Marcin Gortat. Quick guards that Bynum takes pride in stopping, outsmart and out-step the Spaniard. The paint is open access when he is on watch. How will the Lakers fare if, in the post-season, Bynum encounters foul trouble and Gasol has to fill in? Unfortunately, savvy offense does not remedy uninspired defensive efforts. In the end, however, Gasol hit two clutch free throws when he accepted a pass in traffic from Bryant and got fouled in the last seconds of the second overtime.

Helping win tonight’s game were also Matt Barnes, Ron Artest and, despite his off offensive night, Derek Fisher. Barnes came off the bench to score 13 points on 6-9 from the field. He was the only productive reserve, with Shannon Brown and Luke Walton doing more harm than good in their participation tonight. What the Lakers missed in Barnes’ absence, is his activity without the ball in his hands, allowing him to cut to the hoop to catch passes and score, which he did tonight.

Ron Artest, the all-too-enthusiastic Laker, had 18 points on 7-14, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and kisses for the crowd. Artest’s contributions to this win were everywhere – poking the ball away from Vince Carter, hitting 3 of his 5 three point attempts, stealing then dunking to give the Lakers a five-point lead in the closing minutes of the third overtime.

And Derek Fisher, who only scored two points, but it was WHEN he scored them that counted – the last seconds of the first overtime. He also made some key steals (four for the night), and stuck himself to Steve Nash until the end.

Phoenix made 17 of their 41 attempts from the arc, and Channing Frye led the Suns with 32 points on 11-23. Nash, Phoenix’s floor general, had 19 points on 7-15, hitting 5-7 from three. He also had 20 assists! When you allow Nash to score as efficiently as he distributes the ball in a game, it will indeed be a long night…such as tonight was for the home team.

Yes, it was a long night for the Lakers, but talk about testing your will when you’ve played as long as they did tonight. They lost that 21-point lead but didn’t dwell. Each overtime was another opportunity to get that 51st win, and with that determination, they remain in their 2-spot in the Western Conference. Bynum is back against the Clippers on Friday (phew!), but without him they managed to survive, no matter how much it took to do it. It’s just too bad that tonight’s only counts as one game.

P.S. Did you see the Staples Center tonight, GQ magazine? It was full of loud, cheering fans from tip-off to the third and final buzzer. You can take that “Laker fans are the worst” award and hand it to someone else.

Box Score
Pre-game Thoughts: The last time the Lakers met the Suns, it rained threes – 22 of them. Phoenix will surely try to win from outside but the Lakers mustn’t be tempted to respond in kind. Play your offense from inside and defend the three, not to mention penetration by Steve Nash and Aaron Brooks.
Half-time Thoughts: 60-66 – Phoenix shot 51% from the field while the Lakers shot 54%. 3 turnovers for the Suns and 2 for the home team. Conclusion? Neither team is playing much defense in this game – IF ANY AT ALL. The Lakers played Phoenix’s running game and suffered in the first half with a 17-2 disadvantage in fast break points. Yes, they’ve been able to keep up with their offense, but if they don’t slow the game down and start working the boards, they’re in for a long evening of sprinting back and forth. Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant lead the game with 14 points each, Lamar Odom’s got 13 of his own, and Ron Artest has chipped in 10 points. There is enough offense to go around. Come correct in the second half and play the Suns out of this game with some defense.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Laker defense – They may have found it in the end, but to lose a 21-point lead? That triple overtime – or that first overtime, wouldn’t even have been necessary had the Lakers taken care of closing out the Suns in the third quarter.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: To commemorate the triple overtime, tonight there were three thoughtful Lakers worth mentioning. 1) Lamar Odom – efficient from beginning to end and zero turnovers 2) Kobe Bryant – ready 24/7, had a huge game and a near triple double 3) Ron Artest – played defense, rebounded, passed the ball and on top of that, scored!

  • 123kid

    wow what a grinded out game. glad the lakers came out on top. i dont think any of us expected the suns to even make a come back let alone a 3ot game. but i think if u look at it from phil’s standpoint, this is one of those games were phil just lets the guys loose and try and figure things out themselves, especially for the bench. guys like blake and barnes have never been in situations were phil expects the players to play out of their funk.

    on another note. im really gettin tired of stu lantz. come on guy! why dont u just commentate another team cuz all u do is show love for the other team or always seems to wanna go home. blow out and he wants to go home right away. close game and he wants to hurry up and get the game over with.

