Kobe Bryant scores over Marcin Gortat. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Lakers 114 - Suns 102 (final)
The Lakers overtook the Phoenix Suns in the standings on Friday night with 114-102 victory over their Pacific Division foes. The Lakers improved to 4-5, Phoenix fell to 4-6.
After three quarters of runs, each teams taking turns chasing each other, the Lakers closed out the fourth quarter with ease. Eventually both teams cleared their benches (except Darius Morris, who started in place of injured guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake).
Bryant led all scorers with 31 points. Both Dwight Howard (18 points and 12 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (16 and 10) had double-doubles. Metta World Peace hit five three-pointers on his way to 22 points.
The Suns were led by Goran Dragic with 22. Luis Scola contributed 18, Michael Beasley 14 and Jermaine O'Neal 12.
The Lakers shot 47.2% from the field and dominated at the line with 22 makes on 28 attempts. The Suns shot 48.9%, making three more field goals than the Lakers (45-42) but only made 7-15 from the line.
Coach Bernie Bickerstaff improves to 3-1 as interim head coach. Mike D'Antoni is expected to take over on Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
Lakers 92 - Suns 84 (end of third quarter)
The Lakers struggled for points in the third quarter after scoring 62 in the first 24 minutes.
Phoenix tied the game at 82 on a Goran Dragic three-pointer with 9 1/2 minutes through the third, with the Lakers managing just 16 points through that stretch.
The home team closed the period strong, going on a 10-2 run, led by Kobe Bryant, who has 25 points on the night.
The Suns were paced by Dragic with 20. Both teams continued to shoot a high percentage for the game with the Lakers at 55.6% and Phoenix at 52.8%.
Lakers 62 - Suns 57 (halftime)
The Lakers continued to shoot well in the second, building a comfortable 10-point lead.
Midway through the period, a slight scuffle broke out when Dwight Howard inadvertently knocked Jermaine O'Neal in the face. O'Neal gave a push/swipe at Howard, who seemed surprised. Jordan Hill quickly stepped into O'Neal's body space and all three were called for technicals.
The minor incident seemed to ignite the Suns who quickly went from down 10 to up 5, scoring 15-straight points.
As the chippiness continued, later in the quarter Metta World Peace and Suns reserve P.J. Tucker were called for double-technicals.
The Lakers would stabilize, gradually pulling back ahead with 12-straight points.
When the dust settled, the Lakers and Suns had combined for 119 points in the half. World Peace led the Lakers with 15, followed by Bryant's 14.
The Suns were got 13 from Michael Beasley and 11 from Goran Dragic. Both teams shot slightly over 54% from the field.
Lakers 35 - Suns 30 (end of first quarter)
The Lakers opened with a fast pace against the Suns, led by Pau Gasol who hit his first five shots en route to 12 first-quarter points.
Coach Mike D'Antoni isn't on the Lakers bench just yet, but his influence could be felt as the Lakers put up 35 points 24 minutes.
As a team, the Lakers shot 60.9% from the field and 80% from behind the arc (4-5). The Suns actually shot at a higher clip from the floor (63.6%), getting 18 of their 30 points in the paint.
Gasol's jump shot helped the Lakers take an early lead but it was World Peace's 11 points, including nine points on 3-4 shooting from three, that helped give the Lakers a five-point advantage.
Suns point guard Goran Dragic had 11 on 5-8 shooting.
The Mike D'Antoni era will have to wait a few more days.
The new Lakers coach will sit out Friday night, leaving the team in the hands of interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff. Given minimal time with the team, D'Antoni isn't expected to make his debut until Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
How much will D'Antoni's influence be felt off of a single practice and shoot around? Can Bickerstaff regain his title as greatest Lakers coach of all time (by winning percentage) or will this one be credited to D'Antoni, even if he's not on the bench?
The Suns are a potent team with multiple weapons on offense. They've struggled on defense this season but are a half-game ahead of the Lakers in the Pacific Division.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers vs. Suns
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org.