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LAKER HOME OPENER

They Follow the Suns

Bryant scores 39 points and L.A. refuses to quit, but Phoenix has too much firepower behind Nash and Marion in a 122-112 victory.

November 04, 2005|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

This time, there were no buzzer beaters.

They wouldn't have saved the Lakers anyway.

Fresh off a stirring overtime victory, the Lakers came back to earth and became, well, the Lakers, giving up easy baskets and ignoring the concept of defense in a 122-112 loss Thursday to the Phoenix Suns.

The result was a not-so-subtle reminder that last season isn't that far away, as the Suns ran the Lakers up, down and around Staples Center for the better part of three quarters, not caring that it happened to be Phil Jackson's first real game here since the 2004 Finals.

The score was close -- 31-30 Suns after the first quarter -- and then it wasn't, with Steve Nash and Shawn Marion causing breakdown after breakdown. The Lakers made a late run, pulling within 115-112 on Laron Profit's layup with 2:11 to play, but never came closer.

Kobe Bryant's overtime winner Wednesday against Denver had pushed them toward a good start, until, a day later, the law of defensive averages caught up to a team that finished 27th in points allowed last season.

Bryant had 39 points, Lamar Odom had 23, and Smush Parker had 21, but there were no other double-figure scorers for the Lakers.

There were seven for the Suns, who had 95 points after three quarters and shot 50.6% for the game.

"That's too many points on your home turf," said Odom, who also had 16 rebounds and eight assists. "We got caught up probably playing their game a little bit."

The Lakers lost all four games to the Suns last season, although these weren't supposed to be the same Suns that advanced to the Western Conference finals.

Joe Johnson is in Atlanta, Quentin Richardson is in New York and Amare Stoudemire is out until at least February because of knee surgery, leaving Nash and Marion to keep the Suns in playoff contention until Stoudemire's return, if possible.

Nash had 12 points and 17 assists, Marion had 30 points, and the Lakers gave up fastbreaks, alley-oops and dunks throughout the evening, making Jackson look less Zen-like with his pregame declaration that the Suns were "just not the same team" with Stoudemire out.

"They're a better team right now than we are," Jackson said. "Nash is a master at what he does."

The Suns even brought a familiar face, forward Brian Grant, who signed with Phoenix after the Lakers waived him in August in order to save $29.7 million in luxury taxes.

"I don't know how happy people are to see me here, as far as the way things went down," Grant said sheepishly before the game.

There were neither cheers nor boos when he entered in the first quarter. He finished with six points in seven minutes.

Kwame Brown was again a non-factor -- four points and five rebounds in 22 minutes -- and Devean George cooled down after a solid effort in Denver, scoring six points on three-for-11 shooting.

"They were all in their comfort zones," George said. "They were shooting from spots they practice in every day. I think it's just communication for us."

About the only good news for the Lakers came beforehand: Luke Walton, out the last two weeks because of a torn hamstring, was cleared to begin practicing earlier than expected. His return date for games has not been established.

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