Los Angeles Lakers 139, Phoenix Suns 137 -- More heartbreak in LA

Marcin Gortat and the Phoenix Suns were done in once again by Kobe and the Lakers in heartbreaking fashion. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Marcin Gortat and the Phoenix Suns were done in once again by Kobe and the Lakers in heartbreaking fashion. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

There’s a reason they call this time of year March Madness.

The Suns and Lakers played a game as wild as anything we saw in the NCAA Tournament this weekend, with the Lakers finally prevailing 139-137 in triple overtime of a contest neither team deserved to lose.

In a game of twists and turns, this one turned definitively when Grant Hill fouled out with 2:18 remaining in the third overtime after committing his second foul of the possession in a span of 12 seconds defending Kobe Bryant with the Suns up two.

After a very physical trio of overtimes in which the refs really let both sides play, I was shocked that they would foul Hill out on a play with a minuscule bit of body contact that happens on every play that was followed by a Kobe dive into the baseline for dramatic effect.

In Hill’s latest All-Defensive team showing, the 38-year-old held Kobe to 1-for-8 shooting in the overtimes. Immediately upon Hill’s foul out Kobe drilled a three in Jared Dudley’s face that started a 7-0 Lakers run.

Hill’s foul out also put Vince Carter back on the floor, and after Channing Frye knocked down another three to cut the deficit to two, Carter missed a go-ahead three and Kobe slammed the door with a floater in transition, the kind of hero shot Bryant loves but one he should not have taken because otherwise the Suns would have been forced to foul and a miss would have put Phoenix back in position to steal the game.

It was the kind of play Henry Abbott was speaking about when he presented on how “Bad decisions in sports skew macho” at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this month. The smart play would have been to wait for the foul, but Kobe skewed macho, and he’s just lucky the shot went it. Unless it’s a wide open layup teams just don’t shoot in those situations when they can run clock.

The NBA’s highest-scoring game this season started with a 66-60 first half highlighted by better than 50 percent shooting per side and a combined 29 three-point attempts.

But this old western shootout turned into a Lakers rout when Los Angeles opened the half on a 14-3 run to take a 17-point lead. It doesn’t seem possible considering the triple overtime outcome, but the lead ballooned to 21 points when Kobe knocked down a triple with 4:40 left in the third as the Suns had seemingly run out of gas after a solid first half.

Nash cut into that lead with three seemingly inconsequential three-pointers in a row as Phoenix closed the third on an 18-6 run to make the lead a manageable nine points.

The bench took it from there with an early 10-0 fourth-quarter run against Los Angeles’ reserves with that Laker killer Aaron Brooks responsible for seven of the points in that spurt.

The lead got pushed up to nine with 3:44 remaining, but three more threes from Nash, Frye and Hill, respectively, sent this one to overtime. Hill was the key guy on the tying possession, grabbing an offensive rebound off a Carter miss before spotting up in the corner for the tying long ball.

The Suns pulled a Houdini act to get out of the first overtime as well with Steve Nash of all people rebounding a Frye missed three and getting it back to him to draw a foul on Lamar Odom as he attempted another game-tying triple. Frye calmly stepped to the line and knocked down all three foul shots with a second remaining to send this thing to a second overtime.

With under a minute left and the Suns down one in double OT Nash made one of the more insane passes I’ve ever seen. With Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher trapping him along the sidelines, Nash flipped a behind-the-back, no-look pass to Gortat while he was falling out of bounds.

The degree of difficulty on the play is such that I’m not sure another player in the NBA makes that pass; it seemed he needed to call timeout or the Suns were headed to a sure turnover.

Instead Gortat drove to draw in the defense and had the presence of mind to dish it out to the red-hot Frye, who knocked down a three to put the Suns up two. After a stop the Suns had a possession to salt the game away but Nash could not convert on a driving layup (he felt he was fouled by Gasol) and then Pau drilled a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to tie things up once again.

The Suns had one more chance to win it, but they chose to make Dudley the triggerman instead of Hill with a play that went to Grant. However, the pass was a bit behind Hill and he could not recover to get a shot off in the 2.5 seconds that remained before the fateful triple overtime period.

In a game of this length, it’s no surprise that the final box score featured some video game numbers.

Steve Nash went for 19 points and 20 assists in almost 50 minutes of work, hitting his first five three-pointers. Channing Frye scored a career-high 32 points on 11-for-23 shooting (5-for-13 threes) in 57 minutes of action. Marcin Gortat logged 53 minutes off the bench, tossing up a 24-16, Vince Carter needed 23 shots (making seven of them) to get his 17 points and Hill put up a 11-10 to go with all his defense on Kobe.

