7:30 PM ET, November 3, 2005
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns almost blew another big fourth-quarter lead.
But not quite.
The Suns, who blew a 17-point lead in the fourth period before losing 111-108 to Dallas in double overtime Tuesday night to start the season, led by 17 with 8½ minutes left in this game.
The Kobe Bryant-led Lakers got as close as three points before the Suns scored the game's final seven points.
"We maybe learned a little bit from the first game, where we had them beat and couldn't withstand the flurry at the end," Nash said. "But we're improving, and that's a good sign.
"Anytime people step up at the end of games to close teams out, that's the sign of a good team. We had a couple of guys who made some big plays and made us a winner tonight."
Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said the difference near the end of the two games wasn't difficult to figure out.
"We didn't hit the big shots against Dallas. We did tonight," he said.
The game was the Lakers' home opener, and their first regular-season game at Staples Center since Phil Jackson was rehired as coach. They opened the season with a 99-97 overtime victory in Denver on Wednesday night and didn't arrive back in Los Angeles until 3 a.m.
Jackson received a loud ovation before the opening tip -- not long after saying fans attend NBA games to watch the players, not the coaches.
"The excitement is on the floor," he said.
Afterward, Jackson said he was pleased with the Lakers' effort -- especially in the fourth quarter.
"They are obviously a better team now than we are," he said. "They played better than we did tonight, that's for sure.
"For a losing cause, I enjoyed the game. Smush Parker played an entertaining game. We played with a sense of purpose. We just didn't get it done down the crunch."
The Lakers won only 34 games last season and missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1976.
As they did in the second and third quarters, the Suns dominated in the first few minutes of the final period, outscoring the Lakers 11-2 for a 106-89 lead with 9:09 remaining.
It was 108-91 when the Lakers went on a 12-2 run, making it 110-103. The Suns extended the lead to nine before Los Angeles went on a 7-1 run to draw within three points with 2:11 remaining.
But the Lakers wouldn't score again.
Jones made a 3-pointer with 1:57 left, Bell added a jumper with 51 seconds to play, and Nash made two free throws with 30 seconds remaining to complete the scoring.
"I think their experience kicked in and overwhelmed us a bit tonight," Bryant said. "We kept fighting back and did some great things with our execution. Our inexperience on defense hurt us, as they were spreading the floor extremely well and getting good looks at the basket."
The Lakers had won 12 of their previous 13 home openers.
The Suns outscored Los Angeles 9-3 to start the third quarter for a 75-59 lead. With Odom scoring seven points and Parker adding five, the Lakers went on a 12-2 run to draw within six points. It was 95-87 entering the final period.
Phoenix scored the first 10 points of the second quarter to take a 41-30 lead. The Lakers got as close as two points before the Suns extended their lead to 66-56 at halftime.
Bryant scored 17 points in the first quarter including 13 straight for the Lakers at one stage. He lost his cool late in the period, drawing a technical foul for shoving Bell after being fouled.
Lakers F Luke Walton, who injured his left hamstring Oct. 11 in his team's first preseason game, was cleared to practice starting Friday. "The last five or six days, I've been running. The last two days, I've been running pretty hard," he said, adding there was no timetable for his return. ... The Suns swept the Lakers last season, winning the four games by an average of 11 points. The Lakers won six of the previous seven games between the teams. ... Chris Mihm was replaced in the Lakers' starting lineup by Devean George. Mihm started all 75 games he played in last season -- his first with the Lakers -- as well as the season opener in Denver. He wound up getting three points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. ... Former Boston Celtics star Bill Russell and San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds were among those in attendance. "Everybody's got to be someplace," Russell said with a smile when asked what brought him to the game.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||45-89 (.506)||41-87 (.471)|
|3PM-3PA||10-23 (.435)||6-23 (.261)|
|FTM-FTA||22-28 (.786)||24-29 (.828)|
|Fast Break Points||17||18|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||23 (0/0)||29 (1/0)|