Bryant paces Lakers over Suns

Published February 18, 2012

| Sports Network

Kobe Bryant had 36 points, nine rebounds 99, in the opener of a and-home at Staples Center.

Andrew Bynum added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won three straight and four of five. Matt Barnes also had 17 points while Derek Fisher chipped in 12 and Pau Gasol finished with 10 and 13 rebounds.

The Suns, meanwhile, have lost four in a row and five of their last six. They were led by Marcin Gortat's 21 points and 16 rebounds. Ex-Laker Shannon Brown had 15 points, Markieff Morris had 14 and Steve Nash scored 11 to go with 17 assists.

"Every time I take Grant (Hill) out of the game, Kobe explodes," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "Someone else has to step up. You can't turn the ball over 15 times in the first half. We had unforced turnovers. We didn't protect the ball tonight."

Bryant found himself on the bench to start the final quarter after helping the Lakers to a 87-73 advantage with 18 third-quarter points.

Phoenix, though, opened the fourth with a 10-6 run to pull the NBA's leading scorer from the pine. Gasol answered with an 11-footer, but the Suns continued to fight back. They scored the next seven points, capped by Brown's putback slam, to make it 95-90.

They would get no closer, however, as Fisher drained a short jumper before Bryant made a 12-foot turnaround and a lefty hook in the lane for a decisive 101-90 advantage with under three minutes to play.

"A good win for us. We made enough plays to win the game and scored more points that usual," Gasol said. "They made it close, but we didn't panic. It was a solid effort."

Earlier, the Suns rode Gortat's eight points and seven boards to a 25-21 lead after one. They were up 35-34 midway through the second when the Lakers' reserves scored 11 straight.

Barnes, Steve Blake and Troy Murphy all hit a three-pointer during the surge before Phoenix battled back to tie the game at 48. The Lakers, though, closed with a 9-0 run, getting five points from Fisher to take a 57-48 lead into the break.

Bryant, who scored a season-low 10 points in Tuesday's win over the Hawks, took over in the third. It was 69-63 when he scored 12 points during a 14-0 LA run, capping it with a trey for an 83-63 lead.

Game Notes

The Lakers' 111 points were a season-high...Bryant entered Friday averaging 28.7 points per game...Barnes' 17 points were a season-high...The Suns have lost seven of eight to the Lakers at Staples Center...The teams will meet Sunday night in Phoenix.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/02/18/bryant-paces-lakers-over-suns/