Coverage: TWC SN
10:30 PM ET, December 10, 2013
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Dragic scored 12 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, and the Suns beat the Lakers 114-108 on Tuesday night, dropping Bryant to 0-2 in his comeback.
More Suns-Lakers Coverage
Kobe is looking a little more like Kobe. The thing is, the Lakers look nothing like the Lakers -- whatever that is supposed to be these days, J.A. Adande writes. Blog
Mike D'Antoni hopes the Lakers can disregard how things are going on offense as Kobe gets his legs under him and throw themselves into defense, Dave McMenamin writes. Blog
Bryant scored 20 points while playing 29 mostly sharp minutes in his second game back from nearly eight months out with a torn Achilles tendon. He led a fourth-quarter rally by the Lakers, but they only got within four points with three minutes left before Phoenix held on.
Bryant gave his performance a B grade and realizes he has more work to do -- on both his game and his chemistry with the rest of the Lakers. Bryant had just three turnovers against Phoenix after committing eight in his season debut two days ago against Toronto, but he contributed just two rebounds and three assists while the Suns comfortably held on.
"It's a process," Bryant said. "You just continue to figure out what you can and can't do. Every game, you try to step up and do a little bit more and just go from there."
The Suns handled the Lakers with teamwork, shredding Los Angeles' lousy defense during a 35-point fourth quarter to earn their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Marcus Morris scored 22 points, and Eric Bledsoe had 18 points and nine assists for the surprising Suns, who never trailed after the opening minutes. Phoenix held off the Lakers with superb fourth-quarter play from both Morris brothers, who scored nine points apiece down the stretch. Markieff Morris finished with 15 points.
"We kept pushing the ball and didn't slow it down too much," Marcus Morris said of the fourth quarter. "We came out with a lot of energy and kind of got them on their toes. They were playing small, so we had a great opportunity to attack the boards. And that's what we did."
Pau Gasol scored 19 points while Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Jordan Hill added 13 apiece for the Lakers, who have lost three of four to fall back below .500. Los Angeles' NBA-best bench contributed 43 points while using just four reserves, but Phoenix dominated the boards, outrebounding the Lakers 43-33.
Phoenix hadn't beaten the Lakers at Staples Center since November 2010.
"I think we have a group of guys who play hard all the time, and they're not selfish," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. "They genuinely like each other to do well. If guys take bad shots, we'll take them out of the game. But for the most part, they run our offense. We've got two great point guards in Goran -- who had a great game -- and Eric."
Dragic hit two 3-pointers and didn't miss any of his 11 free throws, finishing one point shy of his career high in his latest outstanding performance against the Lakers. Phoenix's small, active lineup led by Dragic and Bledsoe was too much for the slower Lakers in the final minutes.
"It's there. We've just got to execute a little better," Bryant said. "The willingness and competitiveness is there. We just have to make sure we come out in the right areas and execute it."
The game was another bump in a long road for Bryant, who had nine points in a rocky season debut Sunday night. But Kobe felt fresher than expected after his first game since April, and coach Mike D'Antoni is still limiting Bryant's minutes to keep him healthy for the team's stretch of four road games in five nights starting later this week.
Bryant started off his night against Phoenix with his first dunk of the season off a two-footed leap in the first quarter. Bryant still emphasized playmaking over shooting but played a more polished floor game in the first half with 10 points, just one turnover and two assists, including the pass for Gasol's buzzer-beating jumper.
Shawne Williams got a technical foul in the final seconds of the first half for putting a forearm into Dragic, who crashed to the ground. ... D'Antoni changed his lineup, putting Meeks and Williams in the starting five and bumping C Robert Sacre to the bench. ... Phoenix C Alex Len didn't play with a sore left ankle.
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10: The shoes of Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers are shown during a game...(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: Goran Dragic. Both Phoenix point guards attacked the interior of the Lakers, but Dragic had the slightly better game. He scored 31 points and added 5 assists while committing just 1 turnover.
X factor: The Morris Twins. One of Phoenix's greatest strengths is its bench, and Markieff and Marcus Morris are a big part of that. The two brothers were 16-of-23 from the field combined for 37 points along with 11 boards.
That was ... a lot better. Kobe Bryant scored 20 points on just 11 field goal attempts, and he looked a lot more aggressive against the Suns. Kobe still has a long way to go, but the second night back was a lot better than the first.
Next 5 Games
Kobe posted up 6 times Tuesday night against the Suns scoring 8 points on 3-5 shooting on such plays. He only posted up twice in his first game back against the Raptors with no shots on those plays. Kobe's average shot distance was 10.9 feet Tuesday compared with 16.4 against the Raptors.
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