The three headed monster of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas scored 57 points in the Phoenix Suns rout of the Los Angeles Lakers in their home opener.
The Suns led by 24 at the end of three quarters - 98-74 - and the game wasn't even that close. The final margin of just 20 points - 119-99 Suns - was more a product of a sloppy fourth quarter than anything else.
The game was a rout all the way through.
The most exciting part of the second half was seeing Eric Bledsoe show some emotion. The game got heated late in the third quarter when Kobe fouled Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe was so mad at the refs - and I've NEVER seen him get mad before - that he got a tech. Then two minutes later Kobe tied him up on a rebound and got the jump-ball call instead of a foul. Bledsoe blew up and got himself tossed from the game.
A couple of minutes later, Gerald Green spelled Eric Bledsoe (who already had 5 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds by that time) and the rout was on. The Suns lead grew to 30-15 even with the Lakers leaving in most of their starters.
In the words of Forrest Gump: "And that's all I'll say about that."
After one quarter, the Suns led 33-19.
The Suns got a bit slacky in the second quarter, allowing the Lakers to pull within 6 at 34-28 on an 13-1 run and Hornacek called a quick timeout. The Suns let down began with Isaiah Thomas settling for (and initially making) threes while offering worse than matador defense on the other end. Wayne Ellington came in to make a bunch of catch-and-shoot midrange shots to help the Laker cause.
The timeout only helped a little by getting the Suns scoring back on track, but the Lakers continued to score nearly at will with 21 points in the last 6 game minutes. That's a LOT of midrange scoring.
By the way, I have to give Ronnie Price some credit here. When he came in late in the first, he brought his hard-nosed defense to the table and helped take the Suns completely out of any rhythm. They weren't helping themselves at all, but Ronnie Price didn't give Isaiah Thomas any daylight either.
The Suns righted the ship a bit by bringing back the starters with Alex Len in the middle and if Kobe Bryant hadn't hit a million multi-juke fallaway jumpers it would have been a rout again.
But Alex Len was really the man for a couple of minutes there. He altered about 3,000 shot attempts on one possession alone against three Lakers (Hill, Davis and Kobe). The Lakers never scored. And then Len altered a shot the next time down too. Len's line at the end of the half was 0 points and 3 rebounds, but he made a big difference.
Suns lead at the end of two quarters was 59-50. Isaiah Thomas finished the half with 13 points and 2 assists in 11 minutes despite the lackadaisical effort on D that helped give the Lakers life.
The Suns began the second half the way they began the first half with a big 33-16 run begun with a Plumlee slam and littered with a few threes and drives to the hoop.
At one point Kobe just mugged Goran Dragic out on the perimeter for all to see and not one ref called a foul. Kobe is going to hurt someone - maybe himself. He's playing HARD out there, daring people to stop him.
Miles Plumlee made some stupid mistakes, so they brought in Alex Len and... well, I like this guy. A LOT. He once again altered some shots, including a Kobe fallaway that made Kobe so mad he got himself a technical. Len gets better with every shift on the court.
The most excitement of the third quarter: The game got heated late in the third quarter when Kobe fouled Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe was so mad at the refs - and I've NEVER seen him get mad before - that he got a tech. Then two minutes later Kobe tied him up on a rebound and got the jump-ball call instead of a foul. Bledsoe blew up and got himself tossed from the game.
Figure that. Eric Bledsoe, Mr. Stoic, tossed from a game. Think he's focused on the season? Yeah, me too.
Bledsoe finished with 16 points (5 of 7 overall, 3 of 4 on threes), 9 assists, 6 rebounds in 26 minutes of play.
After three quarters, the Suns led 98-74 and the Hydra had 16, 18 (Dragic) and 15 (Thomas) points, along with 14 combined assists and 12 combined rebounds. Marcus Morris was hot, pouring in 21 points with 5 for 9 shooting on threes (8-14 overall). Markieff had 12, with 3 rebounds. For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant had 31 points on 11 of 25 shooting. No other Laker had more than 10 points.
Tyler Ennis started the fourth quarter along with Isaiah Thomas, and he had a runner in the lane on his first attempt. The rest of the game became a showcase for individual performances. Gerald Green kinda disappointed, but the others were okay.
Isaiah Thomas was on fire even in the fourth, finishing the game with 23 points, making 5 of 7 three pointers and 9 of 11 shots overall.
The Lakers opened their season with a devastating loss. The Phoenix Suns would like to experience the exact opposite in the first game of a very important 82-game season for the franchise.
Opening night in the NBA is a special one for home teams. They pull out all the stops and pray their team puts on an equally great show on the court.
The Lakers, unfortunately, did the exact opposite. Fans were excited about the return of Kobe Bryant and the promise of Julius Randle. Within two hours, hopes of grandeur in the form of a playoff berth were squashed like a snake on a highway.
Now, the Lakers have to help the Phoenix Suns open their season in the valley. Tired and emotionally drained from the hell of Tuesday night, the Lakers will be hard-pressed to put up a fight against the younger, hungrier and more talented Suns.
In the past few days, their best point guard (Steve Nash) and best hope for the future (Julius Randle) have been ruled out for the season due to injury. For. the. season.
Last night, Julius Randle suffered a broken leg in the Lakers home opener on national TV against the Houston Rockets. The loss of Randle dwarfs the 92 point loss (okay it was 18 points but it felt like 92) to the much more talented Rockets.
Kobe Bryant was the Lakers best player, of courss, and he pumped in 19 points on 17 shots in 29 minutes. Kobe took most of his shots early in the game - at one point having more shot attempts than minutes on the floor. But as the game got away, Kobe took fewer heaves at the basket.
Other than Kobe, you've got a badly overmatched front line of Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill. Boozer and Hill combined for 24 points and 17 rebounds in the loss, but were a net negative against Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones.
This is a real, real bad Laker team. Without Randle this season, I think Suns fans should stop worrying about getting the Lakers' first round pick next year. This team just might rival the Sixers and Bucks for worst record in the NBA.
The only question for the Suns is the opening night lineup. With P.J. Tucker suspended (Super Extreme DUI punishment), I am guessing it will be the Morris brothers joining Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee.
Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris started most of the preseason and likely will do so tonight, with Gerald Green being the primary backup at small forward while T.J. Warren recovers from a thumb injury.
Anthony Tolliver will need to shoot his way into regular rotation time.
This space is reserved for regular season stats, but here's taste for you:
With Swaggy P being out, the Lakers are really going to struggle to score points as a team. Worse yet, they are not good enough on offense or defense in the back court to slow down a team with a quick, strong set of guards.
Enter the Phoenix Suns. While Kobe with get Kobe points, the Suns Hydra should run all over the Laker counterparts in Lin, Jordan Clarkson (R) and Ronnie Price. I expect the Suns will even play Gerald Green a lot at small forward opposite Wesley Johnson just to crank up the transition points even more.
This could get ugly.
Don't be surprised if you hear that Kobe Bryant will SIT OUT tonight's game against the Suns. After a devastating loss at home on Tuesday, Bryant just might not want to face the speedy Suns on the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers will couch it in terms of easing him back from his year-long injury last season, but really I can see Kobe having no interest in embarrassing himself in Phoenix.
The only way the Lakers win this game is if the Lakers front line of Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill dominate AND Kobe Bryant plays like Kobe Bryant AND Jeremy Lin plays like Lin-sanity. But with the Suns just going small, those guys won't have a chance. Add in that the Lakers just played a devastating game last night, losing at home by a huge margin, they should be too tired to contain the Suns in Phoenix tonight.
I think the Suns home opener will be a pleasant one for Suns fans.
Suns win, 120-85.