It sometimes felt like the game was taking place in Bizarro Land rather than in front of a sellout crowd at US Airways Center, as the recently hapless Suns (who've lost two out of three games to sub-par teams in the past week) pulled a complete turnaround by outperforming the Lakers in furious fashion. Healthy and well-rested, Phoenix's defense was solid (for once), and their offensive efforts were spectacular (outshooting Kobe Bryant and the Lakers 49 percent to 43 percent).
While you could chalk up the loss by the Lakers (24-6) to an off night, or perhaps the fact that Ron Artest was out of the Lakers' lineup for a second straight game because of dizziness, the Suns provided one of their strongest efforts of the season.
Amar'e Stoudemire led his team in scoring with 26 points, but the real story was the overwhelming performance by the team's reserve players, who combined for 52 points and helped the Suns lead by as much as 22 at one juncture. Jared Dudley had 19 (including a trio of treys), while Goran Dragic went head-to-head with Pau Gasol a few times and came away with 14 points. Other standouts included Leandro Barbosa (11 points), and Robin Lopez, who went four-for-four from the paint and even swatted down a shooting attempt by Kobe.
On the flipside, "Black Mamba" Bryant topped out with 34 points (despite an ailing right hand) before sitting out the last seven minutes of the game.
As glorious as Monday night's win was to watch, it's a little bit depressing to see how dominating the Suns can be when they're firing on all cylinders. We wish the team had played this way though the entire month of December, which featured the schedule from Hell and resulted in 6-9 won-loss record.
Hopefully, the win will provide a serious morale boost as Phoenix tries to pull off another David versus Goliath victory over powerhouse Boston Celtics tomorrow night at home. While Kevin Garnett and his boys currently lead the Eastern Conference at 23-7, they certainly haven't been having the best of luck against the dregs of the Pacific Division recently.
In the past few days the Celtics (one of the best road teams in the NBA) have endured back-to-back heartbreak losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. (Credit the loss of Paul Pierce to knee problems as one of the many reasons behind these falterings.) But in the midst of all the agony of these defeats, the Boston faithful have been heaping plenty of praise upon rising star Rajon Rondo, who's been averaging around 30 points per game. Garnett has also been busting much ass to protect his squad's position atop the standings.
If the same Suns who terrorized the Lakers show up at U.S. Airways Center on Wednesday, they might just be able to capitalize on the Celtic's recent funk. They've managed to topple Boston back in November, let's see if they can do it again.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. TV: KUTP 45. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. More info: www.suns.com.