    • Sir

      Come on man are you really hating on Stu? At least he’s not a homer like the majority of other teams have. He tells it like it is.

      • ZK

        123 Kid is telling it like it is.
        As ususal, Stu tried to justify every call the Suns got, and questioned most of the ones the Lakers got. Even when replays show he is wrong, he cannot accept it like the clear block for which the Lakers got called for a foul.

    • alive86

      Have you tried listening to other commentators for other teams? They are ALL horrible in comparison to what we get every night.

      • Yep

        Every other commentator HATES on LA….big time.
        I can’t stand watching the game when it’s someone OTHER than our commentators.
        Especially when it’s ESPN. Fucking jeff van gundy. can’t stand that assgoblin

        • Toni

          Tell me about it! – LA has fair sportscasters as compared to the team that follows the PDX TrailBlazers! Talk about super biased! … I am a Laker fan living in Portland and I can’t stand them! – They hate on Derek Fisher and boy do they make it publicly known – even when they are in LA covering the game!! …. Really, really irritated the crap out of me!

    • lakerman1

      The TNT commentators were actually showing enthusiam over the triple OT which in my opionin is how it should be. I did not listen to Stu because contrary to what anyone says he is very annoying. He is constantly putting Joel down and when he goes on and on about how he has other things to do and wants the game to be done is very unprofessional. That to me is not good commentary. I for one will not miss him when he is gone. The Clipper announcers are much better then the Lakers.

    • Lebron is scared

      Hey Stu! Hi Lantz!

    • 242LakerFan

      Stu has always tried to emulate the Late Great Chick Hearn, who simply called what he saw. He called the Laker players out for bad fouls as much as the opponents. He praised plays by the opponents as much as the Lakers players.
      Stu seems to take it too far sometimes, tough. He will sometimes take the opponent’s side, even against the video evidence, just to seem fair.
      What’s really annoying is the cheesy attempts at catch-phrasing, like “NOOOOICE!” Really, Stu?
      Let’s bring Spero and Mychal to TV. Spero is the best announcer the Lakers have had since Chick and Mychal is my hometown boy. This would be NOOOOICE!

      • daboss1848

        Stu is a kb apologist, as is MT – no gain there.

  • Joe

    The TNT commentary was excellent. I also like Stu Lantz, I think some of you may be reading too far into it.

  • Chi-Town Walt

    Can any1 tell me why LUKE GARBAGE WALTON makes $6 million dollars. He’s terrible, who is luke sleeping with n order 4 him 2 still be on the team without contributing anything! Need better bench players! S o 2 Barnes 4 helping out last night!!!!!!!!!

    • Bagels

      We’d trade him, but no team is stupid enough to actually take him.

  • Brown Hater

    Hey try listening to Tommy Heishon In Boston, Walt Frazier In NY, or that idiot Sean Elliot In San Antonio. believe you’ll be beggin to have Stu back after a couple of weeks with those bums

  • 242LakerFan

    Hold on, though. Does anyone actually have a comment on the game or the recap? This is the Laker Announcers Blog all of a sudden! LOL
    Anyway, on to the subject at hand.
    I’m glad I fell asleep on this one (I’m on East Coast time) because I don’t think I could have woken up this morning after staying up till after 2am watching a game like this!
    I’m stunned that they blew the 21 point lead, which is the last point I remember being conscious. I guess the blueprint for beating the Lakers is pray your team has a way above average three-point shooting night.
    NWA but, I’m a little surprised by your positive take on the game. I thought from your frantic tweets last night that you might rip the players each a new one for their lack of defensive intensity and a few bonehead plays. You think anyone still doubts the importance of Bynum to this team’s defensive play? I sure don’t.
    Well, at least they have a couple days off before the next game. Maybe they should have Bynum come in and run laps for three hours to make up for the 3OT’s they had to go through last night without him! LOL
    This is going to be a fun stretch run!

