PHOENIX — Kobe Bryant used harsh language to describe how badly the Lakers beat the Pheonix Suns twice in Los Angeles earlier this season. ”And they returned the favor,” he said.
Boy did they. The Suns reserves outscored their counterparts 52-31 to help Phoenix rout the reigning NBA champions 118-103 on Monday night. Amare Stoudemire scored 26 points and Jared Dudley matched his career best with 19 for the Suns.
Bryant had 34 points but sat out the final 7:50 when the game was deemed out of reach by coach Phil Jackson. ”I wasn’t comfortable with my starters or my bench,” Jackson said. “I didn’t like either group. Guys didn’t play right. We had the inside game going for us, yet we just didn’t attack.”
Steve Nash had 16 points and 13 assists for the Suns, who led by as many as 12 in the second quarter, 19 in the third and 22 in the fourth to improve to 12-2 at home.
“I thought we played with so much energy and did a great job defensively,” said Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, who had severely criticized his team for its play in a 132-127 loss Saturday night at Golden State.
The Lakers were without Ron Artest for the second consecutive game. He sustained a concussion and injured his left elbow in a fall at his house on Christmas Day. ”It’s a big adjustment because we’re a team that thrives on chemistry,” Bryant said. “You take him out of the lineup, now you’re mixing lineups.”
The margin matched Cleveland’s 15-point victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday. Only a late spurt kept it from being the Lakers’ most one-sided loss of the season. Los Angeles hadn’t given up this many points in a regular-season game since the Suns did it in Phoenix last March 1.
“They played much better than we did, in a nutshell,” Bryant said. “That’s all it was. They executed very well in transition, we didn’t get back and it gave them a lot of easy opportunities, and that broke the game open.” Los Angeles’ lone win in the last three was a 112-103, double-overtime victory at Sacramento on Saturday night.
Channing Frye had 14 points and a season-high 11 rebounds for the Suns, who fought the much bigger Lakers to a 43-43 standoff on the boards. The Suns had lost three of four. ”Big win for us definitely,” Stoudemire said. “Coming off a couple of tough losses, tonight was a big momentum change and a good confidence builder for us.”
The Lakers, playing the third of four games in five days, trailed virtually all night. Leading 56-50 at the half, Phoenix used a 17-4 outburst to go up 87-68 on the first of Dudley’s three 3-pointers without a miss. Nash and Jason Richardson also had 3′s in the run.
Bryant scored nine straight Lakers points, but his driving layup at the third-quarter buzzer was blocked by Robin Lopez, and the Suns led 89-77 entering the fourth. Dudley and Goran Dragic sank consecutive 3′s and Phoenix led 108-89 with 6:51 left. By then, Bryant had sat down for good.