Los Angeles, CA – A new coach is finally in place for the Lakers, but Mike D'Antoni and his crutches were unable to make it back to the sideline in time for a reunion against the team where he rose to prominence.
Instead, D'Antoni, who will make his debut Sunday, watched from the locker room and saw his new squad put up a season-high in points.
Kobe Bryant netted 31 points in the Lakers' 114-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
"We increased the tempo a little bit," Los Angeles forward Pau Gasol said. "We took quicker shots. We played pretty simple. We got a lot of outside shots and made most of them. We have to rely on our defense to win ballgames."
Metta World Peace had 22 points, Dwight Howard tallied 18 points and 12 rebounds and Gasol added 16 points and 10 boards for Los Angeles, which has won three of its four contests under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff since a 1-4 start forced Mike Brown out of town.
The 61-year-old D'Antoni, who recently underwent knee surgery, made his mark as Steve Nash's coach and guided Phoenix from a 29-win squad -- D'Antoni won 21 of those games after taking over for Frank Johnson -- in 2003-04 to a 62-win team the following year.
D'Antoni was named NBA's coach of the year award in 2005, when the Suns fell in five games to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
He compiled a 253-136 mark over five seasons with Phoenix.
Goran Dragic recorded 22 points and seven assists for the Suns, who have dropped three of their last four games.
"I think we play hard, I think we've got to be much better in our execution," Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry said. "I think the effort is there, we are still trying to find each other. Still trying to figure out rotations. As long as the effort is there, I think at some stage we'll get the execution down."
The Lakers jumped out to a 35-30 lead after a quarter of play and took a 62-57 advantage into the locker room.
Bryant poured in 11 points in the third stanza and the home team led, 92-84, after three.
The margin swelled to as many as 16 in the fourth for Los Angeles.
The Suns held a 64-48 points in the paints disparity ... Los Angeles won the rebounding battle, 48-38 ... Michael Beasley registered a career-high nine assists for Phoenix.