Phoenix Suns 121, Los Angeles Lakers 116 -- Live by the 3, die by the 3

There aren’t many NBA teams that can get outrebounded 49-32, allow 68 points in the paint, surrender 20 offensive rebounds and come away victorious. But then again, there also aren’t many teams that can shoot the three ball like the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns overcame their defensive and rebounding ineptitude by drilling the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers with a franchise-best 22 three-pointers (one short of the NBA single-game record) en route to a 121-116 win in Staples Center Sunday night.

“We put guys in the gym by themselves. It’s tough to shoot that percentage from three,” Kobe Bryant told Suns.com. “They made some tough, contested (three-pointers) and just shot the lights out. It was almost a historical NBA three-point shooting performance.”

Pau Gasol dominated the paint with 28 points and 17 boards, Bryant was one rebound away from a triple-double with a 25-9-14 stat-line, and Lamar Odom shredded the Suns’ defense for 22 points and 11 boards.

But none of that was enough to slow down the Suns’ three-point onslaught, as Phoenix lit up the Lakers from distance early and often, combatting LA’s size and strength the only way humanly possible.

“We can’t walk it up the floor against their length,” Steve Nash told The Associated Press. “You see Pau against us, it looks like he’s playing with a nerf hoop on the back of someone’s bedroom door. So we had to make them play in transition, spread the floor and make it a game of speed and skill rather than size.”

The Suns shot 55 percent from the land of plenty on the night, led by seven from a lights-out Jason Richardson (35 points, eight rebounds), five from Hedo Turkoglu (17 points) and four from Channing Frye (20 points and six boards).

Goran Dragic also knocked down three triples, Nash (21 points and 13 assists) hit two and Jared Dudley drilled one to round out Phoenix’s record-breaking three-point downpour.

“You just feel like the basket is huge and that every shot you throw up is going to go in,” Richardson said. “(Coach) Alvin (Gentry) was calling plays for me and my teammates were finding me. It was just fun to have a night like that.”

Despite the three-point barrage, the Lakers still got within three, down 112-109 with 53 seconds left. But Turkoglu finally lived up to his clutch label, knocking down a 26-footer with 34 seconds remaining to all but ice the game and give the Suns their first regular season win in the Staples Center since Jan. 17, 2008.

But the Suns certainly weren’t in the driver’s seat for all 48 minutes. In fact, it was looking pretty grim for Phoenix early on as the Lakers pounded the Suns on the glass and Gasol picked up a double-double in less than 15 minutes of action.

Robin Lopez left the game with a sprained knee halfway through the second quarter, and the Lakers’ interior attack didn’t look like it was slowing down anytime soon. But the Suns battled back in typical Phoenix Suns fashion — jacking up three after three.

With a sharp-shooting lineup of Nash-Richardson-Grant Hill-Turkoglu-Frye, the Suns chose to live and die by the three. Fortunately for Phoenix, it lived, rattling off a 16-2 run in 1:58 to turn a 46-40 deficit into a 56-48 lead.

Richardson, who was untouchable all night shooting 13-for-20 from the field and scoring 34 of his 35 through three quarters, dropped in two triples during the run and the Suns went into halftime with a 63-56 lead. J-Rich went for 18 in the first half, while Frye accounted for 11 points and four boards.

The Lakers came out of the locker room on a 6-2 run to regain the lead, but the Suns regained their stroke on their way to a 36-point third quarter behind 16 from J-Rich. Richardson was knocking down everything in sight, and the Suns went into the fourth up 92-84.

The Suns scored a ridiculous 69 points in the second and third quarters combined and rode that hot streak into the fourth quarter. J-Rich scored only one point in the final period, but the Suns didn’t even need it, as Nash scored 12 in the quarter and Frye limited Gasol to only four fourth-quarter points, including a crucial block as the Lakers trailed by five with 2:13 left.

While J-Rich did most of the damage in the scoring department, Frye had one of his best all-around games as a Sun, knocking down shots, defending Gasol when it mattered most and stepping in as the Suns’ only so-called “center” with Lopez out.

It is concerning it took 22 triples to beat LA, and the way the Lakers abused the Suns down low is certainly something to worry about. But the fact that the Suns beat the Lakers with no prototypical big man says a lot about the character and cohesion of this team. They played to their strengths — up-tempo, with no conscience — and it worked against the gigantic Lakers.

“That’s what we do, it really is, we usually don’t shoot 40 of them. I think when we get in the open court, with the way we have to try to play right now, we have Hedo who can shoot them and Channing who’s a three-point shooter,” Gentry said. “And we try to take their guys away from the basket. Steve does a great job of penetrating and pitching, and when we’re shooting the ball well from three we’re pretty good.”

The Suns probably won’t drill 22 three-pointers again for the rest of the season. But wins like this bring teams together, which couldn’t come at a better time for a squad searching for continuity. If the Suns hit their stride, feed off chemistry and rise to the occasion in their next three games against Denver, Miami and Orlando, this is the game to look at as the reason why.

And 1

Dudley fell into Lopez’s right knee with 6:04 left in the second quarter. Lopez limped off on his own power and returned back to the bench after a short stint in the locker room. The Suns called it a sprain, but it doesn’t look all that serious for the third-year center. … Richardson is playing as well as any two-guard in the NBA through nine games, averaging 22.3 points per game while shooting 50.8 percent from three and splashing more triples than any other player in the league. … Turkoglu’s performance was very encouraging, as he played big minutes down the stretch for seemingly the first time all season hit a clutch three along the way. He continued to live on the three but also finished a nice driving layup during the Suns’ 16-2 run. … The Suns weren’t great defensively, but they did force 18 Lakers turnovers and played at an up-tempo pace that’s been missing at times this season.

