Game Report: Suns defeat Lakers 99–76

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Los Angeles Lakers Tickets

The Lakers simply did not have the legs to compete on the second game of a back-to-back, and as a result they suffered a blow-out loss to the lowly Suns.

The legs were especially tired tonight because Coach Mike D’Antoni went with just a seven-man rotation for the second night in a row. The last time a Lakers team employed a seven-man rotation was in 1992, but I have no idea how long it’s been since the Lakers – or any NBA team – employed a seven-man rotation two nights in a row.

It was actually somewhat reminiscent of the small teams Hickory High School put on the floor in the movie Hoosiers. “My team is on the floor.”

You can blame D’Antoni for not trusting his bench; you can blame General Manager Mitch Kupchak for populating the bench with four guys who have proven themselves ineffective this year; you can blame bad luck for the injuries that made Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol unavailable; or you can blame the players in the seven-man rotation for not being in better physical condition.

But there’s really no point in blaming anyone at all, or in dwelling on poor individual performances. Tonight’s game was a car crash, and the game should be written off accordingly.

The Lakers were in trouble from the outset, but they were hanging in there for most of the game, down by just three points at the half and five points after three quarters. But the bottom fell out in the fourth, when they were outscored 28-10.

There are plenty of stats from the game that highlight the Lakers lack of energy, but the most telling ones are that the Lakers shot just 33% from the field and 23% from beyond the arc, while allowing the Suns to shoot 48% and 40%. In the game of basketball, those are huge differences.

The Lakers were also out-rebounded 55-45.

The fact that Dwight Howard attempted four jump shots is yet another sign of tired legs, although to his credit he did sink two of them.

On the positive side, Steve Nash reached two milestones tonight:

  • By shooting 6-6 from the line, Nash once again moved past Mark Price and into 1st place in career free throw percentage, at 90.41%
  • By playing tonight, Nash moved past Dikembe Mutombo for 30th place in career games played, with 1,197.

Unfortunately for Nash, by shooting just 6 of 17 tonight, his field goal percentage for the season fell beneath 50%. He will need to boost that back up if he is to record his fifth career 50/40/90 season.

The night could have been much worse for the Lakers. That’s because while they were being blown out in Phoenix, the Utah Jazz lost a close game to the visiting New York Knicks. As a result, the Lakers maintained their tenuous grip on the eighth and final play-off position.

Fortunately for the Lakers, they don’t play again until Friday, which should provide ample time to physically and psychologically recuperate from tonight’s thrashing.

And, as an added bonus, Friday may also be the day that Kobe Bryant and/or Pau Gasol return to action. Once those two are re-integrated into the line-up, Lakers fans will know whether their team is ready to do battle in the play-offs.

That’s if the Lakers get to the play-offs, of course.

Lakers Player of the Game

Steve Nash’s stats weren’t very pretty, but they were better than any of his teammates’, and so he receives Player of the Game honors. Nash also brought great energy to this game, although as his legs began to tire in the second half, his shot stopped falling.

Nash finished with 19 points (6-17 FG, 1-2 3PT, 6-6 FT), five rebounds, four assists and a steal, and a team-high plus-minus of -3 (which isn’t too bad, given that the Lakers lost by 23).

Top Two Tweets in My Twitter Feed

“Lakers are brutal in the second half of back to backs, but the good news is there are no back to backs in the playoffs. #focus” – @SteveNashNation, post-game tweet

“D’Antoni: We ran out of gas … we missed shots … a lot of it was caused by 50-50 balls … They had more energy, more legs.” – @LakersReporter, post-game tweet

Next Game

Friday, March 22, vs. the Washington Wizards, 7:30 p.m. PDT

Written by Craig Lawson

Craig Lawson is a Canadian who works during the day and enjoys writing about basketball at night (from the comfort of his wifi-equipped igloo). You can read all his posts at www.steve-nash-chronicles.com, and follow him on twitter @stevenashchroni.