PHOENIX (AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers had four days off to clear
away the hangover of two ugly losses at home. The rest did wonders.
Kobe Bryant scored 14 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter as
the Lakers held off a Phoenix rally and snapped the Suns' 11-game
home winning streak 99-90 on Wednesday night.
"My knees feel great," Bryant said. "I feel as close to 100
percent as I've ever felt. I can't speak on behalf of the other
guys, but if the days off worked for them as well as they did for
me, we're going to be in great shape."
Shaquille O'Neal added 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists as
the Lakers, coming off home losses to Golden State and New Jersey,
beat a Pacific Division foe away from the Staples Center for the
first time this season. Robert Horry matched his season-high with
16 points in Los Angeles' sixth road victory in 21 tries.
"We didn't rely on our jumper all night," O'Neal said. "We
got the ball inside and took it to the hole, and No. 8 (Bryant) had
a fabulous game."
After handing the Suns just their fourth loss in 22 home games,
the Lakers head for Sacramento to face the Kings Friday night.
The Suns have dropped five of six overall and lost at home to a
Pacific Division opponent for the first time this season. Phoenix
is 18-4 overall at America West Arena.
"We're just in a real nasty funk right now," Marbury said.
"This is a no-mercy league, and right now teams are just attacking
us right away."
In what has become a pattern, the Suns, just back from a 1-4
trip to the East, trailed by as many as 17 in the first half and 16
in the third quarter.
"We're struggling," Phoenix coach Frank Johnson said, "our
defense, our offense, making shots, just having any type of
continuity. Not being ready, I certainly have to take the blame for
that, because this is going on far too often, just not having
Phoenix mounted a comeback after O'Neal was called for four
fouls in the third quarter. He went to the bench with 3:02 to play
in the period and Los Angeles leading 70-57.
Marbury scored six points in a 10-2 run and cut the Lakers' lead
to 72-67 on his two free throws with 10:34 to play. But O'Neal
returned and his dunk boosted the lead back to 74-67 with 9:27
remaining. His tip-in on Bryant's miss put the Lakers up 76-67 with
8:15 to go.
Marbury's second consecutive 3-pointer cut the lead to 84-79
with 4:22 to play. But Bryant followed with a 21-footer, O'Neal
scored inside and Phoenix never got closer than eight again.
"Marbury got going and was unstoppable for a period of time,"
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Fortunately, Kobe had a couple of
good answers back."
Bryant sealed the victory with a one-handed slam -- punctuated by
a glare to the Phoenix bench -- that made it 92-82 with 1:16 to
play. He took the ball to the basket even though O'Neal was open
for a pass.
"I wanted to take that one down hard,'' Bryant said. ``I told
the big fella I owe him one."
Bryant scored nine in the first quarter, including a spectacular
reverse dunk on a baseline drive, as the Lakers built a 24-14 lead.
Robert Horry's three-point play put Los Angeles up 40-24 with 6:30
left in the half. Bryant's reverse layup put Phoenix up 43-26 with
5:24 to go until halftime. The Lakers led 50-39 at the break.
Los Angeles stretched it to 61-45 on O'Neal's reverse layup with
8:15 left in the third quarter. Rookie Amare Stoudemire's first
five points of the game capped an 8-0 Suns' run that cut the lead
to 61-53 with 5:59 to go in the third. But the Lakers held Phoenix
without a field goal in a 9-4 spurt that pushed the lead to 70-57
on O'Neal's free throw with 3:02 to go in the quarter.
Stoudemire missed his first six shots and finished 1-for-12
from the field. ... The only other ``road'' game the Lakers have
won against a Pacific Division foe was against the Clippers, and
both of those teams play in the Staples Center. ... The Suns' other
three home losses were by one point, two points and in overtime.