PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers are
two of the NBA's biggest surprises this season, one surprisingly
good, the other surprisingly bad.
Shawn Marion scored 23 points and the Suns stretched their home
winning streak to eight with a 107-93 victory over the Lakers on
Saturday night in the first meeting of the season between the
Phoenix, which was supposed to be one league's mediocre teams,
has won 11 of 13 overall and has the third-best record in the
Western Conference (21-12). The Lakers, the three-time defending
NBA champions, lost for the 20th time in 33 tries and are a
half-game ahead of the Clippers for last place in the Pacific
Kobe Bryant had 37 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and
Shaquille O'Neal added 25 points and nine rebounds, but the rest of
the Lakers shot just 11-for-41.
"We certainly stuck with our game plan,'' Suns coach Frank
Johnson said. "We kept saying we wanted their other guys to beat
us, because you can't stop those two guys. They are the best two
players in the league, and we wanted the other guys to try to beat
us. Tonight they didn't.''
Rookie Amare Stoudemire, in his first game against his idol
O'Neal, had 17 points and eight rebounds, including a thunderous
dunk that put Phoenix up 90-75 with 2:46 remaining.
Bo Outlaw, the Suns' energizer off the bench, added 12 points.
Stephon Marbury had 17 points and 10 assists but made just four of 17
shots. Penny Hardaway scored 11 for Phoenix.
The Lakers were trying for their first three-game winning streak
of the season but never led after the first minute of the second
quarter. Los Angeles was 2-for-19 from 3-point range.
The teams play again Sunday night at the Staples Center.
"I think it's good that we have a back-to-back game immediately
against the same team,'' Bryant said. "We should be able to get
our rhythm going tomorrow and play a little bit better.''
O'Neal wouldn't talk to reporters after the game, but he had
some nice things to say to the 20-year-old Stoudemire on the court.
Stoudemire said O'Neal told him how tough it is to succeed in
the league, and to call him if he ever needed to talk.
"He said if I keep working hard, I can be a great player in
this league,'' Stoudemire said.
Los Angeles hadn't played since Sunday.
"I don't know -- too long off,'' coach Phil Jackson said. "We
got a little bit of rust on us as a ball club. I don't know what to
say to explain that poor performance. It was just a terrible
shooting night for us.''
Jackson thought his players got too caught up in the officiating
by Jack Nies, Luis Grillo and Jason Phillips.
"It was really a terribly officiated game by some referees that
are pretty good officials, actually,'' Jackson said.
After trailing 49-40 at the half, Los Angeles outscored the Suns
13-5 to start the third quarter to cut the lead to 54-53 on
Bryant's steal and breakaway one-handed stuff.
But the Suns responded with an 8-0 spurt, the last three baskets
on dunks. Stoudemire's slam of a rebound put Phoenix ahead 62-53
with 5:26 to play.
"The fact that we climbed back into the game three times in the
second half and still couldn't do anything with it is indicative of
where we're at this season,'' Jackson said.
During the run, Jake Voskuhl tied up O'Neal for a jump ball,
Phoenix won the tip and Marion got a breakaway stuff.
O'Neal responded with a pair of inside dunks, but went to the
bench with four fouls with 4:05 to play in the third. Stoudemire
missed both free throws after foul No. 4, and Bryant made two free
throws with 3:33 to play in the third to cut it to 62-59.
The Suns outscored Los Angeles 9-2 the rest of the quarter,
including a one-handed 15-foot bank shot by Marion.
The Lakers never got closer than nine in the fourth quarter.
Bryant's driving stuff in traffic cut it to 84-75 with 4:36
remaining. Robert Horry drew his second technical foul in less than
two minutes and was ejected with 3:59 to play. Marion made the free
throw, then Outlaw made one of two from the line to put Phoenix up
86-75. Los Angeles never got within single digits again.
Marbury's floater in the lane capped an 18-2 run that put
Phoenix up 38-25 with 7:08 to play in the first half. The Suns led
49-40 at the break.
O'Neal drew a technical foul at the start of the fourth
quarter. ... The game was the Suns' first home sellout of the
season. ... In the first quarter, the Lakers' Rick Fox was 0-for-5,
four of them 3-pointers. ... The Suns are 15-3 at America West
Arena, making them one of three NBA teams with 15 wins at home.