LOS ANGELES (AP) — Undersized and fearing Pau Gasol in the post, the Phoenix Suns lured the Los Angeles Lakers into the open court and made them pay.
Jason Richardson scored 34 points and the Suns hit 22 3-pointers — second-most in NBA history — to win 121-116 on Sunday night.
“You just feel like the basket is huge and that every shot you throw up is going to go in,” he said. “(Coach) Alvin (Gentry) was calling plays for me and my teammates were finding me. It was just fun to have a night like that.”
Not so for the two-time defending league champions, who lost their second in a row and first at home this season.
“You hate losing, especially to start a road trip, but it is what it is,” Kobe Bryant said. “They made big shots, a lot of them.”
Steve Nash added 21 points and 13 assists, Channing Frye had 20 points, and Hedo Turkoglu had 17 points for the Suns, who beat the Lakers at Staples Center for the first time since Jan. 17, 2008.
“We can’t walk it up the floor against their length,” Nash said. “You see Pau against us, it looks like he’s playing with a nerf hoop on the back of someone’s bedroom door. So we had to make them play in transition, spread the floor and make it a game of speed and skill rather than size.”
The Suns were 22 of 40 from 3-point range, just missing the league record of 23 set by Orlando against Sacramento in January 2009. Their 3s were the most by a Lakers’ opponent in franchise history, bettering their own previous record of 19 in 2005.
“These things even out over time, but they didn’t tonight,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “The real issue is those other 80 points that come in the paint.”
The teams combined for 31 3s, second-most in league history behind the 32 by Phoenix and Seattle in a double-overtime game on Jan. 22, 2006.
Richardson made seven 3s, Turkoglu had five and Frye four, helping the Suns shoot better from behind the arc (55 percent) than from the floor (51 percent).
“I was just being aggressive, and I decided that if I missed a shot I shouldn’t worry and get down on myself,” Richardson said. “I’m my toughest critic and sometimes when I miss two shots in a row, I get down on myself. But I didn’t worry about that.”
Gasol led the Lakers with 28 points and 17 rebounds in 41 minutes. Bryant added 25 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, Lamar Odom had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Ron Artest had 13 points. Shannon Brown added 12 off the bench.
The Suns took the lead for good early in the third quarter, putting the Lakers in scramble mode the rest of the game.
Frye hit a 3 to open the fourth and give Phoenix an 11-point lead. Brown answered with two 3s of his own and Matt Barnes dunked to close the Lakers’ deficit to 104-102. Bryant didn’t score until late in the quarter.
“They stayed hot and had to hit 22 3s to beat us,” Barnes said. “Whether or not they’re going to keep hitting them, you got to get a hand in their face.”
Nash ran off eight straight points, including a free throw on a technical foul against Odom, to keep the Suns ahead 112-109. The teams had barely come on the floor after a timeout when Turkoglu launched another 3-pointer.
“We could’ve got out there and contested a lot more. They hit a lot of open ones,” Brown said.
Jackson was annoyed about the call on Odom, who drew a whistle for reacting after making a layup that drew the Lakers within two.
“He got fouled,” Jackson said.
The Lakers trailed most of the third, when the Suns went 6 of 9 from 3-point range. In one sequence, Nash hit from long-range, then Richardson followed with two more 3s as the Lakers’ defense was powerless to stop them. Phoenix took a 92-84 lead into the fourth.
Trailing by six, the Suns closed the first half on a 16-7 run to lead 56-53. They made seven 3-pointers in the second quarter, including four in the spurt. Richardson and Frye combined for 29 of the Suns’ points and seven 3-pointers with the Lakers offering little resistance on the perimeter.
NOTES: Odom will have a MRI on his sore right foot on Monday, while backup C Theo Ratliff has one on his sore left knee. … Artest, who turned 31 on Saturday, headed to the Conga Room across the street from Staples to celebrate at a post-game party. … Suns starting C Robin Lopez sprained his left knee and didn’t return for the second half. … Lakers backup G Steve Blake sat out because of a bad stomach. … The teams have split their first two games, with the Lakers winning at Phoenix. … After playing seven of their first 10 games at home, the Lakers embark on a three-game Midwest trip starting Tuesday.