All-Star guard Kobe Bryant watches from the bench with an injured left shin… (Matt York / Associated Press )
Some things to take from the Lakers' 125-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night:
1. The Lakers' defense remains a deeply rooted issue. Even though the Lakers don't have the youth and speed outside of Ramon Sessions, they somehow thought it would be a good idea to run at a fast pace with the Phoenix Suns. That resulted in the Lakers giving up the most points all season, which whad been set the previous night when Houston dropped 112 on them. It's been well documented that the Lakers have reduced their effort level on defense since Sessions' arrival has boosted their offense. But the latest issues involve getting back in transition defense and closing out on the perimeter. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol jogged back often after missed rebounds, resulting in Phoenix collecting 22 points in transition. Meanwhile, Phoenix shot 14 of 29 from three-point range, including hefty contributions from former Laker Shannon Brown (24 points) and Michael Redd (23).
2. The Lakers' bench struggled. It's always misleading to scrutinize the Lakers' bench numbers because the reserves often play with the starters. But the Lakers getting outscored 58-10 is a whole other story. The effort reflected a few things. Steve Blake showed his never-ending tentativeness (one attempt), poor decision making (three turnovers) and marginal impact in running the offense (-12 rating). Matt Barnes took open shots, but his one-of-seven mark showed they didn't always come in rhythm. And Josh McRoberts can't create much beyond energy off hustle plays. Especially with Kobe Bryant's absence because of an injured left shin, the Lakers will severely struggle if they don't have any trusty bench support.
3. Pau Gasol had strong marksmanship. It's always a better option for Gasol to show some aggressiveness and charge to the basket. But you can't really question the majority of Gasol's looks coming off mid-range jumpers when it results in a season-high 30 points on 14-of-25 shooting. The Suns packed the paint to try to seal off Bynum, giving plenty of good looks to Gasol.
4. Andrew Bynum struggled finding good looks without Kobe Bryant in the lineup. His progression this season doesn't just point to improved footwork, balance and post moves. It also correlates with Bryant always looking to score and punishing defenses both in the post and in the lane. Without Bryant's presence, however, the Suns constantly double teamed Bynum. Meanwhile, Bynum forced a lot of shots en route to a 23-point effort on 10-of-27 shooting. Considering Gasol's trusty jumper and Metta World Peace's efficient cutting into the lane (19 points on eight-of-10 shooting), Bynum would've been better suited spreading the looks around. At least Bynum remained aggressive on the glass, though, grabbing 18 boards.
5. Devin Ebanks took advantage of his opportunity. His playing time remained so scarce that his agent suggested last month that he'll shop Ebanks around once he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Yet, Ebanks has remained professional and constantly works. That mindset paid off when he earned the start at shooting guard because of Bryant's absence. His 12 points on six-of-11 shooting reflected his comfort level in finding his own shot and getting points off put-backs. It's a shame for the Lakers that Coach Mike Brown hasn't used him in a larger bench role this season because he's shown he can at least offer valuable minutes.
Photo: Lakers vs. Suns
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Five things to take from Lakers' 125-105 win over Phoenix Suns