  • Mel.

    This was pretty damn epic… the Odom call aside (And seriously, it’s hilarious to act as though these garbage technicals haven’t been plaguing EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THE LEAGUE… though it’s only real news when Phil’s got something to say about it), it was boggling to see the Suns looking like they were ready for a WCF rematch. They should have tucked tail and taken a twenty-point beating given the numbers, but they played some proud ball and shot the damn lights out.

    And I know it’s way too early in the season to say this, but after glancing at the Knicks’ record… how’s that zipcode change working out, STAT?

  • Robert

    Michael,

    I’ve watched every minute of the Suns games this year including the Portland game Opening night live and was curious if anyone else agrees that the Suns may be better without Robin Lopez. While he is the only legitimate center we have he has played timid and weak all season. Frye has been a better rebounder while also being twice the threat on offense and honestly I’d rather see Warrick down low then Lopez. If Lopez rebounded like Childress then he deserves to start but with the way he is playing Channing is the better player and starter. My question, do you think this could be a blessing in disguise for the Suns? Letting Frye start giving us arguably the best 3 point shooting unit eveR?

  • Lori Ann

    Mike-
    As soon as this game was over, I said (out loud) to my TV: “Live by the 3 …die by the 3!” —-so glad YOU mentioned it!
    Ha!
    The Suns ‘lived’ an historic: “Live by the 3″ SUNSational game @ LAL tonight!
    What an insanely “long bomb” game to witness!
    I’m with Mel —-epic, indeed!
    GO SUNS!

  • PhxSunsFanInLA

    Yea it was even better to be there in person and walking out the staples center with my nash jersey on =) !

  • Kenton

    @Robert:

    Me and my buddy have been saying the same thing; is Lopez worth it? It seems as though he’s a part of the Suns’ long term plans, but he seems to be a Diaw to me. A lot of potential (based mostly upon how much we need him as a position player) without being 100% convincing.

    My question is: who can the Suns hope to get for Lopez, if they could get him on the trading butcher block?

    K. Love from MIN.? (Yeah right)

  • Robert

    @ Kenton:

    Played my High School basketball in oregon against love in AAU ball and am more than slightly bias toward the idea of getting Love in a Suns Uniform. His rebounding takes the team to contender status. Trade Lopez, Earl Clark and Whatever number one we have coming in the next 3 years. Love can also shoot the 3, what a great fit… Low Probability though. We just need someone who can rebound, I have no idea who is out there… Lopez + Clark + a Pick.

  • Kenton

    @Robert:

    From what I understand, MIN. coach and K.Love have a love/hate relationship, not unlike what Turkey-Glue experienced in TOR. Occasionally has difficulty being motivated. It’d be willing to hedge a bet that Gentry could find a way where others may not, but that doesn’t mean the front office (Sarver) will bite. I suspect that after Love’s big game it would be difficult to pry him loose without replenishing MIN. rebounding well in the process. This goes with any team, I’d imagine. Maybe we just need to wait patiently…

    Ugg…

  • Jane

    It has been a long time to win at Staples center (against Lakers). I didn’t watch the game but win against the Lakers means something. Win is a win. Every game they are getting better in the offensive end. Like Nash said, they need to find their identity and it will take time.

    Also I was surprised that the average winning percentage of opponents the Suns played so far is .636 which is the second highest(next to Clippers) in the league. Well, they have Denver, Miami, and Orlando to play, and even at Charlotte and Houston is not going to be easy (remember the last year’s nightmare at Charlotte). So let’s see how the Suns get through this schedule. I believe they will be a way better team after this stretch.

    The only concern is the Suns’ defensive rebound. I only have one thing to say about their rebounding. Please just box’em out! Just grab your defensive boards!! I don’t care Lopez gets one rebound per game or not. It’s team effort.

  • Robert

    Yeah, but it appears Minnesota has something going With beasley/ Love atm. With Rubio that teams becomes actually marginal. But leave it to Minn to mess things up. If we could can stay within 5-8 rebounds a game we are in good shape. Problem is we aren’t. If we are in the 3-6 seed range in January before the trade deadline we really should find a team tanking and trade for a rebounder.

  • Ryan

    Wow the Suns seemed like a better team with out Lopez on the floor taking up space and failing at the pick n roll with Nash. I don’t think they ever lead until Lopez go hurt or wasn’t on the floor.

    Fyre is great at pick n popping with Nash and he spaces the floor so well its hard for teams to defend even for the Lakers.

    I agree with the rest of the posts that say we should dump Lopez. I hope he is hurt for a while so the ownership can see that Fyre helps this team more then Lopez does.

  • Steve

    IF (and it’s a big “if”) Lopez can somehow develop some ferocity with his game – especially on the defensive end – that’s going to be the best bet for the Suns’ current and future success.

    I would love to see a player like Kevin Love in a Suns uniform, but I think that’s about as likely as getting Chris Paul to replace Steve Nash. It’s just not going to work. I’d rather see us get it right in the draft than have to trade away even more picks.

  • Mirza

    What about the kid in Sacramento Jason Thompson .. it seems Sac is trying to shop him and at this point we probably wouldnt have to give up much .. By no means am I suggesting this guy is the answer for our lack of size but I would like to see him get some minutes in our system .. I’ve mentioned before I like Andray Blatche but again landing him will never happen

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