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Category: Lakers-Suns

Kobe Bryant scores 48 points in 99-83 victory over Suns

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Lakers 99, Suns 83 (final)

Whoever puts together the Kobe Bryant season highlight package will get plenty of mileage out of the fourth quarter of the Lakers' triumph over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday at Staples Center.

Bryant faked out Grant Hill on the wing and drove around him for a two-handed dunk that gave the Lakers a nine-point lead.

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Suns

Bryant then one-upped himself on the Lakers' next possession, taking an alley-oop pass from Matt Barnes for a reverse dunk that had fans roaring for a few minutes as Phoenix took a timeout.

It was a night of unforgettable plays for Bryant, who finished with a season-high 48 points on 18-for-31 shooting as the Lakers improved to 7-1 at Staples Center.

Pau Gasol logged a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds and Andrew Bynum added 12 points, but it was mostly Bryant who was a constant pain for the Suns. Bryant made a couple of pullup jumpers and a pair of free throws in the final two minutes, helping him reach the highest point total by an NBA player this season.

Former Laker Shannon Brown had a nice spurt early in the fourth quarter, making three baskets to help Phoenix pull to within a point. The former Laker finished with 11 points, the first time in five games this season he has reached double figures and the Suns have lost.

The next challenge won't be as easy for the Lakers, who go on the road to play Utah on Wednesday in the second part of a back-to-back situation. The Lakers are 0-3 on the road this season, including a bad loss to Sacramento in their second game.

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Looking at the Lakers' other triple-overtime games

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Every player is going to have differing lasting images of the Lakers' 139-137 triple overtime win Tuesday over the Phoenix Suns.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will cherish dampening the Suns' slim playoff hopes, just one example of avenging the Lakers' first-round losses to Phoenix in 2006 and 2007. Lakers forward Lamar Odom will forever remember the foul he committed on Channing Frye that gave him three free throws to force overtime. Lakers forward Pau Gasol will cherish the two free throws he hit to force a third overtime. Lakers forward Ron Artest will likely remember the air kisses and muscle poses he demonstrated after hitting key baskets. And Lakers guard Shannon Brown will remember the immediate aftermath involving playing knockout with knockout with representatives from Budweiser, as part of a Lakers' sponsored event.

The Lakers' fifth triple overtime affair since moving to Los Angeles in 1960 also conjures up reflections on the other four contests.

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Ron Artest provides entertaining performance in Lakers' 139-137 triple overtime win over Phoenix Suns

The crowd gasped in frustration, pleading for Lakers forward Ron Artest not to shoot the wide-open three-pointer.

He did anyway.

The shot dropped in the bucket, gave the Lakers a three-point lead in the first overtime Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns and the 18,997 at Staples Center reacted hysterically. In return, Artest blew kisses in the air, soaking in all the adulation.

The image surely represents the never-ending anxieties and fickle relationship Laker fans have with Artest, swinging in frustration over his trigger-happy tendencies and distracted persona to admiration for his fearless mindset and goofball behavior. But the latter image was present all night long in the Lakers' 139-137 triple overtime victory Monday over the Phoenix Suns, a performance that featured Artest scoring seven of his 18 points on seven of 14 shooting and one of his three steals in extra regulation with funny antics along the way.

When he stole the ball from Suns guard Steve Nash in the third overtime, Artest drove for a fast break, finished with a one-handed dunk that gave the Lakers a 135-132 lead with 1:53 remaining and flexed and kissed his biceps afterward. Moments later, Artest pulled up for an off-balance 15-foot fade-away that somehow went in, giving the Lakers a 137-132 edge with 1:08 remaining and prompting him and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant to embrace at center court.

If those plays weren't entertaining enough, Artest's post-game interview surely was. He proclaimed the Lakers game lasted for three hours and nine minutes because he and boxing promoter Bob Arum thought it'd give him a plug to promote a possible Manny Paquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight.

"I knew it was going to happen so half the time I was just on roller skates," Artest said. "Did you see me skating? I was back skating because I knew what was going to happen."

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Caught in the Web: Lakers express appreciation for Lamar Odom

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--The Times' Broderick Turner explains why Lakers Coach Phil Jackson considers Lamar Odom to be "invaluable."

--NBA.com's David Aldridge reports for NBA TV a heartwarming story on Lakers assistant Brian Shaw and the untimely deaths of his mother, father and sister in an automobile accident in 1993.

--The Orange County Register's Earl Bloom looks at the NBA's most improved players.

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr explains how Odom takes his changed roles in stride.

--The Arizona Republic's Paul Coro breaks down the chances the Suns have in making the playoffs.

--Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer looks at how Kobe Bryant is handling his injuries.

--Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin puts the Lakers at No. 1 in his latest power rankings.

--Helin also found this link via NBC Miami that features Lakers forward Ron Artest talking with Peter Bailey at a Miami club.

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Dissecting the Suns' three-pointers in Lakers' 121-116 loss to Phoenix

57645145Were Lakers Coach Phil Jackson a gambling man, he'd gladly roll the dice that Phoenix's penchant for three-point shooting wouldn't last.

"Our philosophy," Jackson said, "is those things even out through time."

Instead, the team's 121-116 loss Sunday to the Suns featured Phoenix setting a franchise-record 22 three-pointers, the second-highest league total any team's scored in a game.

The feat seems so uncommon that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant nearly guaranteed that you wouldn't see it happen again anywhere else.

"When guys are in the gym by themselves," Bryant said, "they can't shoot that percentage."

And Phoenix's live-and-die-by-the-three mentality seems so unorthodox, Lakers guard Derek Fisher highly doubts that strategy will prove sustainable for a playoff run.

"I'll just say I have five rings playing a particular way," he said. "I feel like that works pretty well. People do other things, and you see the results. That's just my opinion. Obviously, I'm biased."

The Lakers' refrain in the locker room after their second consecutive loss became as predictable as the Suns' relentless three-pointers. Rather than using this time to reflect on their poor defense, the Lakers pointed their fingers at Phoenix, claiming there was very little L.A. could do to stop a hot shooting night. Sure, Lakers forward Lamar Odom conceded the team could've performed better on closeouts. Sure, Lakers guard Shannon Brown acknowledged that the Lakers should've slowed the pace down to prevent the Suns from hitting so many three-pointers. And sure, Lakers forward Matt Barnes pointed to the Lakers' 18 turnovers feeding into Phoenix's high-octane offense.

But the Lakers' aura of resignation masked the plenty of things they could've prevented in allowing an opponent to set a new franchise record for most three-pointers given up in single game against the Lakers' franchise. Considering how rare it is for teams to hit such a high volume of three-pointers in a single game, it's tempting for the Lakers simply to just forget it and move on. But the tape shows this is another example of the Lakers' ongoing problems on defensive coverages.

Below the jump, I detail what went wrong on nearly every Suns' three-pointer. I left out two sequences simply because I DVR'ed Fox Sports West's replay Monday afternoon, and that version fast-forwarded through a few parts of the first quarter, leaving two first-quarter treys on the cutting-room floor. But you get the idea.

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Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Ron Artest and Matt Barnes discuss 121-116 loss to Phoenix Suns

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant

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Five things to watch in Lakers-Phoenix matchup

Pau Gasol 1. The Lakers will respond well after a loss. Coach Phil Jackson expressed uncertainty about how much a day of rest Friday would benefit the Lakers (8-1) in their matchup Sunday at Staples Center against the Phoenix Suns (4-4) since the Lakers had an uninspiring performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves after similar time off. Forward Ron Artest also noticed that the Lakers' poor habits against the Timberwolves on Tuesday carried over into the team's 118-112 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. But the Lakers will come out with a better effort because the bottom-line result woke them up more than a mediocre performance. The Lakers' practice Saturday also allowed the team to shake off any rust from the day off Friday, so there's no reason the Lakers should not look sharp against Phoenix.

2. The Lakers' front line will bounce back from an off game. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will not combine for seven-for-23 shooting on a regular basis, a stat line that played a large role in the Lakers' loss to Denver. In addition to the poor shooting stroke, Odom was so ineffective that Jackson sat him in the fourth quarter in favor of Shannon Brown (19 points on seven-for-14 shooting). In fairness, though, Jackson also made that move because of Brown's hot hand and because Denver went with a small lineup. Gasol, meanwhile, largely struggled with close- to mid-range shots and appeared to be tired in playing a team-leading 44 minutes, the amount of time he has been on the court for in three of the Lakers' last five games.

The Lakers can't afford bad games from Odom and Gasol, but that should not be an issue against Phoenix. In the Lakers' 114-106 victory against the Suns on Oct. 29, Gasol and Odom combined for 39 points on 18-for-29 shooting, 25 rebounds and 14 assists. Suns forward Hakim Warrick has shown promise, but Phoenix has not fully developed a front-line presence to replace Amare Stoudemire and sorely lacks a rebounder to compete with the Lakers' front line.

