Below is a running diary of L.A.’s road opener in the Valley of the Sun, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Suns: Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola and Yao Ming*
*Ming has been placed on a 24-minute limit to protect a foot injury that kept him out of the 2009-10 season.
RON’S RING IN LOCKER ROOM
Ron Artest happened to have his 2010 championship ring with him in the locker room, and prior to Phil Jackson’s usual pregame presser, Matt Barnes asked Artest if he could see it. Artest happily obliged, and Barnes couldn’t believe how something that shiny also needed two little spotlights highlighting the ring, placed on a platform within the box that rotates in a cylinder. Fellow ring-less veteran Theo Ratliff came over to marvel at the ring as well, and both expressed disbelief that Derek Fisher (and Kobe Bryant) somehow had accrued five rings.
11:00 The Lakers got off to a great start, starting with a nice play to get Bryant an open jumper at the free throw line. Next came an isolation post up of Odom on Turkoglu, and third a transition and-1 from Artest after he picked Nash’s pocket, making it a 7-1 game as Nash had converted a defensive three seconds free throw.
4:00 Back-to-back hoops from Bryant and Gasol gave the Lakers a 19-14 lead a bit over halfway through the period. Bryant skipped Thursday’s practice to rest and rehabilitate, and it seemed to have paid off early as he actively pursued his five rebounds in addition to three field goals.
0:02.1 Gasol’s tough baseline layup followed a Steve Blake three (starting where he left off Tuesday’s opening win) to give the Lakers a narrow 28-27 lead after one. Bryant led the way with eight points on 4-of-7 field goals, plus a game-high five boards, while each starter hit at least once from the field. In off-court news, there were (as always) a healthy amount of Lakers fans in the building, which Phil Jackson said always enraged the still-majority of Suns fanatics in the house.
7:07 Gasol checked out for the first time after an effective early stretch in which he needed only eight shots to score 12 points, his last field goal courtesy of Blake’s pretty set up. We know that Blake’s a very good passer, but he may not get enough credit for creating open shots out of nothing, which he did in that case by dribbling by his man and drawing two more in the paint before feeding the Spaniard.
3:37 Derek Fisher momentarily broke out of his offensive struggles (1-of-5 open) with a left-handed layup to give L.A. a 49-44 edge late in the second, as both teams were near 50 percent from the field in a well-executed offensive game. Odom, the team’s best rebounder, had already gathered a healthy 10 window snatches at that point.
1:35 The Suns managed a quick 5-0 run behind the ageless Hill, from the 1994 draft class, but Bryant (a three), Gasol (elbow jumper) and Fisher (another three) all nailed shots to give the Lakers a 57-50 lead at the half.
10:00 The start of the second half wasn’t much more defensive minded for either team than the first, with Hill and Gasol exchanging jumpers before a Richardson three and layup, and shortly thereafter back-to-back threes from Artest and Bryant, seeing L.A.’s seven-point lead go down to two and then right back up to eight.
6:02 The odd lack of defense from the Lakers, normally very good in the third quarter (though it’s always easier with Andrew Bynum), had Phil Jackson out of his seat at least once, lamenting how easily Phoenix was scoring. Bryant and Artest both nailed threes at the other end to hold off the Suns momentarily, at least until back-to-back easy hoops from Lopez and Richardson tied the score at 70.
2:00 Jackson called time out, the defense picked up, and Gasol and Bryant scored back-to-back to open an 82-76 lead for the road team. Meanwhile, Shannon Brown checked in to try and improve upon a 1-for-4 first half. Apparently Blake liked the switch, promptly pulling up to nail a triple that fave L.A. its biggest lead at nine.
0:05.2 Just before the quarter buzzer, Brown officially violated Phoenix air space with a violent, two-handed hammer dunk to provide an 87-79 Lakers lead after three quarters. Were it now Brown, we’d have to check the floor for an invisible trampoline.
9:48 One game, three quarters and two minutes into the season, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak’s offseason moves were sure paying early dividends, as Barnes opened the fourth with two three-pointers to push L.A.’s lead up to 13 at 95-82. Barnes had a triple in the first half as well, plus a layup to get to 11 points off the pine.
6:30 As Jackson rested Bryant, Odom and Gasol together, Phoenix put together a 6-0 run to cut L.A.’s lead to six (97-91), but Gasol beautifully found Bryant cutting to the hoop for a layup immediately upon re-entrance. The Suns managed to cut the deficit down to five on Turkoglu’s three, but L.A. came back with a 6-0 run to get things back to double digits at 105-94, three minutes to play.
1:40 Fittingly, Odom iced the contest with consecutive layups, the second a result of his 17th rebound of a terrific individual game that included 18 points.
The Lakers, now 2-0 with their 114-106 win, head home to play Golden State on Sunday. Until then, your numbers:
Throughout Sunday’s opening road victory for the Lakers in Phoenix, the Suns managed at most a one-point edge early in the first quarter, as L.A. scored with ease throughout the contest to improve to 2-0 on the young season.
Phil Jackson got a little bit from everybody, seeing all five starters reach double figures in scoring led by Kobe Bryant’s 25 points, and watching Lamar Odom attack the boards with fervor all evening to the tune of 17 glass cleans.
Below are some of the outstanding numbers from the 114-106 victory:
5 Lakers starters in double figures in a well-balanced attack, led by Kobe Bryant (25), Pau Gasol (21), Lamar Odom (18), Ron Artest (14) and Derek Fisher (11).
11 Turnovers for the Lakers, a very good number to build on a similarly low season-opening game against Houston (12).
17 Rebounds for Odom to lead everybody, 14 of which came on the defensive end.
48.4 L.A.’s field goal percentage, a healthy improvement from a 41.7 percent against Houston in the season-opening victory.
80 Total minutes played by Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, necessitated by the absence of Andrew Bynum. Theo Ratliff offered eight minutes off the bench as the only backup big to see action, though Artest and Matt Barnes did see some time at the power forward position.