The Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers 122-112 on Thursday. Phoenix led by 17 points with 8 1/2 minutes left, but allowed the Lakers to get within three before scoring the game’s final seven points.
The victory came two days after Phoenix’s season-opener, a 111-108 double-overtime loss to Dallas in which the Suns blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead.
“We maybe learned a little bit from the first game, where we had them beat and couldn’t withstand the flurry at the end,” said reigning MVP Steve Nash, who had 12 points and 17 assists. “But we’re improving, and that’s a good sign.
“Anytime people step up at the end of games to close teams out, that’s the sign of a good team. We had a couple of guys who made some big plays and made us a winner tonight.”
Shawn Marion added 30 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns, who lost Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson in the offseason and are without star power forward Amare Stoudemire for at least four months as he recovers from knee surgery.
“Our new guys are stepping in and learning the system really fast,” Marion said. “Everybody’s contributing.”
Bell spent the previous two seasons in Utah, averaging 12.3 points for the Jazz last season.
The Jazz have won their first two games, including Friday’s 91-85 victory over Golden State. Mehmet Okur had 23 points and 14 rebounds after putting up 27 and eight in Utah’s season-opening win over Dallas on Wednesday.
Forward Carlos Boozer, who is nursing a hamstring injury, still has not played and could miss Saturday’s game.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 4): Suns - 2nd place (tied), 1 GB, Pacific Division. Jazz - 1st place, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Suns - Marion, 21.5 ppg and 13.5 rpg; Nash, 13 apg. Jazz - Okur, 25 ppg and 11 rpg; McLeod, 4 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: Suns, 3-1.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 14; Suns, 136-128. At Phoenix, Stoudemire had 42 points and 12 rebounds. Bell led Utah with 22 points.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Suns - 1-0 on the road; Jazz - 1-0 at home.