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Five things to take away from Lakers' 114-106 victory over Phoenix Suns

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1.Kobe Bryant continues to make progress on his right knee. - This isn't because Bryant scored a team-leading 25 points on a nine of 19 clip in the Lakers' 114-106 victory Friday over the Phoenix Suns. It's because his minutes (34) and involvement in other areas (seven rebounds, three assists) shows he's returning to his normal self. Another sign that Bryant's making progress is he seemed to enjoy matching Grant Hill's hot shooting (21 points on 10 of 17 shooting) and testing the foul limits. The next development I'm interested in seeing entails how Bryant's body responds next week when the Lakers play four games, including Sunday against Golden State, Tuesday against Memphis, Wednesday at Sacramento and Friday against Toronto.

2. Pau Gasol shows leadership All pre-season Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has prodded Gasol into taking charge of the team. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, he gathered together Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown and Steve Blake together and appeared to give them advice. The Lakers entered the quarter leading 90-79, but no lead against Phoenix ever feels safe, considering the Suns shot 44 of 93, went nine of 24 from three-point range and featured five players cracking double digits, including Hill (21), center Robin Lopez (18), shooting guard Jason Richardson (17), backup guard Goran Dragic (15) and Jared Dudley (10) as well as nine assists from Steve Nash. Gasol helped the Lakers secure the win by dishing out five of his team-high nine assists in the fourth quarter, including plays that led to two Barnes' three-pointers, feeding Bryant and Lamar Odom inside for layups and finding Derek Fisher open for a jumper. Oh, and he also contributed with 21 points on 10 of 17 shooting with eight rebounds, falling short of the triple double.

Gasol's shooting stroke looked very smooth, resulting in numerous mid-range J's. His footwork remained unstoppable resulting in a left hook over Lopez. And his patience in letting the play develop while posting up paid off numerous times.

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3. Lamar Odom isn't missing a beat - KCAL-9 Lakers analyst Stu Lantz correctly observed that some fans take for Odom's contributions for granted. It's easy to fall into the trap with this game because he's provided all throughout the training camp. He had a field day against Hedo Turkoglu in the post and on the perimeter, scoring 18 points on eight of 12 shooting, along with 17 rebounds and five assists. After nailing a three at the top of the three in the second quarter, he grabbed a rebound and fired an outlet pass, resulting in a Shannon Brown layup. He drove the lane one time and immediately noticed traffic so he kicked it out to Bryant for the open shot. And he relentlessly owned the boards against an undersized Phoenix team, most notably when he grabbed a rebound off an Artest missed shot and converted on an off-balance layup.

Although he's recorded seven turnovers in the first two games, Odom avoided getting into foul trouble against Phoenix, which prevented Jackson from having to play Theo Ratliff heavy minutes as well as give rookie Derrick Caracter playing time.

4. The Lakers continue to show trust in their bench - It's amazing to already see the work Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak put in this offseason already reap the benefits. Shannon Brown provided another energy game, scoring eight points on four of eight shooting, while Barnes had 11 points, including three of four from three-point range. Blake, Barnes and Brown entered the game late in the third quarter, and partly contributed to the team going on a 9-2 run to create a 87-79 cushion. Barne made a key defensive rebound that resulted in Blake converted from long-range, and Brown stole a poor Dragic pass resulting in a thunderous two-handed slam. Clearly, Jackson has confidence the bench can secure and widen leads, and it's also clear that Sasha Vujacic's zero minutes through two games will prove to be the norm rather than the exception this season.

5. The Lakers show potential to be a better three-point shooting team than last year: It's only two games so obviously this statistic remains far from definitive. But the Lakers' 47.9% mark from three-point range shows the team has better personnel to shoot from three-point range than last year's team, which went 34.1% from the field. Barnes finished three of four from three-point range, Blake and Bryant went two of five, Artest went three of eight, Fisher hit one of two and Odom nailed his sole attempt.

It's going to be a nice skill for the Lakers to acquire considering that wasn't their biggest strength last season, and it's going to give teammates fits considering how dangerous the Lakers frontline usually shows. The Lakers should approach the game, however, looking to get the ball in the lane and post first, before settling for outside. Working inside-out instead of outside-in will also help the Lakers' perimeter shooters develop a better rhythm as well.

Stat of the Night: 1,100. The number of wins for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who became the fastest coach in NBA history to achieve such a feat.