Aaron Brooks continued to torch the Lakers with 15 points in 13:40 to earn point a minute man status and Mickael Pietrus nearly did as well with 11 in 12:37. Hakim Warrick played just 5:37 as he’s not a great matchup against LA.

On the flip side, Kobe produced a ho-hum 42 points, 12 boards and nine assists on 15-for-31 shooting, while Lamar Odom went for 29-16-5, Pau Gasol 24-13 and Artest 18-5. Derek Fisher missed all seven of his shots and managed just two points in over 46 minutes.

My biggest complaint for Gentry in this one involves playing Carter for 40 minutes, most critically from crunch time until midway through the second overtime. Carter missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation and another one at the end of triple overtime, shots it would have been nice to see somebody else take.

The Suns lost 20 points in Carter’s 40 minutes, which by my math means they gained 20 points in the 23 minutes he sat. Plus/minus is incredibly variable, but that’s telling, especially when the next closest guy (Robin Lopez) lost just five points in 10 minutes. On the flip side the Suns gained 10 points in Dudley’s 30 minutes, a team high, and the non-Carter Suns shot 53 percent from the floor.

With the loss the Suns dropped three games behind Memphis but they showed off their propensity to put a scare into a contender if they do reach postseason play.

When the Suns’ shots are falling like this they are still a very dangerous team, and the fight needed to battle back from 21 down late in the third and continuously throughout the three overtimes made for an impressive showing of resilience.

The Suns did not deserve to lose possibly their most exciting game of the regular season, but when the buzzer finally sounded they could probably emphasize with some of the college teams that lost this weekend in similar heartbreaking fashion.

And 1

The Lakers were missing Andrew Bynum but this was a real solid showing against a Lakers squad that has now won 13 of 14 since the All-Star break. … Los Angeles had not allowed an opponent to reach the century mark in regulation since the All-Star break (the Suns scored 112 in regulation), and their defense had given up 87.9 points per game since the break before this one. … The Lakers had not won a triple overtime game since taking down the Philadelphia Warriors 151-147 on Dec. 8, 1961, according to ESPN Stats and Info. … The Lakers had never previously won a triple overtime game at home, and it was only their second such home game ever. … The Suns have lost four straight triple OT games dating back to 1997, with all four coming on the road. … Gortat helped the Suns stay close in the battle of the boards, losing it 56-52 after winning it 42-36 in regulation. The Lakers outrebounded them 49-32 during their last trip to Staples. … The Suns knocked down 17 threes after hitting a club record 22 in their last visit. … The Lakers scored nine points in each of the three overtime periods.

Tags: Channing Frye Grant Hill Kobe Bryant Steve Nash Vince Carter

  • Steve

    I’m really loving the effort some of our guys are putting forth, and I think it’s a sign of good things to come.

    Nash – You know you’re always going to get an MVP performance, but I don’t want to take it for granted. He’s the man, and I’m glad we’ve got to enjoy his game for so long.

    Gortat – This guy tries hard, and he’s freaking good. Averaging a double double in March, and came up HUGE last night against the Lakers bigs. He’s the real deal, people. He’s a bona fide stud. Not the best center in the NBA, but I’d easily put him in the top 6 or 7 and rising.

    Frye – I doubted him at the beginning of this year. I doubted him in February. I don’t doubt him any more. He’s working hard on his game to become a more complete player, and it’s showing.

    Dudley – Probably has the least to work with out of anyone on the team, yet he still is a big contributor. I don’t question this guy’s work ethic at all, and if his determination to keep improving his shot and defense was shared by everyone on our team, it would be a roster full of all-stars.

    With those four guys, I actually think we could have a bright future as early as next year. If we can find a 2 and a backup 5 (backup for Gortat, not for Lopez), and maybe another 4 as well (an actual 4, not a 200-pound twig like Warrick), this team could be a top-4 team in the West next season.

    Anyone have any ideas what 2s are likely to be available either via FA or who might be on the trading block?

  • Steve

    Oh, and VC sucked it up again last night when it mattered. Why does Gentry play him in late-game situations? Did you see the way he was joking around and chatting casually with the Lakers?

    We are SWORN ENEMIES on the court with the Lakers. You don’t make friends with them while you’re trying to beat them! You don’t even make friendly chatter with the T-Wolves or the Cavs. Nobody. Game time is game time, and I can’t stand players who think they’re out there to gain votes in a popularity contest. More proof he hasn’t a single ounce of competitive drive in him.

