The Los Angeles Lakers both demonstrated their dominance over the NBA's Western Conference and proved why they're the Phoenix Suns' biggest rivals by defeating Steve Nash and his crew 114-106 on Friday night in the Purple and Orange Gang's home opener at US Airways Center.
But while the Suns suffered their second defeat of the season, they didn't exactly roll over for the defending champs. Far from it. Instead, they fought tooth and nail for the entire 48 minutes, grabbing the lead from El Lay more almost a dozen times and cutting the score to within six points late in the third quarter.
Powered by Grant Hill, who landed 21 points, Phoenix battled the Lakers with gritty play and and timely shots, managing to keep things close in the first half. Nash did what he does best and got the ball into the hands of teammates like Robin Lopez and Suns newbie Hedo Turkoglu with plenty of pick and rolls. RoLo also did his best to fend off Pau Gasol, but the 7-foot Spaniard provided a powerful performance on Friday, leading L.A. with 21 points.
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Goran Dragic also did his damndest to topple the Lakers by unleashing some sweet shots in the paint and hard-charging drives to the basket, resulting in 15 points. His efforts off the bench allowed the Suns a few one-point leads in the second quarter, including going 38-37 before Kobe Bryant eventually kicked off a 20-12 run to go into halftime three points ahead.
Weak defense, blown opportunities, and scoring streaks by Kobe Bryant (25 points) and Lamar (18 points) tripped up Phoenix in the second half, however. Lopez and others couldn't seem to convert shots to save their lives, and Turkoglu missed an easy dunk, just to cite a few of Planet Orange's gaffes. Gasol and Odom were also big on the boards, nabbing 15 and 14 rebounds (respectively), and helped El Lay pull away in the fourh quarter.
The Suns get a couple more day to lick their wounds and work on some fundamentals before San Antonio come to town on Wednesday night. The Spurs' ego's are likely healed up after having been bounced from the last year's NBA playoff by the Phoenix, and probably will be looking for some revenge. Tip-off is 7 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. For more info, see www.suns.com.