Los Angeles Lakers 114, Phoenix Suns 102 — Knockout run

Despite a valiant second-quarter effort from Jermaine O'Neal, Dwight Howard and the Lakers used a late 17-2 run to beat the Suns, 114-102. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Despite a valiant second-quarter effort from Jermaine O’Neal, Dwight Howard and the Lakers used a late 17-2 run to beat the Suns, 114-102. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

With just under two minutes to play in the third quarter, Marcin Gortat tied the score at 84 with a follow layup that put the Suns in position to steal one in Staples Center with another furious fourth-quarter effort.

Instead once again their little engine ran out, as the big, bad Lakers rebounded their way to a 17-2 run that quickly finished off Phoenix.

The Suns suddenly went cold after a scorching start to the game, missing 16 of their final 23 shots (30.4 percent) after knocking down 55 percent of their shots to that point in this 114-102 loss.

On the other end when the Lakers missed they often got it back, as they rebounded eight misfires on the offensive end in the fourth quarter alone and 17 for the game, including six from Dwight Howard and four from Jordan Hill.

“In my opinion, I think Jordan Hill changed the game,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters. “84-84 I think was what it was at that point. He came up with an offensive rebound and I thought his energy changed the game.”

This contest had previously been a game of runs as the Suns fought back from a 10-point deficit with a 15-0 spurt in the second quarter buoyed by a strong effort by Jermaine O’Neal against Howard, which the Lakers immediately answered with a 12-0 run of their own to prevent the Suns from getting too far ahead.

But when the Lakers hit them with that second haymaker late in the third and early in the fourth, the Suns just couldn’t find that next gear to make this a game again.

That should come as no surprise as it has become a common theme in a season in which the Suns have trailed by double digits in nine of their first 10 games.

We have learned that there is no quit in this team and that for stretches in a game the Suns will outwork a team to fight their way back into the contest. Occasionally they will have enough in the tank to fight all the way back (see Cleveland), but more often than not the more talented team will make that one last spurt to finish Phoenix off.

Through the better part of three quarters the Suns were doing all they could to pull the upset by fighting the Lakers to loose balls and enjoying one of their better shooting nights of the campaign, but when Kobe decided it was winning time by scoring six quick ones to end the third quarter the Suns had no counter strike.

In the last game before Mike D’Antoni sits in the head chair for the Lakers, perhaps it was fitting that the first quarter featured vintage SSOL ball, a showing of where the Suns came from and the Lakers are headed. The Lakers won the quarter 35-30 as both teams shot over 60 percent and combined for 19 fast-break points.

Michael Beasley stood out early, drilling six of his first eights shots and dishing out five first-half assists on his way to a 13-point half. He still finished with nine assists, yet his shooting percentage looked all too familiar as he missed his final seven attempts and scored a single point in the second half.

The Suns were outscored by 19 points in his 38 minutes on the floor, which is to say the Suns made their one big run with Beas riding the pine (it began when P.J. Tucker checked in for him).

Goran Dragic also came to play with his old mentor Steve Nash looking on, as he scored 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting while dishing seven assists.

Marcin Gortat did not have quite so much luck against his old sparring partner, Dwight Howard, as he finished with six points and eight boards while Howard racked up an 18 and 12 game.

Even worse, O’Neal fared much better against Superman while showing the Suns what they’ve missed these past six games he’s been out for personal reasons. JO scored 12 points in his 20 minutes on 4-for-7 shooting and racked up five boards and three blocks while getting under Howard’s skin. He played throughout all but the final three points of the Suns’ 15-0 run, scoring six points and frustrating Dwight on the other end.

The Suns have dearly missed O’Neal’s backup center presence, and tonight the vet seemed to have plenty left in his tank. Particularly on nights like tonight when Gortat’s not at his best, that will be vital.

In all, this one was relatively predictable based on the first nine games. In a nutshell, the Suns got down, fought back and ultimately could not return the more talented Lakers’ knockout punch. They continued to fight hard and made a game of it with two minutes left in the third.