  • tottenham

    VC did just suck when it mattered…he was pretty subpar all game. I guess it balanced with Fisher’s stinkbomb, but VC also missed a couple of late regulation/OT shots.

  • MKM

    Carter’s -20 (7/23 FG) was the only reason why the Suns lost this important game. Bad coaching decision to give Carter 40 mins. Dudley only attempted one shot and Pietrus only played 13 mins! Terrible coaching!

  • Navkarn

    i had the pleasure of witnessing this game live at staples. it was my first time actually getting to see VC up close and it upset me seeing how uninvolved he is with the rest of the team. the stuff you cant see on tv really got to me and it was after yesterday that i too finally joined the disliking VC club. everyone played their hearts out last night while VC camped the 3 point line very rarely making a move for the paint. watching steve nash though made it worth the trip, just such a classy talented individual … i was rather surprised when the LA crowd cheered and gave him a standing ovation when he was announced in the starting line ups while every other Sun was booed.

  • elway

    Reason for loss simply, vince carter. He should have NOT taken that shot at the end of the 4th NOR in the 3rd ot. I would have rather had Nash/Fryre/Hill/Pietrus/Brooks/Dudley shoot it before him…hes garbage people i mean the way he associates with players he feels like hes in a pick-up game with his buddies. Smiling alongside pau gasol…(expletive deleted) pig

  • Mel.

    I would have sworn that VC was Alvin Gentry’s kid, with the illogical amount of minutes that he was given during this thing. Where the hell was Chili? Where was Pietrus? What POSSIBLE precedent was there for shuttling Vince’s old ass out there when fresh legs and raw desire were the only thing that was going to tip this in the Suns’ favor?

    Ugh. That aside, this turned out to be the best game of the year, narrowly edging the NYC/Boston contest from a few months back. There aren’t enough sweet nothings to say in praise of Marcin Gortat, and Aaron Brooks might have been THE single most important reason as to why the Suns were able to get back into this one. His slashing on the Lakers’ bigs late in the 3rd was absolutely fearless, and the three-pointer that he canned right in Odom’s face was like a starter’s pistol for the boys to get their rally on.

    The only disappointment in an otherwise Herculean performance was the anti-climactic ending; I was beginning to think that we’d go for 5OTs, with the way the teams were jousting.

  • Freddy

    Steve – MVP Candidate
    Gortat – 20/10 guy next year
    Channing- Most improved
    Grant- Impressive defensively

    Overall the team had a lot of heart and had they not lost 4 in a row recently they would have a good chance to contend for that 8 spot. Its a shame they didnt play with this hustle all year. I think our playoff chances are very slim and this could be a good thing.

    With the pieces we have and the pieces to hopefully come in the offseason I think our “rebuild” will be seamless. I am excited to see what kind of moves we make.

    You get 35+ Minutes you shoot 7/23 and 2/13 what in your right mind makes you think that you are the guy who should be chucking up 3 balls? or 2 balls ? And what is Gentry thinking to play him for so long?

    ^ I didn’t want to beat a dead horse but it is hard not to. Vince Carter Sucks.

  • Andrew

    I pray we get a 2 and a decent 4 and keep Nash a sun until he retires. I don’t want to see him in another uniform…what a champion at heart. We went toe to toe with a Laker team that has been unbeatable since the break….we cannot rewrite history but look at Amare and Melo struggling in NY and look at Nash just making everyone better around him. I wish we had Amare but we can get a 4 I think next year we are in middle of the west. Gortat Dudley Frye keep getting better

  • O.J.

    I like Gentry, but the more he plays Vince Carter the less I like Gentry.

    If VC is hot, ride it. If he is not, don’t. Its pretty simple. He sucks most of the time, but still capable of the occasional 30 pt night.

    There is no way VC should have played the minutes he played. Especially at the critical moments of the game! He scored 17 points on 23 shots….That is pitiful scoring efficiency.

    For some reason Gentry thinks VC = Jason Richardson…Far from it!

  • George Zetina

    Ok…thats it. Vince has had some great accomplishments in his career and I salute him for that. However, his shitty ass god damn performance yesterday it inexcusable. Maybe its not his fault though, if he didn’t play so many minutes he wouldn’t get the opportunity to affect us in such a negative manner. Gentry…Al Gentry…(expletives deleted) I cant believe how inept this deusch bag is at taking out players that can not contribute on given nights. Pietrus and Childress should have been in the game. They are younger, more efficient at defense and hustle than that hack Carter. I am officially on the “New Coach” bandwagon if there is one out there. Unbelievable, just unbelievable, words can not explain the disgust I have for Gentry and Carter right now. Maybe I have gotten my point across maybe I haven’t. I have vented enough to get back to work though. Outstanding job to all the Suns that left it all out on the floor yesterday.

