Photo: The Arizona Republic
PHOENIX, Ariz. – After letting a win slip away in Denver, the Phoenix Suns knew they were faced with a tough challenge the very next day against the Los Angeles Lakers. Fortunately, the Suns caught a break.
Kobe Bryant was a late scratch due to tenosynovitis in his left shin. Bryant has torched the Suns in the three previous meeting this year, scoring 48, 36 and 32 points. Phoenix took advantage of his absence, routing the Lakers 125-105 on Saturday night.
“Last night was heartbreaking,” Steve Nash said after finishing the game with 13 points and 11 assists. “So to come back and find a win, even without Kobe, they still have two big guys that make it really difficult for us. This wasn’t a shoe-in that’s for sure.”
Los Angeles jumped out to an early 32-24 lead after one quarter of play, but that’ when the Suns bench took over. Michael Redd scored 17 of his 23 points in the second quarter while Shannon Brown added 20 of his 24 points in the third. Phoenix outscored the Lakers 75-51 in both periods.
“Tonight was great,” Redd said. “If we would have won last night it would have been more great, but to get a win and bounce back, mentally more than anything, to fight back. We’ve got another tough week in front of us and hopefully we can do the same thing.”
The Suns bench scored 58 points, the second highest total this season and outscored the Lakers bench by 48.
“A bunch of guys stepped up tonight,” Nash said. “Sebastian (Telfair) has been playing really well, I though Robin (Lopez) and Josh (Childress) contributed. Obviously Michael Redd got really a hot and Shannon had a terrific game as well.”
Phoenix committed only three turnovers, the fewest total in franchise history. The previous record was four set on January 17, 1995 vs Denver.
“We did a really good job of playing an up-tempo game, but not over doing it,” Alvin Gentry said. “I think when Michael and Shannon shooting the ball like they did, we should have a lot of assists and very few turnovers.”
The Suns caught another break on Saturday night. The Golden State Warriors blew out the Denver Nuggets at home, allowing Phoenix to move back within a game of the Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Saturday’s win over the Lakers also moved the Suns within a game and a half of Houston and Dallas.
But the Suns already feel like they are in playoff mode.
“They’re all big,” Gentry said. “It doesn’t matter, East, West, we’re at the point of the season where we approach every game like we are in the playoffs. I just know the we have to keep trying to win games.”
Phoenix has 10 games remaining in the season, with six of them at home. However, it won’t be easy. Nine of the 10 games are against teams in the playoff hunt, with the next for on the road. The Suns begin their final road trip of the year on Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.