The Phoenix Suns used strong contributions from many players to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 114-108 in a game that they controlled for its entirety.
Goran Dragic led the way with 31 points, got the offense going early by scoring 10 of those in the first quarter and helped to get the Suns off to a quick 10-3 start. Marcus Morris scored a season high of 22 points and was smoking hot when he came off the bench by scoring 11 quick points before the first TV timeout of the second quarter.
In the game, the Morris brothers combined for 37 points and 11 rebounds and dominated a three minute stretch late in the fourth quarter that pretty much sealed up the win by scoring 11 straight points including a Marcus Morris block that led to a Dragic transition basket giving the Suns an 11 point lead with 2:30 to go in the fourth.
Eric Bledsoe also had a major impact in the game and carried the Suns at moments, especially coming out of the gate to begin the second half. He forced two turnovers, which led to five Suns baskets to quickly increase a five-point Suns lead to 14 before the Lakers knew what happened. Bledsoe ended the quarter by making two acrobatic layups that just made you shake your head in disbelief. He finished the night with a near double-double of 18 points and nine assists in his first game back at Staples since being traded by the Los Angeles Clippers over the summer.
Let’s see how the pregame questions were answered.
Will Kobe disrupt things enough to give Phoenix an advantage?
I would say yes for the simple fact that the Lakers are still adjusting to Bryant being back in the line-up, as any team would when a player comes back from an injury. Bryant actually had a decent night on the court leading the team with 20 points on 6-11 shooting and making all eight of his free throw attempts. Bryant got the crowd oohing when he made a nice spin move to get by PJ Tucker to throw down his first dunk of the year in the first quarter.
Bryant had a much better overall game than he did in his season debut on Sunday in Toronto by committing five fewer turnovers and having a smarter shot selection. He is still a step slow and slightly out of shape, but those should not be an issue for Bryant within a month or so.
Evidently, Magic Johnson doesn’t think Kobe should be needed to beat the Suns with this tweet after the game.
Laker Nation: The @Lakers were 10 steps behind Toronto & the same thing happened tonight against the Suns. Lakers are too slow on defense!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) December 11, 2013
Should the Suns run?
They should have ran more. When the Suns had transition opportunities they converted more times than not tonight. Bledsoe came out guns blazing to start the third quarter leading the Suns to the first nine points of the quarter by converting two steals into five points on the break. Whenever Bledsoe or Dragic got the ball in transition, they made something happen.
On the defensive side of things, the Suns kept the Lakers in check and did not let up many transition chances. The Suns could have ran a bit more than they did, but they kept the pace of the game in their favor for the majority of the contest.
Does the Lakers bench get cookin’?
It was too little too late for that vaunted Lakers bench. Going into tonight the bench for the Lakers led the NBA in scoring with 48.1 point per game, and the Suns kept them under that average tonight. They only had 14 points at halftime and didn’t get going until Bryant left the game at the 3:38 mark of the third quarter. The Lakers bench went on to score 19 of the next 21 points and kept the purple and gold in the game until Bryant and the starters came back at the 6:11 mark of the fourth quarter.
Jordan Hill and Nick Young led the bench scoring with 13 points each, though Hill was the much more effective player of the two. Young struggled missing four free throws and took some ill-advised shots at big moments, including a momentum killing forced jumper after the Lakers scored six straight cutting the Suns lead to one late in the third. His missed jumper led to a transition hoop for Bledsoe and the Lakers never got as close to taking the lead again. Xavier Henry struggled until the fourth when he scored 10 of his 12 points.