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PHOENIX 118, LAKERS 111

Shaq, Suns turn tables on Lakers

Three days after being blown out by 26 points at Staples Center, Suns beat L.A. in Phoenix, 118-111, with Shaquille O'Neal going for 33 points.

March 02, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

PHOENIX — Funny how the NBA works, though the Lakers probably didn't see much humor in it.

The Lakers embarrassed the Phoenix Suns on Thursday by 26 points but became the discomfited ones Sunday, losing, 118-111, as an incredibly undermanned Suns squad stuck it to them at US Airways Center.

Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire didn't play, but Shaquille O'Neal did, the beginning of a series of problems for the Lakers, who lost two consecutive road games for the first time since December.

O'Neal followed up a 45-point outburst Friday against Toronto with 33 points on 13-for-18 shooting against the Lakers, who were powerless to stop him down low.

They also forgot about former UCLA forward Matt Barnes, who approached triple-double territory with 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Along the way, there was another foul-plagued effort from Lamar Odom (four points, six fouls), and another shot-happy game from Kobe Bryant.

Bryant made 18 of a season-high 38 attempts and scored 49 points, but he and Pau Gasol (30 points) were the only Lakers to score in double figures.

"We're going through a period right now where everybody's just kind of tired," Bryant said. "It happens. We saw Boston kind of go through it. Everybody kind of goes through it. These two games, we've been playing lethargic. It's that point in the season and we've hit it."

The Lakers posted a season low in points in a 90-79 loss Friday in Denver, but the stranger math was how they managed to drub the Suns at Staples Center, 132-106, making Sunday's final score a 33-point reversal between the same two teams.

"It's tough to understand how you can beat a team by 30 and then, next game, lose by 10. It doesn't make a lot of sense," Gasol said. "Home court is not that important.

"We didn't come out the way we were supposed to. I don't know exactly why, maybe because it was an early game or we were still thinking about the 30-point win we had a couple days ago."

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson wasn't thrilled with the team's lack of interior defense in the loss to Denver, so during Saturday's practice he had the players do a contact-laden rebound drill in which fouls were rarely called.

The Lakers did out-rebound Phoenix, 43-36, but that was about the only battle they won. And there were plenty of fouls called on them Sunday -- 32, to 19 for the Suns.

Jackson had also discussed O'Neal's recent resurgence with the team before the game, but it didn't have much effect.

O'Neal scored practically at will before fouling out with 44 seconds left. He scored more than 30 points in consecutive games for the first time since March 2004, while he was with the Lakers. It was also his highest point total against the Lakers since being traded by them in July 2004.

"He can do that," Jackson said. "I warned these guys he can certainly do that."

The Lakers came in with a 3-0 record against the Suns and hadn't swept them in the regular season since 1999-2000, when O'Neal was a Laker and the league most valuable player. They'll have to try again next season.

The Lakers also came in with the league's highest-scoring offense (108.8 points a game) and the Suns were third (107 points a game), but it was the Suns who had the momentum in the first half.

The Lakers' defense was a nonentity as the Suns took a 66-56 halftime lead. O'Neal had 19 points on seven-for-eight shooting.

Bryant brought the Lakers back with 17 points in the third quarter, including a three-pointer for a 75-70 edge with 6:24 left in the quarter.

But the Lakers couldn't stop the Suns from going on a 21-6 run to end the quarter. And they could never quite catch up in the fourth, with Odom fouling out at the 8:31 mark.

They also couldn't prevent another injury.

One of Bryant's front teeth was loosened after he was elbowed in the mouth by Suns guard Leandro Barbosa in the third quarter. Bryant called timeout after being hit but returned to the game. He was scheduled to see the Lakers' team dentist Sunday night.

"Don't ask me anything funny. I'm not smiling," Bryant said after the game. "You're not seeing my tooth. It feels foul. It feels like I can't chew anything. I feel like Roger Rabbit or something."

Including a 10-for-31 effort against Denver, Bryant has made 28 of 69 shots (40.1%) the last two games.

"There were some shots that he pushed it up a little bit because he got hot and wanted to stay hot," Jackson said. "That to me was one of those points in the game where we should have thought a little bit about it."

The Suns will take the victory, undermanned and all.

"Well, remember the Alamo, OK?" Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said before the game, smiling. "There were a couple hundred there against 4,000 and they held them off for two weeks. We've just got to try to hold them off for 48 minutes."

They did, for sure.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Shaq on the attack

Since scoring only 12 points in a 132-106 loss to the Lakers on Thursday, Shaquille O'Neal of Phoenix has scored 30 or more in consecutive games for the first time since he did it as a Laker in 2004:

FRIDAY VS. TORONTO

Suns win, 133-113

45

points

20 for 25

field goals

5 for 8

free throws

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SUNDAY VS. LAKERS

Suns win, 118-111

33

points

13 for 18

field goals

7 for 12

free throws

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