    • http://writeon213.wordpress.com/ Anna Gonda

      Surprised by positive take? Haha! I’ve gained some perspective over the last month, I guess. As much as I dream of the Lakers playing flawlessly in every game, I can’t knock them for making up for their mistakes. Should they have finished this game in the 3rd quarter when they were up by 21? Absolutely. But they didn’t, and instead of letting Phoenix run them out of their own home floor like the last time they met at Staples, they figured out how to win in the end. There were boneheaded plays for sure, but they knew how to close out with a win, no matter how long and whatever it took. Just can’t find too much fault with a team grinding it out. I pointed out their negatives, but refuse to nitpick when they’ve racked up their 51st win with still 11 games to play =) And yes, can’t say enough of what Bynum brings to this team. Just can’t…

    • patrick

      Im on the east coast. I stayed up til 2am and had to work at 8 am.

  • Yep

    Two things. Derek Fisher DID NOT stick himself to Nash. Nash could easily drive in as if no one was in front of him all night. In fact that’s what he did. Furthermore, it was because of this that gortat had a career night. It was because of this that gortat scored a shit load of points in OT.
    Also, how can Gasol *hand out* three steals? lol

    • http://writeon213.wordpress.com/ Anna Gonda

      My bad…handed out 3 assists and took 2 steals (corrected). It was a long night =)
      And Fish forced Steve Nash into some late game turnovers. Just giving credit where it’s due.

      • alex

        fisher couldn’t guard nash, and that led to gasol rotating; hence gortat career night. open your eyes. the blame is always on gasol. win or lost.

  • xtro

    freaking lamar. had to sleep late last night.

  • riley

    Luke Walton Get on my got damn nerves I dont know who told him to shoot the damn ball.

    Message to Luke:YOU ONLY THERE TO PASS THE DAMN BALL!!!!!

    I Hate him more than that softrock LakerMarc!

  • NoDefense

    What,60 to 66 @ half,,,,,,,,,,,give me a break,Andrew,not there and we fold like a wallet…….

    • riley

      stop complaining kid we had the lead in regulation but GOOD OLE LUKE WALTON WANTED TO TAKE 3 PT SHOTS

      • NoDefense

        riley ,,go hump the neighbors cat,We heard you the first time.

  • willmo

    In regards to the game I am glad that they won it and happy that it came down to that because in the postseason teams are going to make runs and you have to hit your free throws (Kobe, Pau) when it matters and rely at times on your supporting cast (LO, Barnes and Artest). Obviously if Drew had played the Suns would not have gotten any layups and Gortat would’ve been in single digits pointswise. Walton is the worst player I’ve seen on a Lakers championship team since Mike Smrek in the late 80′s, when he shoots the ball it’s like watching the episode of fresh prince where Carlton jacks up a shot that goes beyond the backboard and his shots are always in slow motion. Brown is another guy that I just don’t understand with his leaping ability and strength the dude needs to watch Derrick Rose and quit jacking up crap with 2 secs left on the shot clock.
    In regards to the announcers, anytime there is a TNT or ESPN game I watch those instead of Joel the homer and bore Meyers, dude knows alot about stats and history but he sucks at calling Laker games. i always wondered why the Lakers didn’t go after Marv Albert when he got fired in NY or someone with a name cause damnitt it’s the Lakers that we are talking about. Stu is OK. When you watch games on NBA TV or League Pass you see that maybe out of all the teams in the league the Magic, Bulls, Nets (Marv/Ian Eagle and Frattello) and maybe the Knicks are good and the rest are crap especially the Blazers, Mavs, Heat and Spurs. I hope that maybe with the new TV deal they promote Spero and match him with Stu or hell get Gus Johnson that dude is amazing.

    • ZK

      Spero would be good. He is not a homer, and he is not a hater. Fairness is all we want.
      Stu obviously has great knowledge of the game, but he does not like the Lakers and it shows when he justifies every bad call against the Lakers (I am perfectly OK with the correct ones) and questions just about any we get, whether it is a good call or a bad one (again, I am OK with him pointing out the bad calls that favor the Lakers, but not when it is only one way). It has become more and more blatant with every passing year.
      As a Laker fan, I think we deserve better than Stu.

  • Sir

    You guys are insane disliking Stu because he’s not more biased towards the Lakers. The best announcers try to remain mostly neutral, and he does that. Personally, I love Stu

  • MeGustaPITO

    Gortat had huge game. Something that shouldn’t have happened. Pau looked like Paulina Gasoft out there.