But in the NBA talent wins out, and once Kobe turned it on late the Suns were left with another defeat to a quality team.

And 1

After Wednesday’s loss to the Bulls, Gentry noted an observation about how much better the Suns shoot on possessions in which they pass the ball.

“We’re a very good basketball team when we take the ball from one side of the court to the other and we make more than three passes,” he said. “When we make more than three passes, we’re a 55 percent shooting team. When we make one or two passes, we’re a 31 percent shooting team. We need to get the ball moving. We’re a much better team when we do that.” Cough, cough, Beasley and Brown. …

The Suns rank 10th on Forbes’ list of most valuable NBA franchises. They are valued at $395 million, a four percent decrease from last year.

Tags: Jermaine O'neal Michael Beasley

  • Fan in Chi Town

    The Suns couldn’t score in an OT game AT HOME against a Chicago team without its best player.

    They also had a better record going into tonight’s game than the Lakers and they didn’t even compete in the fourth quarter.

    Grow some balls and win a freaking game. You’re professionals. Act and play like it.

  • jones

    So Beasley is 2nd on the team in assists and yet he doesn’t pass enough?

    His shooting is beyond abysmal right now and he needs to improve somehow. Maybe hire a shooting coach or something.

  • Luka

    The Suns desperately need an athletic low post threat at 4, a versatile consistent 2, and a decent 4/5 off the bench. The roster is clearly not a finished product. Hopefully the FO can use the draft picks, and move Beasley to take on a quality wing.

  • Scott

    Beasley seems to have taken criticism of him being a black hole to heart, what with all his dishing this season.

    His next move ought to be changing his game so that he’s an efficient scorer who gets to the line.

  • Serek

    Maybe Beasley cannot learn more then one thing at a time. Now he is learning to pass first, and in a few games he’ll learn to score next?
    Anyway it seems to me like a collective focus/chemistry/mentality issue. It’s not possible for such a diverse array of teams (some good, some great, most of them average) to give the Suns the same problems. The guys are doing that tobthemselves. Which is a good thing as long as they fix this soon.

  • Melon Head

    Sad to say but I’m pretty sure our 2 best bigs aren’t intended to be retained for the long-term. Gortat could learn a lot from both Scola and O’Neal and if he did he could truly be a beast.

    Beasely is good bench material. I have no idea what Dudley should be doing but I know for certain it’s not starting.

    I know we’re not too far into the season but I just don’t feel any real excitement like I did before the season. To me our 3 best players overall in relation to their positions are Dragic, Scola and O’Neal and that just doesn’t bode well for us. Sad.

  • Anonymous

    Beasley needs to retire. We need a decent small forward to get anywhere with this team.

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  • sun also rises

    It feels like it’s been a lifetime and a half since I remember being confident about a Suns team’s chances in the fourth quarter. Even the miracle run in 2010 still had that feeling of things just getting ready to unravel.

    But hey, at least ESPNLA gets to treat the fact that the Lakers won this one like it deserves its own parade in Westwood. lol

  • bill.thomas

    Here is our chance to steal a win against a team that on paper is better than us. Wade will be out, so let’s just defend their 3 next best shooters, Chalmers, LeBron and Lewis, as tough as possible. Don’t let them get many easy ones. No leaving Lewis or Battier wide open for corner threes like Metta the other night–what, were we hired by his agent to showcase him or something??? These are the types who can mainly beat you if they’re left wide open.

    Need to beat them on the boars, esp. 2nd chance, which is doable. Gentry needs to pull anyone who plays as if he’s tired, disinterested or has eaten too much pre-game.

    Defense was abysmal in LA. The 1st qtr. was like a shoot-around for Pau. I saw both Beas and JMZ beaten badly on separate plays in a very short 15 second highlight on a Lakers blog. Beas got caught with his man betw. him and the basket; JMZ looked like a lumbering rhino trying to chase Kobe.

    We need to play the passing lanes better so that scorers don’t receive perfect passes for easy scores and can easily beat our defenders who are just somewhat out of place.

  • bill.thomas

    @Anonymous–then have Dudley retire too !!!!!!!!!