LOS ANGELES (AP) — Goran Dragic scored 31
points and the Phoenix Suns beat the Lakers 114-108 Tuesday night,
keeping Los Angeles winless with Kobe Bryant back in the lineup.
Bryant led the Lakers with 20 points
while playing 29 mostly sharp minutes in his second game back from a
nearly eight-month absence with a torn Achilles tendon. He led a
fourth-quarter rally by the Lakers, who got within four points with 3
minutes left before Phoenix held on for its first three-game winning
streak of the season.
Marcus Morris scored 22 points and Eric
Bledsoe had 18 points and nine assists for the surprising Suns, who
never trailed after the opening minutes. Phoenix held off the Lakers
with superb fourth-quarter play from both Morris brothers. Markieff
Morris added 15 points.
Phoenix hadn’t beaten the Lakers at Staples Center since November 2010.
Bryant made just three turnovers against
Phoenix after committing eight in his season debut two days ago, but
had just two rebounds and three assists.
Pau Gasol scored 19 points while Jodie
Meeks, Nick Young and Jordan Hill added 13 apiece for the Lakers, who
have lost three of four to fall back below .500. Los Angeles’ NBA-best
bench contributed 43 points while using just four reserves, but Phoenix
dominated the boards, outrebounding the Lakers 43-33.
Dragic hit two 3-pointers and didn’t
miss any of his 11 free throws, finishing one point shy of his career
high in his latest outstanding performance against the Lakers. Phoenix’s
small, active lineup led by Dragic and Bledsoe was too much for the
bigger, slower Lakers in the final minutes.
The game was another bump in a long road
for Bryant, who had nine points in a rocky season debut on Sunday
night. He was unable to rally the Lakers late in a loss to
trade-depleted Toronto, and he gave his performance an “F” after the
game, but upgraded the score to a “D” on Monday.
Bryant felt fresher than expected after
his first game since April. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni doesn’t want to
play Bryant more than 30 minutes per game early on, hoping to keep him
healthy during the team’s stretch of four road games in five nights
starting later this week.
Bryant started off his night against
Phoenix with his first dunk of the season off a two-footed leap in the
first quarter. Bryant still emphasized playmaking over shooting, but
played a more polished floor game in the first half with 10 points, just
one turnover and two assists, including the pass for Gasol’s
But Phoenix jumped to an early lead
with a prolific display of perimeter shooting and fast-break
opportunism. Dragic was outstanding, hitting three 3-pointers among his
15 first-half points, and Marcus Morris led a second-quarter rally to
put the Suns up by 12 points.
Shawne Williams got a technical foul in the final seconds of the first
half for putting a forearm into Dragic, who crashed to the ground. …
D’Antoni changed his lineup, putting Meeks and Williams in the starting
five and bumping C Robert Sacre to the bench. … Phoenix C Alex Len
didn’t play with a sore left ankle.