Suns coach Jeff Hornacek talks about a Suns win at the Los Angeles Lakers.

      
 
 
After a three game absence, the Los Angeles Lakers (9-22) hoped the return of Kobe Bryant would provide an offensive spark and propel them to a rare victory. That spark wasn’t enough in a 116-107...

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Suns beat the Lakers, 116-107.

First Quarter

Alex Len scores the first bucket of the game. He follows up with another score soon and has 4 points on 2-2 shooting, while the rest of the Suns start 0-7.

Meanwhile, Ronnie Price--yes, former Sun Ronnie Price--is shredding the Suns defense and has 8 points and 2 assists in 7 minutes to push the Lakers to a 12-5 lead. Could this really turn into the Ronnie Price revenge game?

Suns score a couple buckets to cut LA's lead. The back-and-forth battle continues through the rest of the quarter and the Suns can't quite hit a groove to take a lead on the Lakers.

At the end of the first, LA leads 28-26.

Second Quarter

The Duke Duo of Miles Plumlee and Shavlik Randolph start the second quarter together along with Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green and Marcus Morris. The Suns take a one point lead after a pair of Gerald Green free throws but then LA gets Swaggy wit it and takes a 40-35 lead as Nick Young starts heating up.

Nick Young soon hits another contested three as LA takes a 45-37 lead. A few buckets later, the Suns call timeout down by 6 as Jeremy Lin and Nick Young have already combined for 19 points with 5 minutes left in the second quarter. Phoenix's defense has not been strong.

Kobe checks back in and promptly throws a pass right to Bledsoe...who blows an open fastbreak layup. I'm just going to assume he was distracted by the swag of Nick Young, who was trailing him in transition.

Isaiah Thomas has kept this game from getting out of reach and has matched Swaggy P with 12 points of his own off the bench. Dragic soon checks in and the HYDRA are on the floor for the last couple minutes of the half. After a Lakers turnover, Isaiah Thomas lobs a touchdown pass to Bledsoe, who lays it in for his first bucket of the game.

The half ends with a Suns fastbreak leading Isaiah passing to Dragic for a three at the buzzer! Unfortunately, the review shows the ball was still Gorans' hands as the clock hit zero so it won't count and the Suns head into halftime down by one: 56-55.

Thomas played the most minutes of any Suns player in the half and leads them in scoring with 13. Dragic added 12 in 14 minutes, while Bledsoe only had 2 points on 1-7 shooting but pitched in 7 rebounds and 6 assists.

Lakers shot the ball extremely well in the first half (50% FG, 6-9 on threes) so a one point deficit look quite good, all things considered.

Third Quarter

Kobe starts the half with a make. He's now 2-5 from the field. Eric Bledsoe soon afterwards gets a steal and makes sure not to blow the easy score by slamming it in. After Alex Len blocks Kobe on the next possession, Bledsoe hits two free throws.

After a few back-and-forth sequences, the Suns defense tightens up and forces some bad shots and turnovers and suddenly, Phoenix is up 4 after an Alex Len fastbreak slam.

At the first timeout of the quarter, the Suns are up 75-71. Goran Dragic has 19 points, while Bledsoe is up to 10 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Goran should probably be a little cautious when he's grabbing rebounds around Bledsoe tonight. #TripleDoubleWatch

Eric Bledsoe continues his strong third quarter and has 11 points on 4-6 shooting from the field in the period 2:41 to go before the fourth. And then he hits a three. 14 in the 3rd.

Lakers switch to a zone defense and it still doesn't matter. Bledsoe hits another jumpshot.

The third quarter ends with the Suns up 88-81.

Fourth Quarter

Suns open the fourth quarter with back-to-back threes from Dragic and Green and are suddenly up 13.

With the shot clock running out, Gerald Green just pulled up from Temecula. He missed. At the first timeout of the quarter, the Suns are up 98-85.

With about 7 minutes left in the game, Gerald tried to dunk all over the Lakers but missed, which led to a fastbreak layup for LA. Hornacek calls a timeout with the Suns' lead suddenly down to 7. Marcus Morris picks up a technical and after a Swaggy free throw, Suns are only up 6.

After a Jeremy Lin three pointer a couple minutes later, the Suns are only up 3...until Lensanity slams in an Eric Bledsoe miss, Markieff Morris converts a and-one, and PJ Tucker hits a jumper to put Phoenix back up 106-97.

Wes Johnson then makes a three for LA to cut the lead to 6. Then he makes ANOTHER three--the Lakers are 12-18 from three at this point.

After a timeout, Isaiah Thomas checks in for Alex Len. Not sure why Thomas has only played 6 minutes this half after a strong first half...

Nick Young converts two free throws after a Suns miss and the Lakers are only down by one.

PJ Tucker hits a tough layup to put the Suns back up by three and then the Lakers somehow manage to actually miss one of their three point attempts. Markieff Morris soon backs down Nick Young and hits a shot off the glass with 49 seconds left. Suns up 5.

After a Lakers timeout, Kobe passes to Wes Johnson, who misses a three. Thomas grabs the rebound, gets fouled and hits the free throws. And that's essentially the game.

