Los Angeles Lakers 111, Phoenix Suns 99 -- Men amongst boys

Kobe Bryant went off for 36 while the Suns stood and watched. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the Phoenix Suns and their limited roster to hang with Western Conference playoff teams, they need to be nearly flawless in all aspects of the game.

Shots have to fall, defensive rotations must be crisp, and Suns bigs need to keep the opposition off the glass while anchoring the paint defensively.

Phoenix did none of that on Friday night in Los Angeles and it resulted in a 111-99 loss to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, the Suns’ 10th loss in their last 11 games in Staples Center.

Although Phoenix showed fight in erasing a 20-point second-half deficit to cut the Los Angeles lead to 95-90 with 4:28 remaining, the Lakers thoroughly dominated the Suns in every aspect of the game.

They out-rebounded the Suns 52-36, made 53.0 percent of their shots to Phoenix’s 45.6, shot at a 45.5 percent clip from distance to the Suns’ 30.8 percent mark, and scored a season-high 54 points in the paint to Phoenix’s 38.

Oh yeah, then there’s that Kobe Bryant fellow. The Black Mamba once again torched the Suns, this time for 36 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals with half of his points coming in the third quarter when the Lakers ran away with it.

Until Kobe took over, the Suns looked like they could hang with the Lakers. They jumped out to a 25-21 lead at the end of the first quarter and were knotted up at 48 with just over two minutes remaining in the half.

But the Lakers sprinted into the locker room on a 9-0 run as the Suns turned the ball over three times and missed both of their shots in the final 2:02 to trail 57-48 at halftime.

Even after the Laker spurt, the Suns still had to be encouraged at halftime. They were shooting 51.2 percent from the field, Marcin Gortat had 14 and 9, Bryant was on pace for his season average with 14 and the Suns were out-rebounding the NBA’s biggest team, 20-18.

Soon enough, however, it became clear the Suns’ play was only a mirage and the Lakers looked like men amongst boys. Phoenix’s patented inconsistency kicked in and the Lakers exploded in the third quarter while the Suns’ offense stalled.

With Phoenix trailing 65-61 and 9:15 left in the quarter, the Suns missed 13 of their next 14 shots and the Lakers lead quickly ballooned to 20 with 47 ticks left in the third.

The Suns settled for jump shot after jump shot while Bryant caught fire. Channing Frye, who has often been Phoenix’s barometer for success, missed four jumpers during that stretch and the Suns’ offense had no rhythm.

Behind nine fourth-quarter points and a monster tip-slam from former Laker Shannon Brown, the Suns cut the Lakers lead to five with 4:28 remaining. But Los Angeles scored on three of its next four possessions, while Phoenix missed its next three shots. Bryant and company built their lead back to 101-90 and there was no more light at the end of the tunnel for the Suns.

It would be easy to beat the Suns up for poor execution, bad defense or 15 first-half turnovers. But the fact of the matter is, the Suns have no business hanging with the Lakers, or any team of that caliber, on a consistent basis.

The Lakers have Kobe Bryant, the Suns don’t. Mike Brown has two seven-footers in his starting lineup, Alvin Gentry has Gortat and a 6-foot-11 two guard in Frye. The only way for the Suns to win games like this is to catch Bryant on a bad shooting night and drop in a barrage of three-pointers.

Kobe went off, and the Suns made only 8-of-24 threes. Game, set, match. Falling to the Lakers on the road shouldn’t come as a surprise for the Suns, and offensive lulls are standard procedure by now.

But to allow an offensively-challenged Lakers team to score a season-high 111 points — only their fourth time over the century mark all season — is alarming. To let the often-criticized Lakers reserves shoot 9-for-11 from the field for 21 points in the first half is nothing to be proud of.

The Suns have now allowed their last four opponents to surpass the century mark and it’s no coincidence they have come up empty handed in every game. In a season full of inconsistency, the one aspect of the Suns’ game that had remained constant — defense — is now missing in action.

Phoenix moved to 12-19 with the loss and it won’t get any easier as the Suns host the Lakers on Sunday. Unless the Suns swing a blockbuster trade in the next 48 hours, Sunday could be much of the same for a floundering Suns team.

