PHOENIX – Kendall Marshall pumped in his second three-pointer to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 13-point lead with three minutes left in the first half. He jawed at the Phoenix Suns bench with a smile as he ran back down on defense.
If the Suns didn’t have enough motivation before — like a three-game losing skid and in simply playing the rival Lakers — then they did now.
The way Phoenix went at their former lottery selection in a 121-114 win on Wednesday was as aggressive as the franchise was to rid itself of the Lance Blanks era. In the third quarter, Goran Dragic put the pedal to the floor when Marshall was assigned to him. When the Lakers switched their point guard onto Gerald Green, Phoenix showed Marshall no mercy, sending Green into the post.
Green finished with 28 points, his rhythm finally found thanks on post-up attempts and fadeaways, most of which were over Marshall.
And as it is any time the Lakers and Suns meet, there was drama. A Kobe-less, Nash-less, Bledsoe-less game couldn’t stop that.
With the Suns leading 36-35 and 7:33 to play in the first half, Nick Young took two Alex Len hands to the face on a dunk attempt, and after a hard foul came up shoving the Suns rookie. A brief scuffle ensued. It included a few pushy Morris twins and then Dragic taking Young’s elbow to his face.
An apparently complicated play finally resulted in Len’s ejection with a Flagrant 2 foul, Young’s ejection for hitting Dragic and a technical on Marcus Morris for shoving Young.
Jeff Hornacek earned his own technical with four minutes left in the first half after he decided to walk onto the court to contest whether a block on a Gerald Green dunk was in fact a foul.
Yep. It was your classic Suns-Lakers battle with the Suns running off 36 fastbreak points to edge themselves ahead of the injury-plagued Purple and Gold.
To Jeff Sanders’ preview questions.
Who is going to help out Goran Dragic on offense?
Markieff Morris seemingly got the hint. Hornacek had played the power forward for eight minutes against the Detroit Pistons before he was ejected just nine minutes into the game on Monday against the Knicks.
Morris hit his first three shots, first going into the paint and drawing a foul on an aggressive spin move, then hitting a three-pointer. He scored 24 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists.
In the third quarter, Green scored 16 points after getting going with Marshall on his back, and Channing Frye also added 20 points.
Can the Suns start fast?
They started fast alright, and they did so by attacking Kendall Marshall on the first play. But after trying to separate with a first unit that was beating the Lakers down the floor, the second unit defense – Markieff Morris especially – had issues with big man Chris Kaman, who scored six straight inside as Los Angeles took a 27-26 lead after the first quarter.
Kaman scored 18 points against the smaller Phoenix bench. The Suns’ second unit didn’t help as they fell behind 56-43 late in the second quarter before a rally put the score at 58-54 going into the halftime intermission.
Can the Lakers hit some threes?
The Lakers started 1-for-8 until Kendall Marshall hit a 26-footer atop the arc with the shot-clock winding down. Jodie Meeks added another a minute later to give the Lakers their biggest lead to that point, 49-41.
Marshall’s second made three gave the Lakers their largest lead of the game, but in the end Los Angeles hit just 6-of-20 three-point attempts. Phoenix did little better in going 4-for-19.