The headline entering this Wednesday night matchup was the return of two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash to Phoenix.
Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Phoenix Suns and Michael Beasley had other plans in their vintage black jerseys. Beasley’s season-high 27-point performance carried the Suns, a team previously tied for the worst record in the Western Conference, past a Los Angeles Lakers team looking for their fourth-consecutive win.
“I’m just playing aggressive,” Beasley said. “I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. No more nonchalant Beas. I’m back to the Beast.”
On the other hand, Nash was ironically a non factor in his Phoenix homecoming with only 11 points and two assists in the Lakers’ stunning loss.
“Tonight was a big setback for us,” Nash said. “We were in control of the game and couldn’t close it out.”
Following the arrival of both Nash and Dwight Howard, most experts and fans alike believed the Lakers had elevated themselves as favorites to reach the NBA Finals. This has certainly not been the case for the Lakers, a team that is currently fighting for the eighth seed of the Western Conference.
The Lakers’ struggles were evident at the start of the game. The Suns 26-22 lead was courtesy of the Lakers’ carelessness with the ball, committing nine turnovers in the first quarter and ended with 12 by halftime.
However, both teams exhibited poor shooting performances by the end of the second quarter. The Suns shot 39 percent from the field, while the Lakers were faintly higher at 43 percent. Hence the 41-41 tie at halftime. Prior to the third quarter, the only two players in double figures were Marcin Gortat with 12 points and Beasley with 10 points.
To the detriment of the Suns, the Lakers third-quarter performance remedied their offensive ailments by shooting 65 percent from field, including making 4-5 from the 3-point line. Nonetheless the Suns, thanks to the astounding efforts of Beasley, were able to keep the game competitive entering the fourth quarter behind 73-63.
In a shocking turn of events, the Suns impressively spoiled the Lakers lead after Howard re-aggravated his right shoulder injury for the third time this month. Beasley subsequently led the Suns on a resurgent 29-13 scoring run to finish the game. Gortat added to the Suns’ comeback with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The Suns were able to stifle the Lakers’ field goal shooting to 42 percent by the end of the game. Overall, this stunning upset by the Suns gives the Lakers their eighth-straight road loss this year.
This defeat for the Lakers also marks the start of their seven-game road trip, which ironically ends with the Suns traveling to Staples Center. Conversely, the Suns are now 3-2 under Lindsey Hunter, a coach who appears to have inspired the young and talented Beasley as of late.
“Michael Beasley was incredible tonight,” Hunter said. “He’s been working really hard to get to this point and I really see promise in his future and just continue to encourage him.”
Both the Suns franchise and fan base outwardly displayed their appreciation for Nash as the hero that led the organization to three Western Conference Championship appearances. Prior to tipoff, the stadium played a momentous and embracing video dedicated to Nash’s time in Phoenix upon his entrance into US Airways Center.
“This is a very special place for me and to be recognized by the fans is incredible,” Nash said. “I am definitely very grateful for the reception but also for my time here, which are among the best years of my life.”
Ultimately, the Suns might want to consider wearing those black jerseys more often given the team’s victory over the Lakers.