After a few more free throws, Suns win 116-107. Not a great defensive performance but when you're on the road and the home team puts on a shooting performance like the Lakers did tonight, you take it.

Highlights:

HYDRA aka Point Guardians of the Galaxy aka Backcourt 3000 combines for 61 points, 14 assists and 13 assists.

Markieff Morris aka Chief Kieff had 12 quiet points and pulled down 7 rebounds and was quite clutch for the Suns. PJ Tucker aka Bad Ass Mother Tucker also chipped in 12 points and played some great defense on Kobe (the Black Mamba only had 10 points on 4-10 shooting).

Alex Len aka The Ukranian Axe tallied 8 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in 25 minutes, while Miles Plumlee aka Professor Plumbledore added 6 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

Watch Alex Len with the fast break dunk off a beautiful pass from Markieff Morris and a hockey assist from Goran Dragic.

Huge fast break dunk by Alex Len! #SunsVsLakers

A video posted by Dave King (@davekingnba) on

The streaking Suns travel to Los Angeles to battle the struggling Lakers at 7:30PM MST.

Just two short weeks ago, the Phoenix Suns were amidst a six game losing streak that seemed to indicate that there were serious issues with the team and that change was inevitable.

Tonight, the Suns will look to push their win streak to six games in Los Angeles as they take on the Lakers.

Who: Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers

What: Round 3 of 4 between two Pacific Division rivals

When: 6:30pm PST/9:30pm ET

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

Why: Because the Suns will likely win

Previous Matchups

The Suns blew out the Lakers 119-99 in their first game of the season, as Phoenix's three point-guard lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas combined for 57 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds. Things also got heated in the third quarter as Eric Bledsoe was ejected from the game after expressing his frustration over being repeatedly hacked by Kobe Bryant.

Both teams played again shortly after that in LA and the Suns won again, but in a much closer game than the first. Markieff Morris posted 23 points,10 rebounds and 5 assists to lead the Suns to a 112-106 victory.

Is Kobe hurting the Lakers?

Since that matchup on the Suns' opening night, the Lakers have lost 20 more games and currently hold a 9-21 record, good for the fifth worst in the NBA. Kobe Bryant has sat out the last three games after some disastrous shooting performances.

Without him, LA went on to shock the Golden State Warriors (owners of the best record in the NBA) at home by sharing the wealth and playing freely. They also went on to lose their next to games, to the Bulls and the Mavericks. Kobe is returning tonight and will no doubt be motivated to quell theories that the Lakers might actually be a better team without him.

This begs the question: are the Lakers a better team without Kobe Bryant this season? The evidence does seem to indicate that this has been the case thus far:

kobe on-off numbers

Kobe is averaging nearly 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game, but he's doing so with the worst efficiency of his career. And at 36 years old, his defense is not nearly where it was. It's not unreasonable to consider the possibility that the way Kobe Bryant is playing this season (high volume, low efficiency) might be detrimental to the team.

This isn't to say that the Lakers would be some sort of world-beaters without Kobe. This team is bad, with or without 36 year old Kobe Bryant. But as Kobe now lacks the physical skills to get to the rim and finish as well as he once did, he's taking more of the tough, inefficient shots he used to make at an absurdly high rate--and he's no longer making them at an absurdly high rate. Perhaps a Kobe that shoots less and plays more as a playmaker wouldn't be the worst thing for the Lakers.

And if there are any Kobe fans out there who disagree with any of this, I'd be happy to debate this with them in Temecula.

Streaking Suns

After losing six games in a row, the Suns are suddenly on the cusp of winning six in a row. After Alex Len was promoted to the starting lineup in place of Miles Plumlee, the Suns lost at home to the Milwaukee Bucks on a last second shot, then went on to string five straight victories together.

Think about that for a second: the Suns are one wild, rim-skating Kate Khris Middleton buzzer beater away from being 6-0 with Alex Len as their starting center. As a starter, Len is averaging 9.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in just 22 minutes per game. Per 36 minutes, that translates to nearly 15 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks per game.

Granted, Len is also averaging over the NBA-allowed 6 fouls per 36 minutes, but if your 21 year old center's greatest weakness is needing to foul less, you absolutely live with it. Foul trouble is an issue that plagues most young big men in the league and once he learns to avoid it, 30+ minute per game Alex Len will be an absolute monster.

Some other stats from the Suns' current five game win streak:

  • The Suns are averaging 111 points on 49% shooting from the field during the streak.
  • Eric Bledsoe is averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and was a net +42 in those 5 games.
  • Goran Dragic is averaging 17 points and 5 assists and was a net +12.
  • Isaiah Thomas is averaging 17 points and 4 assists and was a net +34.

Prediction

Kobe's motivation to play well in his return tonight will only be stronger because he hates the Suns, so Phoenix might have to weather the storm at the onset. But as long as the Suns don't fall into the trap of underestimating a weak opponent again (after all, the Lakers did beat the Warriors just a few days ago), they really shouldn't have trouble winning this one.  Suns win, 109-98.

If I'm wrong and the Suns lose, you can meet me in Temecula.

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