Plumlee grabs 20 rebounds, Green sinks six 3s as Suns cruise past Lakers
PHOENIX — When the Suns sent Luis Scola to the Indiana Pacers over the summer, the highlight of the trade for Phoenix seemingly was getting a first-round draft pick.
Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee? Green had bounced around the NBA when he wasn’t playing overseas. The Pacers gave up on Plumlee after just one season.
Now Green and Plumlee are key cogs in the Suns’ surprising breakout season.
Green hit six 3-pointers and scored 22 points, while Plumlee added 17 points and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds Monday night in a 117-90 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"When you get players from other teams that may not have gotten the chance they think they deserved, you get the best out of them," Suns forward Channing Frye said. "That’s what they’re doing."
Plumlee, who played in just 14 games for the Pacers as a rookie a year ago, had his way inside with an ailing Pao Gasol in the Suns’ third straight win.
Green, who has played for seven NBA teams, has hit 16 3s over the past three games.
"These stretches that he gets on, I don’t know if there’s many guys in the league that can do that," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "We didn’t anticipate that."
Marcus Morris added 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range for Phoenix, which held a 62-39 edge on the boards in their eighth win in nine games.
"Right now Phoenix is a better team than us," Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said, "especially in the condition we are in."
Nick Young scored 19 points and Jodie Meeks 18 for the undermanned Lakers, who fell to 1-2 since Kobe Bryant was sidelined with a knee injury.
Gasol, who sat out Saturday’s loss to Golden State with an upper respiratory infection, started but had little energy as Plumlee scored on alley-oop dunks, post moves and putbacks.
The second-year player from Duke hit 8 of 14 shots and blocked two shots as the surprising Suns moved to 17-10, their best start since 18-9 in 2009-10.
"We don’t know any different," Frye said of his young team. "We like winning."
Gasol had 10 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes before he left the game for good midway through the third quarter after bumping heads with Plumlee. That opened a gash that left him bleeding from the corner of his right eye.
It was that kind of night for the Lakers, who watched the Suns hit 14 3-pointers in their sixth loss in nine games.
"Why would I be discouraged?" a testy D’Antoni said. "We are fighting with a bunch of good guys that played well before and they will play again. If (the fans) are discouraged, then find another team to root for. We are not going to give up.
"Are you kidding me? Discouraged? That is not even fair to these guys. They’re going to fight."
The Lakers only healthy point guard was ex-Sun Kendall Marshall, signed last week and who committed four turnovers in six minutes in his debut Saturday. He didn’t play until the game was decided in the fourth quarter.
The 6-foot-6 Xavier Henry again started at point guard with Steve Blake (elbow), Jordan Farmar (hamstring) and Steve Nash (back) all sidelined.
Despite being outrebounded by Plumlee alone (9-8) and committing 10 fouls in the first quarter, the Lakers only trailed 28-24.
Then the Suns got hot from the outside — again.
After hitting just 1 of 7 3-pointers in the first quarter, Phoenix drained seven of their first nine in the second, including four from Green as the Suns built a 62-46 lead.
The Suns, who extended their team record of hitting at least seven 3s to 19 games, built a 24-point third-quarter lead behind Plumlee’s work inside and Green’s from the perimeter.
"We’ve pretty much simplified it for them," Frye said. "Gerald, come of the screen and shoot the ball. Miles, come off a screen and dunk the ball.
"It’s pretty simple, and I think they’re growing inside those roles."