Lakers vs Phoenix: Lakers' Artest comes up big in victory
Lakers 99, Suns 95 (final)
A day after it was revealed that Ron Artest and Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had a disagreement at practice last week, the forward came up big in the victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
Artest made a three-point shot from the corner off an assist from Kobe Bryant with 1:30 left for a 97-91 Lakers lead.
Artest later stole the ball from Vince Carter after he had gotten an offensive rebound.
That led to a Derek Fisher jumper for a 99-92 lead that stood.
Fisher had been one-for-six shooting up to that point.
Artest finished with 11 points on four-for-10 shooting.
Bryant led the Lakers with 24 points, but he also had three turnovers.
When Lamar Odom went down hard on the court after scoring, it looked to be serious because he was holding his left forearm and Lakers trainer Gary Vitti had to come on the court with 10:02 left.
It turned out that Odom had fallen on his funny bone. After a timeout, Odom came back to play.
Odom finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Lakers 80, Suns 73 (end of third)
The Lakers opened the third quarter looking serious.
They came out aggressively, going on a 14-5 run to open a 63-55 lead, forcing Suns Coach Alvin Gentry to call a timeout with 8:07 left in the quarter.
Kobe Bryant scored the Lakers' first eight points in the quarter. He began his run with a three-pointer, then had a three-point play the old-fashioned way with a basket and a free throw, and followed with another basket.
Bryant then found Pau Gasol for a score.
Suns 50, Lakers 49 (end of first half)
Defensively, the Lakers were not very good in the second quarter.
Offensively, the Lakers were not very good.
That allowed the Suns to open a one-point lead at the half.
The Lakers scored just 18 points in the second quarter, while giving up 26.
Jared Dudley burned the Lakers for 15 of his 19 first-half points in the quarter, making three three-pointers. The Suns made five three-pointers as a team.
Lamar Odom didn't help matters by picking up his third foul with 9:22 left in the quarter.
That meant Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had to go small at times, putting Ron Artest and Matt Barnes in together at the forward spots.
Lakers 31, Suns 24 (end of first quarter)
The Lakers had no problems scoring against the Suns in the first quarter.
They shot 60% from the field and used a 16-0 run to open a 12-point lead at one point.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with seven points on three-for-four shooting.
Andrew Bynum started strong for the Lakers, taking the ball hard inside, going hard to the backboards.
Bynum had six points on two-for-three shooting. But he missed four of six free throws.
He also had four rebounds, two offensive.
Since the Lakers last were beaten by the Suns early in November, Phoenix has become a different team.
The Suns traded Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to the Orlando Magic for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus.
Carter is the starting shooting guard and Pietrus and Gortat come off the bench.
But Lakers Coach Phi Jackson said not much has changed in the way the Suns operate their offense.
"There are some different things," Jackson said. "But they are going to run the same stuff. Steve Nash is going to try and generate offense from similar things."
Jackson said Carter, who is averaging 15.1 points, is a "great individual player."
Jackson also said Gortat and Pietrus improve the Suns' defense.
-- Broderick Turner, reporting from Phoenix