And 1

  • Hidden in the Suns’ struggles was Gortat’s huge night on his 28th birthday. The Polish Hammer went for 21 points and 16 rebounds in 42 minutes against arguably the best front line in the NBA. Much of that was a product of Steve Nash’s 17 assists, but Gortat was stellar nonetheless.
  • Brown played arguably his best game as a Sun as he scored 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting in 20 second-half minutes. After Grant Hill picked up his fourth foul with 8:00 left in the third, Brown came in to try and check Bryant and didn’t leave the floor for the rest of the game. Brown hadn’t played in six of the Suns’ last seven games entering Friday’s game, but he proved to be one of the few bright spots against the Lakers.

Tags: Kobe Bryant

  • shazam

    mike i dont think the suns are inconsistent…i think they are very consistent…every time the other team decides its time to change gears and play hard the suns consistently fold…they just dont have the talent..the other team knows it and play semi hard until its time to win…its just going to take a year or 2 before we can compete

  • shawn

    At this rate the hornets and wizards will rack up more wins than us but that means a better draft pick so let’s go suns…I guess

  • Tony

    I usually defend Gentry because for the level of talent the Three Stooges have provided him, there’s not much he can do to turn this team around. With that being said, Gentry did a poor job of coaching tonight. First of all, he continues to give Frye opportunity after opportunity and yet the guy is incapable of hitting shots at this point. Why does Gentry stick with him so long? Morris was playing exceptionally well and should have played 30 plus minutes tonight. I don’t care about him being in foul trouble, Gentry should let him play regardless. At the very least, Morris will learn how to play while in foul trouble. Next, Gentry waited way too long to call a timeout in the third quarter when the Lakers were in a nice groove. The momentum was all for the Lakers and Gentry needed to try to break that with a timeout. By the time he finally did call a timeout, it was too late.

    Besides the obvious lack of talent on the Suns, the team is also missing some nastiness and mental toughness. They need somebody like Tyson Chandler or Kevin Garnett, someone who has some moxy who’s not going to allow the team to be intimidated. I was hoping Gortat would bring that but he hasn’t shown that kind of intensity and probably never will.

  • shazam

    half time entertainment suggestion in tribute to the suns…picture this the suns gorilla intentionally misses dunks while this song is playing..NOW THATS ENTERTAINMENT

  • shazam

    “Just to register emotion, jealousy, devotion
    And really feel the part
    I could stay young and chipper
    And I’d lock it with a zipper
    If I only had a heart”

  • Serek

    Gortat used to make some honest criticism just after the trade to the Valley, but has since then adopted the usual demeanor of Suns’ players, especially Steve. They will talk about “needing to stay focused on next game”, “righting the ship”, “the other team playing great” and that kind of zen-master inoffensive bs instead of telling straight up “I think shooting/defense/rebounding/FT of this guy sucks, and he better not slack off during workouts and put some heart into it”. Too bad.

  • shazam

    gortat has gotten the suns tan..he didnt show up in shape and had a bad training camp…morris is about to get that same tan..notice how he doesnt average as many rebounds as beginning of season.?..hes catching the same no waves zen steve nash the leader suns tan

  • https://twitter.com/#!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    I think some of you are slightly off base in regards to Gortat and even Morris.

    It is obvious that outside of the PnR, Gentry hasn’t put much in for the Thunder God. He is doing what he has been coached to do, and as a player finally getting a shot in the league he isn’t exactly going to go all Kobe Bryant or Dwight Howard and start calling players out.

    Morris is being wrecked, but that is not his fault. He, too, is being coached in a certain way. He gets rebounds but he still sits more often in favor of Lopez and Frye. Who knows why.

  • shazam

    when it comes to coaching overview ..gentry is doing what nash tells him to..i dont think im off base just a little closer to the equal sign

  • Scott

    I’m glad I didn’t see the game, but sad it is going to be replayed (so to speak) on Sunday. :(

  • Scott

    @shazam -

    I don’t think Nash is calling all the shots. I think Gentry is the guy who assigns rotations. Nash just wants it to work and win.

  • Tony

    @ Shazam,

    come on bro, your Nash-bashing is getting more and more absurd. Nash is calling the shots? How so? You mean being surrounded by sub-par players who have no offensive game whatsoever? Or do you mean Gortat instead of Amare running the pick-and-rolls? Sure Gortat’s been good, but he doesn’t have good hands and he has no mid-range shot to change the pace on the screen and roll. People forget that when Nash and Amare used to run the screen and roll, it wasn’t 100% of the time Amare cutting to the basket but included a pick and pop with Amare to change the pace.

    Point is, the Suns have only one play that is above average in the pick and roll with Nash and Gortat. They don’t have players who can create their own shots and they don’t have great post players. So that leaves the pick and roll as their best option in the half court.