PHOENIX — Over the last few days, all eyes have been on Kobe Bryant’s return from his Achilles injury suffered in last year’s playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers guard played in his second game of the year against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night and led the team in scoring with 20 points while cutting down his turnovers from eight on Sunday to just three against the Suns.
Bryant’s scoring did not, however, lead to a win as the Suns defeated the Lakers 114-108 to improve their record to 12-9. As usual, Suns forward and defensive stopper P.J. Tucker had the task of guarding Bryant and his diagnosis of the Laker guard’s abilities was pretty simple.
“Kobe is still Kobe,” Tucker said. “You can not really grade him because he is on a different level than everyone else.”
Bryant gave himself a “B” grade after giving him a “D” following Sunday night’s game against Toronto. Bryant scored his 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting and going a perfect 8-for-8 from the line.
“Guarding him, he is not as quick at making his moves, but he is still an unbelievable shooter that can get to the line,” Tucker said. “I don”t know how healthy he is, but you still have to give him the utmost respect.”
Tucker’s focus on defending Bryant put an end to his hot offensive streak as he only scored four points on 1-for-5 shooting, but he did lead the team in rebounds by grabbing 11 boards.
The Suns are coming home on a three game winning streak to play the Sacramento Kings on Friday, a team that has beaten the Suns twice this year.
“Those back to back games left a bad taste in our mouth and we played some of our worst games against them this year,” Tucker said.
In fact, starting Friday the Suns are home for three straight games against Sacramento, Golden State and San Antonio. It is noteworthy because they have not had back-to-back games at home since Nov. 8 and 10. The weird schedule quirk has not had too much of a negative effect as the team has gone 7-7 during that stretch.
“We are just a young team and it doesn’t matter too much to us, we just go out and play and it doesn’t matter if we are home or away,” Tucker said.