Suns rally late, stun Lakers in Nash’s return
PHOENIX (AP) — Steve Nash’s first trip back to Phoenix to play the Suns was an evening of triumph.
For the Suns, not Nash.
Michael Beasley scored a season-high 27 points and the Suns rallied from 13 down in the fourth quarter to hand Nash’s Los Angeles Lakers their eighth straight road loss 92-86 on Wednesday night.
The Lakers, who had won three straight — all at home, lost Dwight Howard when he reinjured his right shoulder with 6:57 to play. Coach Mike D’Antoni said he thinks the injury is something that Howard will have to deal with all season.
“It is my understanding that it is something that will hurt, then it will go away and he will be able to play,” D’Antoni said.
Beasley, whose previous season best of 25 came two games earlier, scored on a scrambling layup as the shot clock was expiring to put the Suns ahead 88-86 with 43.8 seconds to play.
“I’m just playing aggressive,” Beasley said. “I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. No more nonchalant Beas. I’m back to the Beast.”
Kobe Bryant had 17 points and nine assists, but missed what would have been the tying layup with 24 seconds to play. Howard had nine points and 14 rebounds before he left after aggravating the shoulder injury that sidelined him for three games earlier this month. Metta World Peace scored 15, Pau Gasol 14 and Antawn Jamison 13 for Los Angeles.
The Lakers played the first of seven straight on the road, where they haven’t won since Dec. 22.
The Suns, who improved to 3-2 since Alvin Gentry was fired and replaced by interim coach Lindsey Hunter, outscored the Lakers 29-13 in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we had some open shots and didn’t knock them down,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We missed some foul shots, we had six or seven turnovers in the fourth quarter. Turnovers all night killed us.”
Down 78-65 with 10 minutes left after Jamison scored 10 straight Lakers points, the Suns went on an 8-0 spurt to 78-73. But Bryant’s 22-footer with 6:05 left had Los Angeles ahead 80-73.
Phoenix outscored the Lakers 19-6 the rest of way.
“We seemed to be kind of a step behind,” Bryant said. “We seemed to be a little sloppy, a little lackadaisical.”
After Bryant threw up an airball under P.J. Tucker’s tight defense, Jared Dudley sank a 3-pointer to tie it at 82 with 3:39 left. After a turnover by the Lakers, Beasley’s 17-footer made it 84-82, then Luis Scola sank a 15-footer to complete a 13-2 run that had Phoenix ahead 86-82 with 1:55 left.
Bryant’s driving layup cut it to 86-84 with 1:35 to go, then Nash knocked the ball loose from Scola for a turnover and Bryant’s two free throws tied it at 86-86 with 1:07 to play.
That set up Beasley’s drive. The Suns reserve, whose play has blossomed since Hunter took over, had the ball knocked away by Peace as the shot clock wound down, but managed to drive to the hoop for a layup that made 88-86.
“Once I picked it up and seen I had 2 seconds to go, the only thing I was trying to do was get it toward the basket,” Beasley said. “It was just that kind of a night, I guess.”
Bryant’s driving miss followed and the Suns wrapped it up from the foul line.
“Michael Beasley was incredible tonight,” Hunter said. “He’s been working really hard to get to this point and I really see promise in his future and just continue to encourage him.”
A video tribute to Nash during a first-quarter timeout drew a rousing standing ovation from the crowd, a mixture of Lakers and Suns fans. Nash responded with a wave as the Lakers came back onto the court.
It was a warm remembrance of the high-flying style that Nash, with D’Antoni his coach, brought to Phoenix. Nash won two MVPs and the team made the Western Conference finals twice in Nash’s eight seasons. Nash, who turns 39 on Feb. 7, left the Suns for Los Angeles in a sign-and-trade deal at the end of last season.
“This is a very special place for me and to be recognized by the fans is incredible,” he said. “I am definitely very grateful for the reception but also for my time here, which are among the best years of my life.”
Nash finished with 11 points and two assists.
Marcin Gortat had 14 points and 12 rebounds as five Suns reached double figures.
Neither team led by more than five points in the first half with the game tied at 41 at the break.
The Lakers outscored Phoenix 23-10 to start the third quarter, taking a 64-51 lead on a layup by Peace with 3:26 left in the period. He also had a pair of 3s in the run.
Jamison finished the quarter with a long 2-pointer, followed by a 3, and the Lakers led 73-63 entering the fourth.
It was a stretch of 10 consecutive points for Jamison, whose layup made it 78-65 with 10 minutes to play.
Notes: The Suns were in black uniforms for the first time since 2000. … The Lakers don’t play at home until Feb. 12, against Phoenix. … Suns C Jermaine O’Neal missed his fifth straight game because of an irregular heartbeat. … D’Antoni had lunch Wednesday with good friend Gentry. … 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was in the crowd.