Quote of the Night: I'm a great rebounder." -- Lakers foward Lamar Odom to KCAL-9's John Ireland

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives down the lane against Suns point guard Goran Dragic in the first quarter Friday night. Credit: Matt York/Associated Press

Photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom looks to pass over the defense of Suns forward Hedo Turkoglu in the first quarter Friday night. Credit: Matt York / Associated Press

Five things to watch in Lakers-Suns matchup

570842801.What kind of minutes will Kobe Bryant provide? -- Though Lakers Coach Phil Jackson maintained he would limit Bryant's minutes at the beginning of the regular season, he said he'd remain flexible about Bryant's playing time,  based on his comfort level and game situations. In the Lakers' 112-110 season-opening victory Tuesday over the Houston Rockets, Bryant scored 27 points on eight of 20 shooting in 37 minutes, a significant improvement in both shooting percentage and minutes compared to his preseason stat line of 12.6 points on 28.2% shooting in 21.6 minutes per contest.

Without citing specifics, Jackson said he may alter Bryant's minutes in the Lakers' (1-0) game Friday in Phoenix (1-1) because they host Golden State at home Sunday, leaving Bryant less room for recovery time.  

 2. How will the Suns look without Amare Stoudemire? - Stoudemire's departure to New York this off-season because of free agency prompted Suns guard Steve Nash to publicly doubt the team's chances of making the postseason.

"To be honest, if I was outside this picture and a betting man, I would probably pick us to be outside of the playoffs, considering all the changes and the new guys, Nash told the SB Nation Arizona's Seth Pollack.

Of course,  Bryant doesn't feel bad for Phoenix's off-season adversities, including losing Stoudemire to free agency and Leandro Barbosa in a trade.

"Good. We'll beat the hell out of them," Bryant said. "That's not my problem. We beat them in the playoffs last year, but they used to kick our butt all time in the playoffs. So I have no sympathy."

The Lakers offered many opinions on how much Stoudemire's departure affects the Suns, considering he averaged 25 points last season in the West Finals against the Lakers and partly contributed to Andrew Bynum getting in foul trouble. Bryant pointed out the Lakers won't have to "double-team a guy in the post." Jackson observed Stoudemire's penchant for high-percentage shots inside that he created, thanks to how perfect he and Steve Nash ran the screen and roll will no longer be an issue, considering center Robin Lopez has struggled so far replicating that same chemistry with Nash. And Lakers forward Derek Fisher actually argued the absence could prove more difficult, considering the Lakers' defense would have to space out more since Hedo Turkoglu, Channing Frye, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill  and Josh Childress can play from the wings.

"I'm sure at times, they'll miss the physicality and power Amare played with, Fisher said. "But I think as time goes on, their ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter complements Nash's penetration ability. I think it'll balance out a little bit. Teams like ours, it may be tough, because you got to have size in the middle, but catching us without Andrew Early and Theo [Ratliff] banged up a little bit, we'll still have to go in there and get some work done."

Although it's one game, Phoenix forward Hakim Warrick demonstrated in the Suns' 110-94 victory Thursday against the Utah Jazz that he knows a thing or two about the screen and roll. All the various contributions tie into what Phoenix Coach Alvin Gentry has described as a "continuity offense." Though the Lakers won't have to worry about Stoudemire, the Lakers still have issues. The Lakers' front-court remains fairly thin with Andrew Bynum rehabbing his right knee, backup center  Ratliff nursing a sore left knee and Derrick Caracter remaining understandably raw. Still, the Lakers should hold their own against Phoenix, which conceded 18 offensive rebounds in its 106-92 season-opening loss Tuesday to Portland.

"The combination between Stoudemire and Nash has been great in the last two years so that'll be a little timing," Jackson said. "But Phoenix will still be a good team."

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Ron Artest's game-winning shot in Game 5 of West finals still catching buzz

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Ron Artest wishes the Lakers didn’t celebrate his game-winning shot in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. Instead, a few high-fives and a dash to the locker room would have been fine.

He said he feels this way because he did what he was supposed to do – get an offensive rebound and score, which is further proof that he isn’t one to really enjoy the moment.

But Monday, Artest said everywhere he goes fans are still enjoying it for him.

“When I’m around town, I try to stay out of the public, but when I’m out, they’re extremely excited about that shot,” he said. “I’m trying to remove myself, but they’re extremely excited about that shot. I’m like, ‘All we did was win the game,’ but I guess it was how it happened.”

Artest said after speaking to the media about it, he realized how big the shot actually was, so he “re-winded it like 50 times.”

And he had to admit, “It was pretty cool.”

And, in looking back, he said the moment was a sort of baptism into the Lakers team.

“You still have a long way to go, but it’s like, ‘Yeah, you are part of the team now,’” he said. “It makes you feel good.”

--Baxter Holmes

Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest (center) is engulfed by his teammates after making a last-second basket to give L.A. 103-101 victory over Phoenix in Game 5 on Thursday night at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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