  • Steve


    Wow. Vince Carter, how does it feel to be the most hated man on Planet Orange?

  • phil

    Anyone seen Dirk recently after the latest VC stinkbomb! Thought not. Still, on the plus side he gets paid less than Gilbert Arenas.

    Obviously Gentry didn’t want to play VC and only put him in when Hill fouled out, but why didn’t he put Pietrus in instead?

    Overall though another creditable performance and I agree that this team can be competitive for as long as Nash and Hill defy ageing. Funny how our focus has gone from finding a 4 (though another big to take lopez and warricks minutes would be good) to a 2 – one more scorer and this team is a serious threat

  • Evan

    FIRE GENTRY!!!!! Its obvious that he is the problem, look at that last play of 3rd overtime, 2nt overtime, regulation, WTF? We could have won the game 2 different times, then with the game on the line we did the ugliest play i have ever seen, and all we had to do was Give Frye the Ball he would have hit one of those shots but no it was Vince with a decent shot but come on Vince? Grant Hill who I love but the play was horrible and he is not the one i wont taking the last shot, then the 3rd OT play, WOW, a 5 year old could have drawn up a better play. If each time Frye or Nash was shooting the ball we would have won or at least forced a 4th OT.

  • kehntangibles

    I hardly ever never see Nash play except against us since I’m a diehard Laker fan and of course root for him to lose everytime we play you guys. But he’s the most entertaining player aside from Barry Sanders in any pro sport I’ve ever watched. And if I somehow had the power to give Steve Nash a championship ring but not at the Lakers’ expense, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  • Mel.

    ^Officially the nicest comment that any Laker fan has ever posted on this blog. Cheers, dude.

  • Josh


    I am so glad you shared those comments. I wrote something very similar when my son and I went to the Suns game in Denver. Since then, others have posted the same.

    When Kobe and his three friends (the refs) made sure Hill fouled out in the last OT my 6 year old–a knowledgeable Suns fan who I let stay up b/c he is on spring break–says “Oh Gentry–please put in Pietrus–no Carter, we will lose.” Out of the mouth of babes….

    One positive note here–look at the schedule of Memphis and New Orleans. Both could and probably should lose the next three games. It ain’t over yet!!!

  • Zak

    I have to agree with Steve on Frye. I was pretty hard on him earlier this season and didn’t think he was more than a good backup at PF but he’s making a believer of me. I’m starting to believe that getting a reliable 2 guard is now the #1 priority for the Suns next year. Followed by getting solid backups for Frye and Gortat.

    Get all that VC hating out of your systems this year Suns fans because he’ll be gone next year. If not, stop hating him and start hating management for being too stupid to buy out his contract and let him go.

    Maybe that’s why VC is so “uninvolved” with the team. Why get attached to the team or the fans if you know you’re going to be gone at the end of the season?

  • Mel.

    Zak, that’s pretty much the beginning and end of it.. and to give VC at least a tiny bit of credit, what he’s doing isn’t unprecedented. Bad attitudes and primadonna play are earmarks of his generation of superstar, and he isn’t the first guy to overvalue himself and his talent unrealistically.

    The problem is that he’s doing this sleepwalking BS on a team with two vets whose commitment to the game is among the greatest in the league, and whose bench is full of young bucks who are hungry for leadership. J-Rich may not have ever reached the point of being a true third star on this team, but his work ethic and attitude made a WORLD of difference… and that’s what makes games like these so goddamned infuriating. We gave up more than numbers to bring in an albatross who doesn’t mesh with this franchise on a basic, philosophical level.

  • kevin

    I think the only mistake by gentry was putting carter back in after hill fouled out, I tried to justify gentry’s decision by the fact that pietrus had been sitting on the bench longer and was going on cold. But deep down inside when the camera showed vince carter i thought “ohhh no…we’re going to lose now”

  • Steve

    I don’t know why we don’t play Childress more often.

    He embodies hustle just like last year’s bench mob did. Both Carter and Pietrus are prone to chuck up long balls whether they’re hot or not. J-Chill might not be able to do as much when he’s hot, but he never really seems to HURT you either. In a late-game situation, we have Nash, Frye, Hill, Duds, and Brooks who I feel can close. What harm does it do to throw Childress in there if we have some combination of at least two of the others on the court?

  • Mike

    Yeah, I’d like J Chil to get more playing time. He deserves it.

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